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mar11homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, March 11, 2008-(MCT)-Fitness magazines tend to advocate a similar tack on goal-setting: Tell one or a few trusted souls your plan. That way, you have a support staff, a watchdog group.

Then, if you sneak a cigarette, they’ll smell smoke on your breath and toss out the pack hidden in your glove compartment. Order fried rice instead of steamed? They’ll call the waiter over to change your order. Run two miles instead of three? They’ll encourage you to run four tomorrow.

Some goals have to be overt: The chunks of time needed to train for a marathon. Borrowed vacation weeks to climb Mount McKinley.

Others, I think, belong closer to the heart. These are the silent pacts we make with ourselves, the secret longings of who we want-or don’t want-to be. With these, if we can’t lose 10 pounds by spring break, if we don’t learn Greek or publish a novel, we are the only ones who have to know.

And, most of the time, that is plenty. Who, after all, is harder on us than ourselves?

Lightening Up

Which brings me to a personal goal, one that falls into the needs-voicing category: To not be so hard on myself. To base my worth on who I am and what I can do, not on who I’m not and what I can’t do.

What brought this about was a comment from my best girlfriend.

“Les,” she said, “this is going to sound strange. But maybe you should at least think about not exercising so much.”

Although I pretty much knew the answer, I asked, “Why do you say that?”

She chose her words carefully: “Because sometimes when you talk about a disappointing run, it sounds like you’re judging yourself on how slow or fast your heart rate was.”

As best friends tend to be, she is right. My running friend and I, you see, are a bit obsessed with our heart-rate monitors. We use them for specific training runs to determine how many times per minute our hearts should beat. More often than not, she is able to keep her heart rate lower than I keep mine. Thus, she can step up his pace and still keep her heart rate in the allotted parameters for a particular run. I, meanwhile, have to slow down to keep my heart rate within the same bookends.

I know heartbeats vary from day to day, from person to person. Still, when mine is too fast, I sometimes let it irritate me.

Coming Clean

A long as I’m `fessing up, I also have been known to let the number on my scale override the blessing of being healthy. And, given a choice, my son prefers Luby’s takeout meals to my cooking.

Like so much in life, how we feel about ourselves, and the way others see us, is a matter of attitude. Not, as we sometimes may think, of what we buy or how much we weigh or how fast we swim a mile or how nutritious our meals are.

This hits home in the Friday night Lifetime Television show “How to Look Good Naked.” My girlfriend (yes, the same one) told me it mesmerized her. I watched and felt the same way.

Let’s say right here that this is not a risqué show. But keep watching. The show focuses on the it’s-what’s-inside-that-counts philosophy. Host Carson Kressley (formerly of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) is part brother, part therapist, part best friend, part cheerleader. He holds the hand of the participant-in the segment I watched, a woman named Layla-through her weeklong transformation.

When the show begins, she cries as she critiques her non-movie-star figure in a three-way mirror. Yet, as the week progresses-through a bra fitting, haircut, makeup job, countless hugs, body-image discussions and a few surprises-she changes. She walks differently; she laughs a lot. And, by show’s end, she can’t stop grinning as she sees her photograph on the side of a building in Santa Monica.

She is naked, but not in a lost-weight, looks-so-buff way. Instead, even better: in an inside way that makes her nothing short of stunning outside.

Which is where I want to be: happy with who I am, even on days when my heart rate, clothes and general persona may be a bit, in my paltry view, lacking. Even if, despite the scrumptiously nutritious dinner I’ve planned, nothing says love to my son like Luby’s macaroni and cheese, Salisbury steak and green Jell-O.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.