Goals, targets, numbers. From work to the gym, when we want a result we identify a goal. In fact setting goals is one of the motivational factors used in personal training, it's also how we measure progress. These goals are ideally Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed (S.M.A.R.T.). However I feel that if too much emphasis is placed on the 'destination' then the 'journey' is missed, and for me the journey is a huge point of what I do.
If everyone was a healthy weight regardless of lifestyle, how many people would bother to be active and eat well? Very few I imagine. So how many people would actually be worse off for having supersonic metabolic rates? (Albeit they didn't suffer directly from the consequences of being overweight.) There are plenty of people on the borders of the ideal weight category who are healthy because they exercise and eat well, because they find looking after themselves an end in itself.
We need to acknowledge that being overweight is just one symptom of overeating and lack of exercise. You can tackle the symptom with a quick-fix like a diet, and sure enough get down to your 'goal' weight, yet the problem will remain unless it is tackled directly. The symptoms will return and you will just get fat again. Old unhelpful habits and attitudes towards food need to be unlearned and this is an on-going process, which can fluctuate on a daily basis. Sure there is a goal - to have a more healthy attitude towards food - but this goal doesn't revolve round a number or a deadline.
However the instinct to strive is hard to escape. In the workplace a company needs to meet goals to prove to its shareholders it's doing well. At home we feel guilty if we spend a day with a task undone from our numerous lists; DIY hanging over us, admin to be sorted, washing piling up. However outside of work and our essential household chores, we have more control over our goal focused existence.
The happiness enjoyed in attaining a reward is short-lived compared to the anticipation of attaining it. That's why we are always moving our goals, progressing them. And that's fine, as long as we don't put our life on hold until we achieve them. We can look forward to things but they are just a fantasy of how reality might unfold. So let's be grateful for our bodies as they are this very second, enjoy them as we move, run, cycle, lift weights, swing kettle-bells, stretch, relax.
After all what if we don't reach our goals - how will we feel then? What if we reach them then lose them, fall back from them, how will that loss affect your esteem? Buddhism teaches that we try not to get attached to physical or mental states as they are constantly shifting, and trying to hold on to one thing invariably leads to suffering. Whilst I think there is some validity into holding onto your health if you can help it, remember there are some things you can't control. When a healthy routine of exercise and good nutrition is set back by illness, circumstance and other priorities, we need to be able to pick up where we left off, even start again, without shame, blame or disillusionment. How hard is to get back into exercise after a couple of weeks away? How often do we think 'sod it' and guzzle a whole packet of biscuits simply because we are 'off target' on our weight loss goal?
If we treated ourselves with compassion, congratulated ourselves on being on 'the journey', then life would be a less of a struggle and our goals maybe just a little easier to sustain.