Fat to Fit to First Level: Course Corrections

Looking forward, planning ahead.

Willing acceptance of the outside contact and soft inside rein. Photo by Greg Bell

As we approach the holiday season, I wonder how to deal with all the food. Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays – I believe anything that involves gratitude is sublime. And I love cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, with turkey and all the trimmings. Course after course of delicious, calorie-laden, only-make-them-for-the-holidays family recipes that have been handed down for generations. (Passing down “secret” recipes is a Southern tradition, y’all, just like grandmother’s pearls.)

But this year is going to be different. This year MUST be different. My resolve towards fitness and health is so much stronger than in any previous year, I am going to do whatever it takes to avoid gaining the pounds predicted to be “inevitable” throughout American culture.

As I began to think about holiday eating for the “new” me, it occurred to me that making dietary “course corrections” parallels how we make “course corrections” for our horses.

I read recently that most NASA space craft are exactly on course only about 7% of the time! Seven percent!! That means ninety-three percent of the time, the spaceship is off course! And it means the astronauts are making subtle course corrections 93% of the time!

Thazzalotta half-halts, folks! And it feels like where Kaliwohi is in his training at present, squirrelly youngster that he is. And we’ll get to Kiwi’s course corrections in a moment.

But, in strategizing about holiday food and those “course corrections,” I realized there are several things I can do right now to help guarantee success despite all the treats and sweets that will be pervasive for the next few weeks.

1. Minimize unnecessary temptation. In years past, there have been holiday bowls full of holiday candies. (Hershey’s kisses being one of my faves.) I’ve always told myself, “it’s for family and friends who stop by.” But, raw honesty, I was buying the candy for me to enjoy. But no more! This year, my holiday bowls will be filled with ornaments instead of chocolates! Beautiful to see and nonedible. Win!

2. Make a commitment. Write down what you want to achieve, weight-wise and fitness-wise, between now and the end of the year. Make it specific and realistic. Write it in positive language. Negative language messes with the mind and impedes progress. So write, “I will lose three pounds between November 1 and January 1” instead of, “I don’t want to gain weight between now and December 31.” If you feel like it, share your commitment goal with a trusted friend. Or, if you’re crazy-bold, share it with the universe, like I’m doing here!

3. Think about how you want to feel on January 2 and focus on that goal. I love watching stadium jumping, although I’ve never jumped in my life.  The intense focus of the horse as it focuses on a jump, approaches the jump, lifts up over the jump, clears it, lands, and then – next comes my favorite part. The horse forgets that jump completely and focuses on the next one! I love that concept! So, one strategy I’m using this holiday season is to consider the season as a jump course and each special event on my calendar as a “jump.”

I’ll focus on each specific event before it happens. Preparation is always key to clearing a jump, right? My “approach” to each “jump:” choose the clothes and jewelry I’ll wear, how I will style my hair, and how I will manage food. Rules of thumb: wear something snug, so I’ll feel uncomfortable quickly if I eat too much; drink a full glass of water before eating anything; consider what a normal portion would be and take one-third of that portion, and then savor and enjoy – guilt-free – that one-third portion; stop eating before I feel full.

During the event/”jump” – check in often with my inner self. Like a horse in mid-air, if I stay focused in the moment, I can make immediate corrections on the fly if I need to. “Do you really want to eat this treat?” “Will eating this get you closer to your riding and fitness goals?” Those sorts of questions will help me avoid getting caught up in the fog of mindless eating.

After the event, spend no more than two minutes reflecting on how I succeeded and what I can do better at the next one. And then let it go. That event will then be behind me, nothing I can do about whatever eating choices I made, so it’s time to look forward to the next event and soar successfully over that challenge! #ChannelGemTwist.

Speaking of course corrections, this week I’m sharing a little raw video of Kaliwohi and me as we work on making course corrections on a young, squirrely mustang!

Often, lack of confidence is the number one hang-up for those of us who are striving to become more fit and better riders. The source of that lack of confidence may seem to be based upon our size or appearance; however, it is actually most likely because we feel inadequate to handle whatever our horse may do.

One of those uncertainties may be how to make sure we’re straight on center line. After all, straightness down center line and a good, square halt are two dressage movements where high scores should be easily obtained if the schooling has been done correctly.

Like those NASA spaceships, Kaliwohi is rarely straight on course of his own accord. So he requires many subtle “course corrections.” My goal, as taught by so many great instructors, is to ride him “forward and straight.” And we’re getting there, tiny bit by tiny bit, one course correction at a time.

Waiting until Kaliwohi accepts the contact. Photo by Greg Bell

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go riding.

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