The U.S. news media is obsessed with momentum in election seasons. The Republican primary headlines are all about momentum. First, it was Mitt Romney, who was "inevitable." Then, it was all about Rick Perry, who was the favorite for about 5 minutes until he opened his mouth. Then it was Herman Cain, who self-destructed shortly after everyone started paying attention to him. Then Newt Gingrich, until everyone remembered why they didn't like him before. Now it's Rick Santorum, who supposedly has some sort of sweater-vest-fueled momentum right now.
Momentum is looking at the last two points in a performance graph and projecting that the trajectory will continue in the current direction. Of course, it's just as likely that supposed momentum will flatten out or reverse itself. Maybe even more likely. Statisticians will tell you that the trend is "regression to the norm." What goes up, must come down, etc., etc.
I think it's easy to fall into the momentum trap when trying to lose weight. In my Weight Watchers days, I was always freaked out if the scaled didn't go down one week, because it "wasn't working," and also because it would usually elicit some feedback from the weigher or leader that I perceived as negative. Jen's post today reminded me of my first experience with Weight Watchers. I hit goal pretty quickly -- lost 20 pounds in 16 weeks -- and then made Lifetime. As soon as I had my Lifetime charm, though, things fell apart. I relaxed and then had a bad weigh-in the next week. I went to extreme measures to make sure I would be at goal the next week, but of course I couldn't keep that up. The yo-yo cycle continued, with an upward trend, until I quit. Then I had several years of rejoining and quitting without ever making goal again, always feeling like I had failed.
It's easy to get too excited about positive trends, too, and think they will continue effortlessly. I had two great weeks at the beginning of this year, and thought I would quickly lose the weight and be back in skinny jeans in no time flat. That's just not how it works, is it? I got lazy with tracking. I busy with work and stress-ate. I got sick and couldn't exercise. I'm still at 3 pounds down from the beginning of the year, and that's progress, but it's certainly not fast progress. It's not momentum.
I realize that I have to give up the idea of momentum and focus on the current day. The plan I was doing worked, when I did it. When I stop doing it or can't do it because if illness, it doesn't work. That doesn't mean it's time to freak out. What kinds of healthy choices can I make right now that will gradually move me toward my goal? I feel like I have to keep relearning this simple truth: It's what I do today that matters.