Monday, February 4, 2013

How Knitting is Like Dieting

The other day I was looking at knitting patterns on Ravelry - I was searching by a specific yarn, looking for ideas to make with the two skeins I have on hand.  There were over 400 pages of patterns!  I'd see a hat that looked cute and bookmark that, and then a cowl, and then another hat...page after page, where I'd look at the pattern, think "I could do that" or "I have no idea what provisional cast-on (or some such thing) means, forget this."   Some people wrote that a pattern was simple to follow, while others had trouble with it.  As we knitters all have different skill levels, you never know if someone's "easy" is my "difficult" and eventually my mind was so filled with options that it was making me crazy.  I got to the point where I just wanted someone to say "this is a good pattern - you should make it" so I could get started.  And that's how I've been with diets.  I get motivated to make a change in my life...I'm ready to do this.  So I'd start reading about different diet plans, and get sucked down that vortex...the ones that were too extreme were weeded out right away, as were the ones where foods that I dislike played a prominent role.  I'd try to narrow my choices down to what I thought I could realistically do, but even then, there would be so many that I wished someone would make the choice for me - if they would just say "THIS is the right diet for you, try it."

Of course we all know that what worked for one person may not work for another, but this is why there are so many weight-loss plans, books and websites out there.  One size does not fit all when it comes to a diet.  But, much like starting a new knitting pattern, you have to trust the directions and commit 100%.  And sometimes, even though you do the work, the diet ends up not being The One.  Maybe you don't lose weight, or lose it fast enough, or the meal plan is too labor-intensive to keep up with, or it's too restrictive.  There is no perfect diet, but there ARE some that are better for you than others, and just like with knitting, it might take several tries to find the one that works for you.

Here are some more examples of how knitting is like dieting:
  • Hope.  We all know how much promise a new diet holds.  This one is different!  I get to eat "X, Y, and Z"!  It fits easily into my lifestyle!  By following the diet, I will lose weight!  Much like dieting, a new ball of yarn holds a lot of promise, too.  Look at the new color/new texture!  I can knit so many things with it!  Surely this one will be my best project yet!  
  • Mistakes.  I'll be knitting along when suddenly something doesn't look right.  Usually a quick count of my stitches confirms my suspicion - I'm missing one...aka the dreaded dropped stitch.  Now, when I was first starting out with knitting, I'd just unravel the entire project and start over.  Yep.  There was no fixing it - I had to undo all of my hard work and start at the beginning again. How many times did I do that while dieting?  I'd have one slip - could be a meal, could be an entire day of eating off plan, and I'd throw the entire diet away.  All that work?  It meant nothing.  I'd blown it.  There was no salvaging the diet.
  • Repair.  Now I know that many mistakes in knitting can be repaired if I catch them in time.  Dropped stitch?  Isolate it, knit to that spot, and I can weave it back up through the piece like nothing ever happened.  Or if it's really wonky, I can tink back (unknit, stitch by stitch) to the bad spot and fix it.  Same goes for diet flubs - they can be fixed.  I can get right back on track.  I can eat a little less the day after a huge indulgence.  I can exercise a little more.  I can accept that one flub does not need to undo everything - sure, it might add an extra week to the time it takes me to lose weight, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not a huge deal.  Everything is salvageable, one way or another.
  • Practice.  The more I work at knitting, the better my stitches look.  Same goes for dieting - the more I work at it, the better I look.  
  • Progress.  Some projects feel like I'm slogging through them with very little progress to show (diagonal baby blanket comes to mind), and then all of a sudden, BAM!  I can see results and realize that the end is near.  Losing weight was like that for me - I'd do what I was supposed to, day after day and week after week with seemingly no results.  Then one morning I'd go to get dressed and my pants were falling off.  BAM!  Changes ARE happening!
There's also the way you realize that something is not working for you - and when it's time to cut your losses (or lack thereof, in dieting) and change plans.  I had a few good examples with knitting lately, and I'd like to think all my years of trying different diet plans have helped me to apply the "this isn't working" feeling to other parts of my life:
  • The purple hat that I made, but wasn't thrilled with.  Why waste that pretty yarn on something that I didn't like and probably wouldn't end up wearing?  In that case, it was easy enough to unravel it and set the yarn aside for another project.  Yes, I undid several hours' worth of work that was done over several weeks, off and on, so you could say that I had invested quite a bit of time in that project.  But it wasn't making me feel satisfied.  I could berate myself for not stopping sooner, but I kept thinking that maybe it would grow on me. 
  • The dud sock.  I did learn something from that project, even though I didn't end up with what I thought I would (i.e. a pair of socks that fit me).  
  • My most recent realization was the yarn that I used for the Mystery Knit Along - I loved the colorway, but the yarn had some irregularities in it that really showed in the delicate project that I was knitting.  In another project, it wouldn't have been as noticeable, but it really bothered me with this one. 
So after nearly finishing part two of that pattern, I decided to get some different yarn and begin again.  Yes, I was going to start over - just like I've done with a diet. I was either going to fight that yarn for the duration of that project, or I could restart with a better yarn that not only would I enjoy working with on a daily basis, but that would give me a much better end result.  Substitute "diet" for "yarn" in that previous sentence and I think you can see another good example of how knitting is like dieting.

I could go on and on, but I wanted to finish with this:  It may seem like I learned how to knit just a year ago and have had nothing but forward progression ever since.  Not true.  I tried to learn how to knit several times over the last 10 years or so but it didn't click with me.  I'd pick up the yarn and needles and give it a try, get frustrated by my lack of progress, and pretty quickly quit again.  And then one day, knitting appealed enough to me that I kept working at it...yes, it was hard at times and I made mistakes along the way, but I wanted to complete a project so much that I didn't stop.  That's how I felt when I started my last diet - I wanted the end result so much that I kept at it, over the days, weeks, months and years. Both knitting and dieting taught me patience and perseverance - and that if I kept working at them, I'd be pleased with the final product.

34 comments:

  1. Fun post, you know Lori wrote something simular to this one and both posts are great.

    I do think there are indeed a lot of simularities between knitting and dieting. Well written Shelley.

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    1. I know, when Lori's post came out I was thinking "dang it, I've been working on something similar and now it'll look like I took her idea!" - actually, I've been writing this post for weeks now...it just took me a while to get it made into something presentable. I do think it's interesting how both of us can look at whatever we are passionate about and relate it to dieting. It truly shows how ingrained dieting is into our lives!

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    2. I'm glad I got mine out there first so it didn't look like I was copying you LOL! :D

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    3. LOL at Lori.

      Both posts had a different point of view and I loved reading both. Keep posts like this coming from the both of you.

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    1. Thanks, MaryFran - it all started when I made a mistake on my knitting and realized how it tied in so well with dieting...and an epic tome of a post was born! ;)

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  3. Fun post Shelley! I am not sure if you are a big reader, but if you are you should try out Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street series. Fun, easy reads about a Yarn shop. And there is usually a pattern at the end of the book for whatever project the class at the yarn shop was working on during the book :)

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    1. I do like to read, although it's gone by the wayside what with all the knitting I've been doing. I just looked up that series on my library's website and discovered that they have it and it's available via ebook...when did they start doing that??? Of course I can't figure out how to make it work, so a trip to the library is in order. Thanks for the suggestion - reading about knitting will be good for when I need to give my wrists a rest!

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  4. Yes, dieting IS ingrained in our lives, isn't it?

    Very excellent, and fun to read too. And I know some of those BIG things you have worked at and changed in knitting--changing from left to right hand knitting is huge!

    This was so good for me to read. Even though I gave myself permission for a day off yesterday (my version of SuperBowl) I am still having some of those "I've failed again, throw in the towel" feelings this morning. I know this is working for me now. I just must persevere!

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    1. I forgot that I switched hands - which is why, a year later, I'm not too keen on trying to change to the other way of holding my yarn (English to continental or vice-versa...never can remember which way I do it).

      You did not unravel all of your hard work with one off day. Remember that, and trudge ahead! ;)

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    2. Unravel LOL. That image will last me a while! Which reminds me, I found a partially finished sweater that I will NEVER finish. It is beautiful yarn. I feel some unraveling coming on!

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  5. I love this post!!! As an artist I have way to many hobbies but knitting is one of those I've always wanted to try. As always you're an inspiration :)

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    1. You would love knitting, Tina - and I'd love to see what you create!

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  6. Very good post Shelley - I've dabbled in knitting for awhile, just like I've dabbled in weight loss. I found out over the winter that I like using BIG NEEDLES to make BIG CHUNKY SCARVES because the process is so much faster. If I had stuck to using tiny needles, I would have thrown in the knitting towel forever. And like knitting, I just have to find a way to lose weight to make it work in such a way that I can enjoy the process. :)

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    1. I am all about the big needles and chunky yarn - the nearly instant gratification that comes with it is wonderful!

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  7. I guess I need to write a post about how dieting is like running... it's not a sprint it's a marathon, etc., etc. lol!

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  8. "Everything is salvageable." You put into words what I feel every morning following a not-so-good day before. I used to unravel everything, too.

    Still working on that knit thong? ;)

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  9. I am a knit-not, but love the unraveling analogy. What a great way to conceptualize the whole black/white on/off kind of catastrophizing we tend to do when we slip up at something.

    Repair! Keep going!! Love it.

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    1. Remembering that all is not lost is so important with everything. :)

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  10. I loved this post Shelley! Just what I needed after my lack luster weekend - thanks for the push!

    (and don't worry, I'll post plenty of squirrel pics!)

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  11. This post made me smile. And also made me consider taking up knitting!!!! Will you fly to Vancouver and teach me? :) We wish. Have a wonderful Monday Shelley.

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    1. Vancouver is on my list of places I'd like to visit, so who knows...I may show up on your doorstep, needles and yarn in hand! :)

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  12. Hello Shelley. I crochet and understand your need to frog the hat because you loved the yarn. I had crocheted a gorgeous poncho this fall and kept looking at it thinking, "Will I actually wear this?!" I loved the yarn so much that I frogged it and now have stashes of this beautiful yarn. I have made a couple of scarves with it that my daughter loves to wear. So sometimes you must work through a project and then realize it just isn't right for you. Love the analogy of diet and knitting. Very encouraging post.

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  13. Great post Shelley!! You are so right

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  14. Love this post! Definitely helps with having the right perspective.

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  15. This is so awesome. I really needed you to write my post for me because you are such a better writer than I am.

    Funny how when weight and dieting are such a huge part of our lives over the years that you can't help but compare it to you passions.

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  16. Great analogies! Thanks for sharing that insight!

    Julie
    http://halfajulie.blogspot.com

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  17. Thanks for the insight Shelley. Never thought about how knitting challenges parallel life challenges. Don't give up on the socks- check out Kate Atherley, aka Wise Hilda knits, for top down socks.

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  18. What a metaphore! But everything absolutely makes sense. My wife has problems with her weight, but she is afraid of starting diet. I definitely will show her your blog, maybe it will encourage her.

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