1. Teacher Life

What I Learned About Education by Losing 100 Pounds

If you have been following me or this blog for the past few years, it has been a mix of posts on learning, leadership, and a focus on recalibrating my health.  The ideas, in my opinion, are all inter-connected.  By focusing on my health, I have had to adapt and learn what works best for me, which has helped me grow through the process. 

It has also allowed me to grow in my work.

I used to think that taking time for my own mental and physical health was taking away time from my work and professional passions. I have learned it is the opposite.  

Taking that time to take care of myself has been an investment in myself, and not only do I have more energy for my professional life, I feel that I am more mentally strong to deal with some of the ups and downs through my work.  

I am excited that in the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing a course connected to this process that has some of my learnings and the perspectives of some people that I look up to, that will share some of what has worked for them as well. It is going to be awesome to share with the world!

Below is a post from this past year where I marked the point where I had lost 100 pounds (115 pounds as of sharing this repost).  The fifth learning I will share that is not in the post below is that an investment in your own health and well-being is something you will always benefit, and ultimately, can help you help others.  

I hope you enjoy this repost from June of 2021!  You can also see pictures from my fitness journey in this Instagram story!

As of my last recorded weigh-in, I have officially crossed the 100 pounds lost plateau since August 2020.  I am pretty proud that I have gotten to this point, but I am also excited for continued growth.  I haven’t decided what is next as this was a goal that I had set out for myself, and I know that once I reached losing 100 pounds, I would re-evaluate what I would want to do next for my health and fitness goals.

With that being said, I wanted to share some quick things that I have learned from the process that I think are helpful to different elements of leading and learning in both school and life.

1. Compete against yourself first, but be willing to learn from the success of others.

It is really easy for me to get caught up in how others look, what they are achieving, etc., and it can lead me to be demotivated.  This is not only true in our lives for things like social media where it is easy to get into comparison with the “highlight reels” of others, but this is also true for things such as award ceremonies in schools which I have written about before

So what I started doing was capturing a “progress check” in my Instagram story reels to measure my progress against myself and not others.

That being said, I do look at what others do to learn some tips and tricks for what I can apply to my own journey.  I used to think, “I can never do what they are doing,” but now I see, I can, with consistency and effort, or at least learn from the process of others.

I have advocated for digital portfolios for years so that students can focus more on their growth in their learning and see how that progression happens over time. For example, check out this article I wrote on an artist that shared their artwork from the ages 2 to 28. What they did at 28 years old looks incredible, but even more so when you see their work starting from the age of two years old. 

Learn from others but compare your progress to your own journey.

2. Focus on small wins along the way to develop confidence and competence.

I broke down my goals into small, medium, and big goals (I go into this in-depth in my podcast at the 80 pounds lost mark). The BIG goals that I had were to lose 80 pounds, and then once that was reached, it was to lose 100 pounds. Those big goals were helpful, but if I measured my success each day or week based on those goals, I would have been a failure on almost all of the days in the last year.

I focused on small goals each day (steps in a day, calorie goals), and I could achieve those things daily.  That led to medium goals of weight loss per week (2 pounds) and per month (8-10 pounds). On the daily, I set myself up to get small wins, which helped build confidence and competence each day, and on more weeks and months, I achieved those medium goals, and eventually, that led to the big goals over time.

Apply this to school. We often have year goals and perhaps the strategies to get us to a point, but what are the short-term wins we are defining at the school, class, and individual level, that will show us our habits are leading to short-term wins along the way?  Habits can lead to long-term success, but it is harder to keep those habits if we don’t see they are helping us to achieve success in the present tense.  

3. Choice is not always a good thing.

One of my favorite Ted Talks of all time is “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. , he discusses how in a world with so much choice, we can sometimes struggle to make good decisions.  There are two reasons why I am choosing to discuss this in the context of weight loss.

First of all, I took away the “choice” of working out every day. I used to be in amazing shape years ago when I was teaching spin every morning before heading to school. I would teach classes at 6 AM every morning, finish up, and then head to my work as either a principal or assistant principal. My alarm would go off at 5:15 AM, and I would get up and go work out.  I didn’t hit snooze, or otherwise, I would be late for the class that I was teaching.  I had to go because I was the instructor.

As I got older, exercising was kind of optional for me. If I had “time,” I would do it, but I could easily make excuses why I didn’t have to.  Now, I have goals I have to hit every day, and I don’t even give myself a choice on whether I will do it or not. It has to get done.  That makes it much easier to exercise.

I applied this idea to how I ate, which was the hardest hurdle for me to overcome.  I actually don’t have this amazing variance of foods that I eat each week.  I typically eat the same thing every morning and afternoon and have a rotation of three meals that I eat at night with a “cheat” night on Fridays.  It is easy for me to look at a menu and want to order EVERYTHING, so then I would order more than I needed to eat.  Now, I don’t think about it, and it seems to keep my diet in check. 

How does this apply to school?

I have watched for years schools get so excited about the latest technology and the “new thing,” which doesn’t allow us to be good at the “old thing.”  I wrote about this idea in “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

“Think about it: How many school teams could easily name ten things that they have worked on in the last three years? With too many initiatives, we only scratch the surface and remember very little about the purpose of the latest approach, much less the reason that trendy technique was “a must” three years ago. If we’re going to go deep, rather than wide and shallow, we have to change the mindset that every new idea, even good ideas, must be immediately implemented. Instead of trying to do everything, let’s focus on what we want learners to know and do and select and master resources to create learning experiences aligned with the vision that has been co-created with the community.”

I am not saying that all choices should be eliminated, but it is helpful when we carefully consider are we moving onto the next thing because it is helpful or solely because it’s new?

4. Trust the process.

I have had hard days during this journey. I have wanted to give up more times than I can count because I didn’t necessarily get the results I wanted on any single day.  But then I would try not to focus on how I was feeling in the moment but to look at the long-term picture of where I was and how I got to that point. It is easy to validate our feelings at the moment that we are failures or not successful, but often, if given time, that is just something we feel in the moment and is not necessarily true. Step back and look and evaluate where you are and how far you have come.

This is also true for teaching. I remember being in the classroom and feeling that a student was not where I wanted them to be or having a bad day, and I felt that was the norm. But often, I would catch my breath, step back, and think about how far that student had grown that year, and it would actually be so much easier to deal with those tough moments. 

Many educators reading this do the EXACT same thing for their students. But do you do it for yourself? Do you have a moment where you feel you are not having a good day, and then allow that moment to define everything prior? Or do you step back and realize it is a moment, and if you continue on the path you have been working on, things, and you, will continue to get better.  

Of course, this is not always true. There are times when the path we are on is not working, and we have to change course. But far too often for myself, I am getting lost in how I feel in the moment and not recognizing the bigger picture.  Once I zoom out, I start to realize how far I have come on the journey, catch my breath, and then move forward.

I love this quote:

Whatever journey you are on, and wherever and whenever you are on it, I hope these ideas that I wrote down for myself can help you as well.

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