Monday, October 15, 2012

How Do They Do It? How Do We Do It?

I was listening to a book written and read by Charles Kuralt, Charles Kuralt's America. (He has such a wonderful speaking voice.) And one of his essays was talking about the daffodil variety that was named for him. But before he got to that portion of the essay, he talked about the monarch butterfly.

The monarch butterfly spends winters in the forests of southern California and Mexico. They are the only insect to migrate 2500 miles every year. (Much more fascinating information is here.) In spring, they migrate en masse 2500 miles north, flying as far as Canada. They mate. And then they die.

But the remarkable thing is their offspring hatch and become caterpillars. The caterpillars eat milkweed and eventually form a chrysalis. Later, they emerge as a monarch butterfly and then migrate the thousands of miles south, to the same forest, and the same trees that hosted the parents.

How do the new generation of butterflies know where to fly? Which forest is "theirs"? I mean, salmon in the Pacific northwest at least are hatched in the streams and rivers before they swim out the to ocean to grow into adulthood before swimming back to the same stream. The salmon are returning to their place of origin.

Monarchs don't return to anyplace. They fly to a new place for the first time. And I'm pretty sure they don't have access to an iPhone5. How do they get to some place they have never been? How do they know when their journey is finished?

Many of us are on a similar journey. We are migrating to a place that we might possibly have seen only once, on our way up to greater weights. As we got older, we also got larger, but like the adult monarch we finally noticed a need, an urge, a mandate to go back.

How do we get there? The monarch flies in a flock of millions of butterflies, all moving towards the same destination. We can copy that idea, by finding fellow travelers. Myself, I have many friends on LoseIt that are supportive of me and each other as we all find our eventual resting place. Others may use Weight Watchers, or Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem. You might find another online service such as MyFitnessPal. Maybe you will find a coach at a gym. Maybe you attend Overeaters Anonymous. (If that is you, you don't have to identify yourself here.) Regardless of the actual vehicle you choose, the path is the same. You find people with a similar goal and you fly together.

The butterflies don't fly thousands of miles without stopping. We won't lose weight without pauses. That is normal. But just as the butterfly will continue flying after a brief rest, we need to continue on our journey without excessive lingering. Our destination will not come to us. We need to go to it.

How do we know when we arrive? Probably we have all set a "final number" as our goal. When we achieve it, we have arrived, right? Well, yes. But it is important not to assume that "arrival" is the same as "finished." (This is where my butterfly analogy breaks down.) Butterflies are able to simply hang out for a few months in a tree before flying back. We can't just hang out for a while. We need to keep on doing what we did to get to our goal. If we exercised our way to a new weight, then continued exercise will be needed (at least at some level) to prevent regression. Calorie counting will require continued counting (or at least monitoring at some level) to ensure the bathroom scale does not start to show bigger numbers.

Alternatively, we could continue to set new goals. Upon reaching a weight goal, maybe we could set a physical strength goal or a speed goal (running or swimming.) Maybe work on body fat percentage, or running/biking endurance. After I reached my goal, I set a new goal of running a 10K race. Bad knees prevented me from running it, but my wife and I walked it instead.

Become a butterfly. (Oh, I guess the butterfly metaphor isn't finished.) Do what you need to do to transform into your new shape. 

Note: One of the other blogs that I follow is running a contest for a Keurig Mini-Plus brewing system. Since I love a) coffee and b) free things, I entered it on Danica's Daily blog. She also has good information on her blog. It is worth reading (after reading mine, first!) 

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that about the monarch. Crazy! Love thoughtful posts like this, thanks!