Monday, October 10, 2011

The Finifugal Walker and The Psychology of Finishing

Feature Entry: The Finifugal Walker and The Psychology of Finishing

This blog will explore reasons why people drop out of a walking fitness program before meeting their health and weight loss goals; but first a note about Ammon Shea and his book, Reading the Oxford English Dictionary, one man, one year, 21,730 pages. Shea’s goal was to read all 21 volumes of the OED, nearly 22,000 pages of definitions. Daunting! His book about the experience, in part, elaborated on words that he found especially interesting including the word finifugal, an adjective meaning “shunning the end of anything.”

A quick look in scientific psychology as well as Google entries will confirm that many people are what Jim Willis in his book Snap Shots and Visions calls “idea” people; people that are motivated by the excitement of conceptualization of an idea but not actualization the work to complete the project. They can get started, do the all the preparation, push forward into action, but then can’t finish the job. The finifugal walker is a person that wants to lose weight, experience the well-fit benefits, buy the apparel, read the literature, consult with a physician, plan a walking weekly/monthly/yearly calendar based on time and distance, initiate a walking program, maintain it for a significant period and begin to experience the success of weight loss and a healthier feeling, but then inexplicably discontinues walking without fully reaching the envisaged goals.

Why? One reason is a feeling of failure. The MoneyWalker’s last three blogs explored the “yo-yo” problems associated with exercise and diet. The early thrill of losing weight must confront the yo-yo reality. Like the stock market, losing weight is an up and down experience. We must learn to control the binges, not be discouraged by them. Finifugal walkers often have bad mental habits; they can’t balance the thrill of victory with the agony of defeat. Smart mental habits utilize self-talk and support groups to stay on task.

The beginning walking/diet program nearly always results in dramatic weight loss especially for people highly overweight. But then even with fidelity to the walking/diet plan, a plateau occurs. The weight loss mysteriously stops. Moreover, the plateau often last for an extensive period of time. That is when disillusionment sets in and the walking and dieting are discontinued. The answer to disillusionment is perseverance. The performance curve for weight loss is nearly always follows an elongated reverse S shape; that is, rapid improvement at the beginning, followed by a lengthy plateau of no loss, but then with perseverance, the curve again reflects downward weight loss. To defeat the finifugal effect, persevere through the plateaus.

Another symptom of the finifugal walker is time management; we are just too busy to devote the time to extensive walking. We get started but then run out of time. Never mind that many of us find hours of time for leisure pursuits related to electronic devices. Related to time management is procrastination, we will get back to our walking tomorrow. Determination is intrinsic, but don’t be afraid to use both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation sources to stay on track.

The finifugal walker is sometimes a romantic. He or she sees the sculptured bodies on screen effortlessly working out sometimes with friends having a great time. They romanticize the walking bout and then realize that taking long walks is hard work and practicing smart eating habits require discipline. Well Yes! For a finifugal walker to become a lifelong walker, food denial and positive work habits must become a part of the psychic make-up.

Blogging about cardio vascular fitness and dieting can sometimes be such a bother. Who wants to read information that is counterpoint to the lovely sedentary strategies of leisure time? But the truth is that maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index requires coming to grips with the reality of the ultimate finifugal walking reality—We never finish! Yet in the end, when we all finish life’s timetable, those that suppressed their finifugal tendencies will have live longer and with a higher quality of life.


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