The last time I wrote about losing weight was right after I had a baby and my agent told me that I would kill my career if I went on speaking engagements. “You look terrible” is what she told me. And I lost forty pounds in two months.
This time, things were not so dramatic. If nothing else, I am tall enough that no one would notice ten pounds up or down on my body. But still, ten pounds is ten pounds. And I lost it by changing how I do my job.
Here are three changes I made in how I work that, in turn, changed how much I weigh:
1. I stopped letting work slip until the last minute.
I know people think they are creative under pressure. But in fact, time pressure stifles creativity. One of the joys of being creative is going up paths that surprise us. But when you are under a tight deadline, the risk of going down an unsure path is too risky because it might not work and then you’ll miss the deadline.
I became acutely aware of this when I started blogging. The immediate feedback one gets from blog traffic made me understand that there was a direct relationship to how much pressure I felt while I was writing and how successful the post was. I also noticed that when I felt pressure to write quickly I ate to cope with the pressure.
Once I stopped writing late at night under intense pressure I ate much less at night.
2. I stopped checking email when I was with my kids.
For the most part, I maintain a schedule where I work seven days a week 8am to 2pm. Then I am with my kids from 2pm to 8pm. And I usually work after they go to bed. Almost everyone is very nice about respecting the schedule.
But still, I was checking email all day. Sometimes because I really needed to, but mostly it was a way to take a break from being with the kids. The kids are hard. Email is easy. Please, don’t send me emails about how I should take the kids to the park. I’m not saying I don’t love my kids. I’m saying that it’s more fun to play email lottery to see if something great came in than to watch kids chasing each other up and down slides.
The worst part about checking email when I am with the kids is that I feel bad ignoring them. But the second worst part is that I sort of check out when I check email and once I check out then my junk-food guard is down, and I find myself watching kids and checking email and eating Cheetos all at the same time.
I instituted the no-checking email so that I could be more present with my kids. But the lucky side benefit was no more junk food.
3. I stopped working late at night.
The first lunch meeting I had with my first publisher was all about book marketing. We talked about how sometimes my editor thinks of a title and then asks an agent to put together a book based on that title.
“Like what?” I asked.
She said, “Like, Sleep Away the Pounds! How To Lose That Last Ten Pounds…. In Your Sleep”
“Ooooh,” I said “That is a good title.”
For the rest of the lunch the editor and the publicist and I all talked about that book. What it could be. The publicist pointed out that he stays up late working but he never really gets anything done except eating. He thought he should just go to bed.
I thought that was probably true for me, too. And I pointed out all the research that says the people who do not get enough sleep are at risk of being fat.
That conversation happened a year ago. And, ironically, I then proceeded to get less sleep than any year of my life because I stayed up all night doing stuff to promote my book.
But recently I decided to make a rule for myself that I have to get the recommended six or seven hours of sleep a night. This means I had to get used to not working as much. I had to decide to simply not do some of the work I had. But the life benefits have been worth it — including giving up that extra meal that slips in between dinner and bed.
So that’s how I lost the weight. And it’s been very easy to keep off because I did exactly what you’re supposed to do to lose weight: I changed how I live my life rather than how I eat my meals.
But here’s what really gets me excited: I learned so much about self-discipline.
There is great research about how if you add self-discipline to your life in one area, self-discipline seeps into other areas of your life as well. This is important because positive psychologists are always saying that self-discipline is a key factor to making ourselves happier.
So I always want more self-discipline in my life. And I absolutely found that when I became more disciplined about how I deal with my sleep and eating, I became more disciplined about working out. For the last year I have had clear goals for regular episodes of running, weights and yoga. But I have generally failed at achieving these goals on a regular basis. Something always interferes.
But over the past two weeks, when I have been very conscious of changing how I conduct myself during the day for work things, my exercise regimen has improved as well, as a sort of unintended side-effect.
So here’s my pitch to you to try something new. Try being just a little more conscious. If you become more conscious in one part of your life, you will be able to affect positive, conscious change in many parts of your life with relative ease.