If you can’t cut things out, add something in

Yesterday I confessed that never, in my 27 years on this planet, have I successfully completed a diet.

Let me explain why. 

If you tell me I can’t have something, I want it ten times more. If you tell me I can’t have a cupcake, I will make it my life MISSION to hunt down every last crumb of those delicious treats. I will part the Red Sea on my quest for the Promised Land of Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes I will.

Bear with me for a second, and I’ll explain why I’m not six hundred pounds.

If you want to change, break, or make a new habit; you need to know yourself.

I discovered, very early on, that I am a stubborn person. That’s putting it lightly. Therefore, if you tell me I can only eat meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables; I will devour half an apple pie one week into a Whole30.

Here is my solution: Instead of cutting things out, I add things in. I never say the words, “I can’t have.” Instead, I’ll challenge myself to:

  • Do thirty minutes of core before I go to work.
  • Lift at least twice a week.
  • Rehab in the pool twice a week.

Somehow, when I add these good habits in, all the bad habits get squished out.

Two years ago, I was on the phone with my parents. Something during that conversation told me they wanted to be healthier. It wasn’t New Years, and they weren’t planning a trip to the Caribbean, but I knew they were motivated to make a change.

I drew up a challenge: The three of us would each choose two things to give up, and two things to add in, for three months. I wanted to build my mileage, so I added in one long run (ten miles or more) per week. To make sure I didn’t get injured, my second addition was two days of yoga.

Adding something in, vs. cutting things out.

I don’t remember what I gave up, and I remember very little from my parents’ contracts (my dad gave up beer—that one is hard to forget). One of my mom’s pledges blew the other eleven out of the water: She promised to walk two miles (or thirty minutes) every.single.day.

I grew up on a gravel road in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa. We started our family challenge in winter, yet my mom never once missed a walk. She marched down that gravel road day after day, and if the weather was too frigid, she’d walk the school hallways.

We were halfway through our challenge when my dad told me, “You should just see your mom. She looks so different!! All that walking just slimmed her up.” When I finally saw her months later, I told her to go buy new jeans. “You look ridiculous! You’re swimming in those clothes!”IMG_1224

That spring, I met my mom in North Carolina for a wedding. She bought a new dress, because nothing in her closet fit. The morning of the wedding, I didn’t feel like working out. Our McCartney Health Challenge was over, but my mom was still walking. I decided what the hell, and went with her. As we walked out to the parking lot she said, “Just so you know, I walk at least seventy-five minutes a day.”

She went from walking two miles a day to five. At age 55, my mom ran her very first 5k.

Adding things in

Some people are great at cutting things out. I’m just not one of them. When I can’t have something, it’s all I think about. But, when I tell myself to do something, I get a sense of pride each time I check off that little box.

When you cut something out, you’re left with feelings of self-deprivation. When you add something in, you’re creating an action. You’ve done something, and that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

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