I vividly remember being here. I’m miserable. Everything hurts. I know I need to do something, but I don’t know what to do. It’s an overwhelming and utterly hopeless feeling. It’s that Deer in the Headlights paralysis: I know I need to move but I just can’t.
It’s easy to look back at this situation and think “just do something! anything!” But at the time, I was so busy being focused on the problem that I wasn’t looking at ways around the problem. This is where most of us start and after having been on this wild ride for a while, I think it’s the hardest part! It’s like looking at a pile of shattered glass and being told you need to reassemble the Baccarat vase it used to be! We’re looking at the mess we made of our own bodies and, while we know we need to fix it, we don’t know where or how to begin.
Newton’s First Law of Physics: A body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted on by an external force. I lucked out: an external force acted upon me and literally pushed me down the road to weight loss. I would love to say that I found my way out of the headlights and figured out how to get started on my own, but truthfully, I got a helpful push, even though it didn’t really feel ‘helpful’ at the time. This push (quitting the Job From Hell) required that I make essentially one change to my eating habits: I stopped eating out as much (unemployed- so no money!) I was still eating out, still eating processed junk food, but it was less. That one change alone is how I lost the first 40 lbs. After that, I was a body in motion and all I had to do was stay in motion.
It’s getting in motion that is the hard part! We are fighting not only the inertia and the bad habits that have become deeply ingrained in our daily routines but also the feeling of being absolutely overwhelmed. I can give you a whole bunch of descriptive metaphors, but most of us have been in that spot and are already too familiar with how it feels. We’re trying to forget that feeling!
My advice: do something! anything! even if it’s the WRONG thing, it gets you in motion, and once there, you are literally on a roll. Once you are headed somewhere, it’s easier to change direction than it is to start up again from a stopped position. Of course, bouncing from one strategy to another isn’t helpful either but once you find something that works for you, it’s still easier to stick with that one strategy than to start from scratch again.
However, before you deal with that possibility, you first have to get moving, and that’s way easier said than done! It’s NOT impossible and I don’t want to scare the living daylights out of you by telling you how hard it is, but I think recognizing that it’s not easy either gives you a better perspective and a better starting position. I was listening to a podcast the other day where the host and his guest were giggling over how sometimes people overlook the simple fixes in favor of the more complex ‘fashionable’ trend of the day: “you want to lose weight? Track your calories! Fewer calories than you burn and you lose weight!” While it’s hard to argue with his logic, there was a part of me that was really offended by his attitude. Yes, I agree with tracking; it helps with a lot of things besides calorie counting. I also agree that trying the simple fix first is a better position than going for ‘fashionably complex and trendy.’ What offended me was his attitude that being stuck means you’re being stupid about it. Personally, I was also offended by his attitude that low carb dieting is one of those fashionably complex temporary fixes.
I tried for more years than I want to admit to lose weight counting calories and eating those healthy whole grains, and it got me nowhere. I tried the ‘simple fix’ and it didn’t work, so now what? Being stuck and being overwhelmed does not make you stupid or hopeless, though the world is pretty good at making sure you think you are (like these two gigglers!) It means that your problem- your weight and your body- are not like the run-of-the-mill dieters out there.
Looking back from the vantage point of being un-stuck, I can see where I made my biggest blunder, and it was focusing on the problem! Realizing that is one of those Homer Simpson moments for me (D’oh!! **smack**) because problem-solving is actually one of my better skills, but not with weight loss apparently. I was looking at my weight- the number on the scale- and I was so focused on “OMG, I am so huge I will never be a normal weight or healthy again!” What I should have been focused on was “what is one change I can make to improve my nutrition?” Wrong focus: “I’ve tried Nutrisystem; I’ve tried counting calories and nothing works for me!” Better focus: “Those don’t work so what haven’t I tried?”
It’s the difference between staying in motion and staying at rest. It’s easy to stay at rest, not moving, fretting over my weight and how “nothing works!” You get so worked up but you aren’t actually moving- it just feels like you are. Actually doing something is much harder. It requires effort; it requires hope. You have to hope that this next thing will work and then you actually have to try it! Yes, the effort to get moving is a lot greater because you have been standing still, but you are worth that effort! It takes work to get moving. It takes work to look for new strategies, and there’s a lot of energy invested not only in looking and hoping but also the doing. As I said, I vividly remember being in that position, so much so that I remember what street I was driving down when I was trying to talk myself into just giving up and being fat and unhealthy the rest of my miserable life.
There are some things in life that we all know are a real pain in the butt and are a major hassle: things like changing jobs, moving, repainting and remodeling your home. We have jokes about them, like how all our friends are out of town the week you have to move into the new apartment. We expect that it’s a hassle so we kind of mentally and sometimes physically prepare ourselves for it. We toughen up and go into it with a “get it done!” attitude and if we are tired and sore from lugging boxes and packing up stuff, we expect it and deal with it. It’s the cost of moving to a new place! We don’t think of losing weight like that, and I think that’s why we are overwhelmed and confused.
“Why is this so hard?” That’s what I remember thinking over and over again. I felt so powerless to do anything about my weight. Trying to find something new, even the thought of just trying again felt so hard, and everything in my head kept telling me that ‘weight loss shouldn’t be hard!’ It was like the giggling podcast guest was in my head back then: “just count calories!” Yeah… doesn’t work, jerk! Sometimes it takes a bit more than just ‘the simple fix!’
Getting started is both hard and easy: getting yourself in motion is hard because you are fighting the inertia, the feelings of hopelessness and powerless, the realization that it’s going to be a long hard fight, but you only need to make one change. That’s the easy part. Make one healthy improvement to your nutrition. It doesn’t have to be something major or something complex or awe-inspiring: it just has to be something better than what you are doing now. With me, it was simply eating out less. Not even ‘no eating out’- just ‘less than what I was doing before.’ Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) made a similar change with fast food when she started. That one change for me and for her started us moving and once in motion, we stayed in motion.
When we take the right approach to the task at hand, I think we are better prepared for the obstacles that come up along the way. Thinking something is going to be easy and then finding out it’s much harder than we anticipated can knock us on our butts, and once down, we are tempted to stay there. When we realize that the job is going to be a tough one, we are better prepared and we expect that problems will arise: we start looking for ways to head them off. Losing weight is not the no-brainer some of the supposed professionals tell us it is, but neither is it an impossibility. It’s a hard job, but it’s one we can all do if we prepare for it and do the work. We may get knocked down a few times (I know I’ve kissed the canvas quite a lot!) but once down, we need to get back up. Remember: a moving target is harder to hit!