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Last Sunday morning, I headed to the gym for my standard weight lifting workout. When I finished, I went to the locker room, changed, and headed to the pool to swim laps rather than head to the cardio area to work on a machine. This is something I have wanted to start as a secondary workout. I have been told that swimming is one of the best ways to exercise with low impact, but I have been putting it off because I am comfortable with my current routine.

I have been thinking lately about being comfortable. I was listing to my local talk radio station the other day, and Dr. Laura was playing. Normally I don’t listen to her because I think she is a bit of a hypocrite. But, the call caught my attention. She had a woman on who was complaining about not being able to lose weight, saying she didn’t know how to do it. Dr. Laura was right in her response. She told the woman that she did know how to lose weight, but wasn’t doing what she needed to do. She went on to explain that being on a diet was uncomfortable and that as humans, we avoid that feeling. We are very good at keeping ourselves in the comfort zone.

She was right about how being hungry is uncomfortable. I have learned to make it part of my life, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Swimming laps at the pool is a bit uncomfortable because my gym’s pool only has three lanes. This means I need to break into a lane and share one with someone that is already swimming. People have been very nice about it, but it’s a bit of a hassle. Last summer when I tried to start swimming, I was sharing the end lane and was hugging the wall. When I kicked, I hit the top of my foot on the coping. That gave me the reason to retreat to my comfort zone.

After I finished my workout and headed home, I got to thinking about other times I had to break out of my comfort zone. I have been lifting weights for about the last 4 months. I had to break into the routine and get into that section of the gym. The guys who are established in the weight room are not what you would call friendly. I got lots of stares and even today, no one has said a word to me. That transition into the weight room was made easier because I went in with a friend of mine who has spent many hours in gyms all over the country. He was right at home, and that made it much easier for me to be there.

That same day, I was in downtown Portland with my daughter and we happened to be at the base of the new Portland Aerial Tram. I don’t like heights any more than she does, and at first I asked her if she wanted to ride it just to see her reaction. If she had said no, we would have walked away. Instead, she said enthusiastically, “YES.” We talked about it, and when she found out I was serious, she started to change her mind. I then felt like I needed to push her to do it because I don’t want her to be afraid of things like that. So, we did it. It was a sunny clear day (yes, we do get a few of them a year), and the view and ride were fun.

It turns out I don’t have any problem with pushing my 11 year old daughter out of her comfort zone, but I am reluctant to move out of it myself. (And I said Dr. Laura was a hypocrite.) Kids are always being pushed out of their comfort zones. They try out for new sports, join new clubs, make new friends and are always being told to just try it once. Somewhere along the way, most of us quit that and start to establish borders for ourselves. I know many people that hate their jobs but don’t want to try and find a new one because they are comfortable. It’s amazing what we can learn to live with. I see people that I think are very successful, and they never seem to be put off by new experiences or challenges. They are open to new things.

As I thought more about this, I started to relate it back to food. According to, comfort food is defined as food that is simply prepared and gives a sense of wellbeing; typically food with a high sugar or carbohydrate content that is associated with childhood or with home cooking. Wow, talk about needing to move out of that comfort zone.

Maybe that’s the secret to sticking with a diet. You need to move out of your comfort zone and change the way you eat and live. For me, I know I did find comfort in fast food and sitting and playing video games. There’s nothing better than playing Halo and eating chicken nuggets and fries. That was fun, familiar and comfortable. I don’t know anyone that likes to be uncomfortable. I have even been known to go purchase a new shirt on my lunch hour because the tag on the old one was too scratchy.

I had to get out of my comfort food zone to make the change. I learned portion control. I learned to try new foods. The good news is, once you move out of that zone, it’s only a matter of a few weeks to become comfortable in the new one. It’s getting past the first few weeks and letting yourself make the adjustment. That might not only be the secret to dieting, but also to growing and changing for the better.



One Comment

  1. Ha! I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot in the past two weeks. Chip recently read a book about the horrors of the meat industry, and decided that he couldn’t eat meat/poultry for a while.
    So, being the good wife that I am (ha!), we suddenly have embarked on a vegetarian diet(technically pescatarian, because he seafood industry doesn’t bother him…as shrimp aren’t as smart as pigs). Talk about being outside your comfort zone!

    I’m not sure how long it’ll last, but he’s being VERY dedicated to it…so I don’t expect it’ll go away anytime soon…

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