How do I change and jumpstart my life?
July 9, 2006 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm 23 years old and stationed in Japan with the military. Over the past 2 years, I've slowly gotten lazy and started leading a lethargic lifestyle. I'm starting to become overweight and generally unhappy with my life. I can see it happening but with no will power, how can I stop it?

Everyday I wake up at 5AM to go to work where I walk around aimlessly. After I get off at 4PM I go home and do absolutely nothing. I'll plan on doing some things like working out, writing a program I've been thinking off, working on my finances, anything. Instead I go home and just eat and surf the web until I get tired and go to sleep. I have very little energy the way it is, and this lifestyle isn't helping. It's really killing me because I used to enjoy doing things and was always very confident. Now I'm getting chubby and it's depressing me. I know what I need to do, but for the life of me I just can't. When I have something in my head I'll get myself worked up and really motivated, but a few minutes later I can't get up to do it. I'll realize it too and just get frustrated and upset with myself. It really sucks because all it's doing is leading me to depression. I'm in another country where I don't really have friends to talk with or go out with, so most of the times I'm alone. I don't speak Japanese, so it's not as if I can just meet some activity partners. I understand that it's leading me to depression, but due to being in the military, seeing a shrink isn't an option. I'm worried that I'm just going to waste my life away here, get sick, and never do anything with this opportunity. What am I doing, and how can I turn it all around before it's too late?
posted by jimdanger to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say the best thing to do would be to find a friend. Someone you can go the gym with and work out. I know you said you're having a hard time making friends, but I think a friend will help with all the problems. It sounds like you have a bad self image. If you can find someone to go to the gym with so you can start looking better to your self, the other things will fall into place.
Once you are happy with how you look and feel, you will want to do other things, you have a happy out look on life.
You're in a great country, enjoy it well you are they. Meet new people maybe learn some of the language, you may never have the chance to do something like this again.
posted by blackout at 4:15 AM on July 9, 2006

Are you a civilian within the army? If not, it sounds like the US Army is hella different to many overseas where regular training and exercise regimes are common.

In the British Army it's almost impossible to get into this situation and your CO would be on your ass anyway. It seems like the first step would certainly be to get back to some of those Army ideals and use the structure and support the Army provides to get exercising, training, and focusing on something other than your problems.
posted by wackybrit at 4:41 AM on July 9, 2006

Response by poster: Actually I'm in the Navy. I've had no problem passing our physical fitness tests, it's just recently that I'm becoming overweight and unmotivated.
posted by jimdanger at 4:57 AM on July 9, 2006

Well, keep in mind it takes thirty days to form a habit and thirty days to discard habits. So remember that when starting or stopping certain behaviour.
posted by GoodJob! at 5:00 AM on July 9, 2006

I'd say that learning the language is really essential to broaden your range of possible activities. Also, when learning a language, things like watching TV actually cease to be wastes of time but are actually very beneficial. However, I understand that perhaps your problem is the lack of ability to actually get up and go on learning the language, so I don't know how useful that advice may be.
posted by Bugbread at 5:00 AM on July 9, 2006

Hiya Jim

Sounds like you have got the Japan blues mate. I peeked at your site so I know you are based in Yokosuka and are techie.

There are a gazillion groups here to join in - most are mixed foreigner and Japanese (many who speak English).

You have a blog - so how about the JapanBloggers?
We go out for a social event every month somewhere in Tokyo. Wide range of people and topics - not always geeky and blogging centric - although we are sometimes. Quite a few people come in from outer regions llike Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba too.

F*cked gaijin is another interesting community - mainly online although there are a number of social events too.

Tokyo PC Users have an event once a month, which is usually an interesting presentation on a topic, and then beers after.

I've meet lots of interesting people here through these sites. Some of them who I couldn't do without now. So many people are doing fascinating things here - I find it pretty motivating to hear what everyone is up to. Perhaps this could help you too.
posted by gomichild at 5:16 AM on July 9, 2006

1. Sign up for something - ANYTHING - at your base rec center, or gym, or arts & crafts center. A class, an activity, a tour, anything. Get out there and just TRY something!

2. Agree with bugbread - learning some of the local language will likely make you feel more "integrated" not only with the local culture, but also with your military peers who are likely doing the same.

3. Seeing a shrink IS an option -- trust me. I'm in military healthcare, and many of my peers, coworkers, supervisors, etc, have visited Life Skills over the years (me too) -- with NO negative repercussions. Believe me, this is NOT the military of 20 or 30 years ago, when such a visit could derail your career. Going to see the psychologist does NOT mean that you're crazy, or worthless, or anything like that: it just means that you would like someone to help you figure out how to live your life better. It's similar to seeing a personal trainer if you wanted to get your body in better shape, only with a mental health professional, it's your mind & emotions that you want to improve.

Hang in there - and get busy!
posted by davidmsc at 5:16 AM on July 9, 2006

I think Goodjob! has it right. It does take a while to get rid of bad habits. One thing I've found that helps tremendously is to find some activity, any activity, that you will do right when you get home, before you've had a chance to sit on the sofa. The idea is to do an activity that makes you sweat for just 10 minutes. Most people will realize that 10 minutes is not a lot, and can probably do that. Then do the same thing each day for 3 days straight. On the fourth day, increase the same activity for 2 more minutes. The strategy is that by starting with small amounts of activity, you actually will have some positive re-inforcement each day. Positive reinforcement that you are accomplishing something each day is what will lead a person to start, and continue such activity. Workouts that take a long time, exhaust you, or create pain in your body will be negative reinforcement, and that's not what you want when starting out. Keep everything simple, and in small amounts, and increase it gradually. The more success you feel each day will feed your will to want to do more the next day.
posted by jldindc at 8:45 AM on July 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can only do sports that are intrinsically fun, like bicycling.

Loro world recumbents

But it would be even better to have a group to ride with. Also, this is my catch-all response to posts like this, but check out the book Feeling Good so you can talk to yourself in ways that are ultimately more productive and get more mental energy as a result.

Also, what about a church group? Lots of social interaction and activities.

worship services schedule at Yokosuka. Try to pick one that is going to have some extra-curricular activities. Mormons play lots of basketball.

Ground yourself off the internet and tv for a month and it will push you outside.

Find some good podcasts and only let yourself listen to them when you're walking outside. Bring a camera and blog Yokosuka for us in excruciating detail.

But I haven't answered your question, which is "HOW" does one instigate this change. I have lost a little weight (13 lbs.) and didn't seriously start until I realized that the extra weight was making me act older than my 39 years, and that losing weight would make me "younger" in a sense. Plus I have a $100 bet riding on who can lose and keep off 20 lbs. with my wife.

afterthought: Maybe start an email list based around getting out and doing stuff with other people on base. This is pop-psy, but the eating is usually a substitute for something else.

Also, google "the hacker's diet."
posted by mecran01 at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2006

One thing you're doing that's killing you:
You "pass out" after having been on the web (the monitor's brightness screws with fatigue signs). And you're getting up exhausted.

For a week, (or more), set an alarm at 9pm. It means bedtime. Go to bed (if you're getting up at 5am). That's eight hours sleep. Better yet, if you could stand it - make it 10 hours. This will help your frame of mind.

Second, you're using the internet as a method of communication/interaction with people. You need some in person time (which other people have mentioned in this thread.)
posted by filmgeek at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2006

I tend to motivation problems as well, and I think a big part of it is actually that there is so much I want to do, and I tend to look at it in terms of these big overwhelming projects: must get fit and exercise every day for the rest of my life! Must clean this entire house from top to bottom! Must sew an entire new wardrobe! It seems so daunting to look at it like that, it's easier just to sit on the couch.

So I've become a big fan of the to-do list, breaking these huge projects up into the tiniest pieces possible. Instead of "become a superhuman fitness machine," it's "spend 30 minutes at the public pool near the house today." Or "organize that one horrible closet today." Or "cut out the pieces for a new dress today." The smaller the task, the more likely I can make myself jump right into it when I get home, instead of getting stuck on the couch. And once I get going, I find it's not so hard to continue, and it feels really good at the end of the day to look around at actual accomplishments.

One other thing to watch out for is not to get discouraged by the occasional backslide. Don't dwell on the fact that yesterday you surfed the web all night and you're a terrible lazy person and you knew all along you'd be right back where you started - today, you can do something different if you want. The list awaits!
posted by hilatron at 9:32 AM on July 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second the getting-a-friend/gym buddy idea.

Also, try watching your thoughts and feelings very carefully. Don't put any pressure on yourself to do anything. Just watch them. Then as you see negative thoughts (i.e. "exercise is gonna suck"), try questioning them ("is it really true that exercise will suck? does it have to be boring? is there any kind of exercise or sport or dance or hike that I enjoy? isn't moving around just intrinsically fun?")... remember, no pressure, no judgment. If you feel like doing a little, do it. If you don't, don't. Keep watching. Keep gently questioning. No pressure. Ultimately, do whatever you feel like. See if that helps...
posted by shivohum at 10:28 AM on July 9, 2006

My doctor offered me depression medication for your same symptoms...but if you can get yourself started on the way up you won't need them. Things that helped get me started (don't do them all at once...):

1) Make a list of your 20 favorite things to do. Next to each, write how long it's been since you did that thing. Pick one and do it!

2) Don't go home after work. Take your computer or a notebook to a cafe and make a start on a project. Or go to the gym for half an hour. Or go for an evening walk. But don't go home! The couch will eat you!

3) Try journaling. Write three pages longhand every day. About anything, as long as you do not stop until you've finished 3 pages. Sometimes if you hear yourself complain enough you will get tired of it--and repetition of things you want to be doing can lead to actually doing!

4) Exercise really should be the top of the is the number one thing that will make you feel better. Try walking for 15 minutes before dinner. Every day. It's only 15 minutes...and eventually if you feel like doing something more, do more! If you want to make it more interesting...take a camera, and take a daily picture. Or listen to some podcasts. Maybe learn Japanese?

5) Challange yourself to give up TV and the internet for a week. And reading, if that's a time sucker for you. You will be amazed how much you can accomplish. Just tell yourself, only seven days! (And be prepared with a list of things to keep yourself occupied instead of TV/internet.)
posted by sLevi at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks everyone for all these ideas. It's monday morning, and I'm writing these all down. I guess after being in for so long, you kind of lose that structure, so if I start by giving myself a little more, like no web/tv, todo lists, etc. It'll take a lot of the stress away. I also like the idea of not going home. Getting somewhere seems to be the hardest part of doing something, so that should reall help. This is my first question, but I'm really glad I asked it. Thanks everyone!
posted by jimdanger at 12:59 PM on July 9, 2006

Also, as far as learning Japanese, you might check to see if the Navy offers online Japanese courses; the Army has something called SkillSoft which has, amongst other things, most of the Rosetta Stone language courses available.

Of course, you could also just grab a bittorrent of Rosetta Stone / Pimsleur.
posted by cactus at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2006

If you continue to find it impossible to get out of this rut, you might consider that these are symptoms of depression rather than causes of it, and that talking to someone could help (I suspect there are resources available to you through the military). While therapy is hit or miss and some doctors are too pill-happy, I think people tend to resist even giving it a try more than they should.

Although sometimes hard to maintain, I find that working out immediately after work is highly effective in breaking evening inertia cycles. Even moderate exercise can really give an energy boost, but it's a lot harder to get going after you've gone home and already succumbed to the pull of the sofa/fridge/computer chair.

Can you find companions for doing things? It is a lot harder to skip the workout/cancel the evening plans if someone else is expecting you to participate, and of course it intrinsically eliminates the problem of isolation, which sounds like a main issue.

It can't be stressed enough that, in this context, the internet is almost exclusively a bad thing. A bad thing, a BAD thing. I imagine it is giving you a feeling of connection and a broader world which I'm sure is very attractive, being that you are in a culturally isolated situation (the barriers to activity being just naturally higher due to the cultural/language issues), but it is still such a passive, solitary medium and it is just a time sink (he wrote at half past midnight), it is too easy to flit from stimulus to stimulus and lose track of time. Unplug!

(Hmm, time to take my own advice).
posted by nanojath at 10:41 PM on July 9, 2006

Are you at Yokosuka or up at Negishi?

Heck, it's Japan. Get off base and go walk around taking photos of EVERYTHING. People love photos of Japan, and there are so many little things that are fascinating about it. I lived there for 6 years and wished that digital cameras existed back then.

You obviously have internet access. Set up a flickr account or set up a Gallery installation and fill it up with photos that you've taken. And walk down every alley that you can find - hit up random ramen shops.

You know, there's also quite a large foreigner population in Japan. Back when I was there, meeting folks wasn't too hard. Ask them about their country and where they're from. Just get off base as much as you can. I knew quite a few USN folks that would *never leave the base* and they showed the same signs that you described. Simply going for a nice long walk can do wonders for the soul.
posted by drstein at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2006

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