What’s Your Why?

Another confession: this one is tough for me.  All of the experts and trainers (even Dr. Nowzaradan) always ask this question: “why do you want to get fit/ healthy/ lose weight now?”  Essentially: you’ve had your whole life to do this so what made you want to get real this time?  Why is this time going to be different?

Ummm, because I mean it this time?  Because I got my head together?  Because I know what to do now?  Because if I don’t make it this time, I’m probably going to die?  All of those pretty much ran through my head over and over again throughout the years, whenever I’d try to lose weight/ eat healthier and exercise, with pretty much the same result: at best, I’d lose some weight and then eventually gain it all back.  I’d work out a few times and then stop going to the gym: “stuff” would come up and then it’d be three months or more and no working out.  It wasn’t for lack of trying or lack of encouragement, but it was failure all the same.

Honestly, I don’t have an answer as to “why I want to lose weight/ get healthy” or “why this time is different.”  It’s kind of ironic, because usually I’m the person who wants to know why something happens or why I’m supposed to do things a certain way.  I like knowing the “why” behind things, but in this instance, for myself (when it should be patently obvious), I have no clue how to answer that question. On one hand, I would think it would be pretty simple: my health is lousy, I’m miserable and I’m slowly killing myself.  Since I really don’t want to die and I’d like to enjoy living, I’m making some positive changes.  Is that my why?  Because this time, I just kind of stumbled into weight loss and- for whatever reason- this time it actually worked!

My weight loss began as an unforeseen benefit to a very difficult decision to leave a truly hellish and abusive situation.  Those of you who have read previous posts have heard me refer to the “job from hell.”  It is no exaggeration: if you’ve ever seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada, that was my boss, only not so nice. In fact, I had never seen the movie until I had worked for my boss for a few years and other people would joke about it. The first time I tried to watch the movie, I started stressing out over my job (I was literally digging my fingers into the arms of the chair!)  I have never actually seen the entire film because of the stress it triggers. My boss called me on my way to work, on my way home, on the weekends and evenings.  Apparently, the point of my life was to serve her. I used to comment that she couldn’t fire me because ‘slaves have to be sold!’  My boss used to nag me about my health, because”what will I do if you died?”  My co-workers used to joke that I needed to leave that job before it killed me (at the end, they were no longer joking).  Eventually, I realized I was dying: I was staying with the job because of the employee benefits, but they weren’t going to do me any good if I were dead, so I left.

Even after leaving that horrible place, I was still very depressed but in retrospect, just getting off the vicious cycle of stress, lack of sleep, and poor eating habits was enough to have a positive effect on my health.  I began to recover and after two months of freedom, I began to realize I was losing weight, and as I got farther away mentally and emotionally from the job from hell, I began to see just how awful it was and how miserable it made me, emotionally and physically.  Why is this time different?  Why did I decide to lose weight and get healthy now? Because I spent two years being utterly miserable (I worked for her for nearly 7 but only the last 2 were hell). Because I figured as long as I had the time and opportunity to restructure my life in a positive way, I was going to do all I could.  Because I spent the last two years of my life being stepped on and abused and I decided that I not only wanted to live, but I wanted to f***ing enjoy my life!  I had time to start a new hobby so I made that hobby nutrition and fitness.

That explains how I made the healthy changes to my life, but the Why is still up in the air for me.  All the experts say you need to find your Why or sometimes it’s a Who.  Several of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients decide they need to make changes for the sake of their family: they either have children they want to see grow up or they have a spouse who is spending his/ her life taking care of them and they are afraid of being abandoned.

I don’t have a husband or children, and at this stage in my life, it’s not likely that I ever will (wow- doesn’t that sound depressing!) Truly, for me, it isn’t although I do know that there are people who are trying to get healthier for exactly those reasons.  I came to the realization several years ago that not everyone is cut out to have a spouse and kids and apparently, I am one of them!  I actually like living alone: in some respects it is fewer problems and in others, it is a little more difficult, but the same can be said for people with families. Since I am living alone, my ability to take care of myself is directly tied to my health.  If I cannot do that, then there is no one else in the house to do it for me.

I think in some ways it might be better for me not to focus on the Why.  I have heard trainers and coaches tell their clients that they need to stop paying attention to the end goal and focus on the process.  Don’t look at how far out you are from your goal or how long it will take you to get there: just focus on making the next step.  When I was in high school, my senior PE final was to run 8 laps around the track (2 miles). It nearly killed me, or at least it felt like it did. I know I wasn’t jogging that track thinking “2 laps down, only 6 more to go!” I was thinking “just keep running… just keep running.” I had to focus on what I was doing at that moment because if I had focused on 8 laps, 7 laps, 6 laps, I’d have never survived.  When I do stop to take stock of how much weight I’ve lost and how much more I have to go, it gets really depressing.  My highest weight was 438, and I’ve set a goal weight of 150.  The math is easy: 438 – 150= way too much weight to think of!  In reality, it’s 288 that I need to lose. (FYI: my ‘smart’ scale has told me that my ideal body weight is between 108 and 140, so I guess we can add at least another 10 lbs to that total number!)

Even though I don’t have my own specific, defined Why, I can understand its importance.  This is what keeps you going when you begin to lose your motivation.  This is what pushes you to succeed and not give up no matter how beaten you feel by the struggle.  For some people, it is the fear that they will never have a family or that their family will leave them.  For some, it is the fear of dying and leaving their spouse and children to fend for themselves. It can either be a fear that motivates you or a goal that keeps you moving forward, but the “what” is less important to you than the Why itself.  It just needs to be something important enough to you that it spurs you forward, whether it’s being there to see your kids get married or wearing skinny jeans to your high school reunion.

I think on a most basic level, my Why is because life is so much better when I am not in pain, miserable and exhausted all the time. I am acutely aware of how easy it is to pick up the 20 lbs of dog food or cat litter  compared to how it used to feel. I like being able to get up and go do something simple, like walk out to my car to get a sweater without having to think about how painful it is and how long a walk it is (it’s the freaking parking lot!) or play with my dog without having to limp around the yard. Going places and doing things now is actually fun instead of a painful chore, and that is something I think of pretty much every day.  If that counts as a Why, then it’s my Why.  There are times when I wonder if I am missing something important in not having a clearly defined Why and if I am, please feel free to clue me in!  I think my Why works for me because it is something I feel everyday.  Every time I get up to get something from the copy room at work, or walking back and forth between the kitchen and living room at home, or bringing in the laundry, I am vividly reminded that just plain simple walking used to hurt so much.  Carrying anything, let alone the dogfood/ cat litter, was an exercise in misery. Now my biggest hassle with shopping is how much time it takes or how much money it costs, not how much are my knees going to hurt and do I need to bring my cane.  Living without pain is enough to motivate me.  Maybe as I get farther away from the pain and misery, I will have to find another Why, but for now, I’m good!


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