I know this sounds like a stupidly obvious statement, but remember the last time you did something because someone (most likely someone important to you) told you that you should do it? So you did it, but maybe you didn’t do it very well or you didn’t like doing it? We all know what it’s like doing something when our heart just isn’t in it, and sometimes that makes it ten times harder than it has to be. I remember not too long ago, I went over to a friend’s party and I had been looking forward to it when I agreed to go, but then everything in between got really busy and I was pretty fried by the date of the party and really, all I wanted to do was stay home and catch up on some other things. But… my friends were really looking forward to my being there and I didn’t want to disappoint them, and I told myself it’d be fun once I got there, so I went. It wasn’t a disaster but it seemed to last forever and when I got home, I was even more tired than before. It was pretty much my one ‘free day’ out of my weekend, since Sunday is usually ‘prep for the week’ day. I went to please my friends but if it had been up to me, I’d’ve just stayed home.
And that’s the thing: it was up to me. I’m sure my friends would have understood even though they’d have been disappointed, but I didn’t want to disappoint them. It was fun, though probably not as relaxing as lying on the sofa reading a book or working a puzzle or just playing with the dog. It made for a long day and a short weekend, which made the following week a little longer than it should have been. The point is that since my heart wasn’t in it, it was harder than it had to be, and that was a party! Imagine doing something that’s pretty hard to start with, like losing weight and being healthier. Now imagine that your heart isn’t in it. So what do you think your success rate is going to be?
The problem is that when it comes to losing weight, we all think it’s what we want to do. Surely no one in their right mind wants to be fat and unhealthy! Right?? But when it comes to weight loss, it’s not as simple as that. “Of course I want to lose weight! Why would I want to be fat?!?” If weight loss were as simple as changing your shirt or cutting your hair or even just having the bariatric surgery, we would probably all do it without a second thought (well, maybe a second thought about the surgery), but the truth of the matter is that it is damn hard because it’s not just one thing we have to change. It’s not just “don’t eat donuts” and we lose weight, or “get a gym membership” and we lose weight. Even when it comes to the surgery, anyone who has seen My 600 lb Life has heard Dr. Nowzaradan tell his patients that without controlling their eating habits, the surgery will be wasted. Weight loss isn’t just changing one thing: it’s changing nearly our entire lifestyle. It’s a complex network of changes that need to be made and many of them depend on each other.
It’s not like dominos, where if one falls the whole network falls apart, but rather it’s like navigation. If you verge off course by one degree, the longer you travel, the farther off course you are going to be, and eventually you will be totally lost. That ‘one degree’ will become 10 or 20 degrees in a very short amount of time. You can still get back on course once you realize where you went off track, but it will take some time to get back to where you were before you ‘went one degree off.’ We’ve all done this: we’re ‘eating healthy’ but then it’s someone’s birthday (or something else that’s ‘special’) so we treat ourselves to a Forbidden Food and we tell ourselves, it’s just one time, but then a couple days later, we have something else that’s special and then we maybe have a little more of something ‘healthy’ than we should or we feel like munching in the evening even though we aren’t hungry after dinner and then a couple weeks later we look at the dinner on our plate or the scale or our ‘fat pants’ are tight again, and we ask ourselves ‘what happened to my diet?’ The bad decisions- the being off course one degree- builds on itself the same way the good decisions do. It’s because weight loss- and weight gain- are all interwoven into our lifestyle, and that’s what makes them so hard to change. If it were as easy as “don’t eat donuts,” we could all lose weight without thinking about it!
This is why we really have to want to lose weight. It’s a helluva lot of work to change one habit- there’s an entire industry geared to help us do that, and when it comes to losing weight, eating healthier and being more active, we have to incorporate healthy new habits while getting rid of the bad unhealthy habits. We are changing our behaviors left and right, and to do both those things successfully (because we all know how to do them badly!), we have to change the way we think about food, eating and activity, and that means it’s a whole lotta work! Therefore, if your heart isn’t in it, if you’re only doing it because someone you love said you ‘should’ do, if you do not really want this for yourself, YOU WILL FAIL. Please understand that just because you fail at this doesn’t mean that you don’t really want it- it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you or you have some kind of subconscious self-destructive streak. It just means you probably took the wrong approach or you took on too much at once, but if you do not want to make these changes for yourself, then you don’t have the motivation you need to get started on a pretty big and difficult project, and you won’t have the drive to stick with this project, because it is a Project. It’s not a ‘diet,’ and it’s not temporary. Being overweight and unhealthy is the result of that being one degree off course: it’s the result of a long series of food and lifestyle choices. One degree + one degree + one degree + one degree over 40+ years = 438 lbs + bad knees + type 2 diabetes. Correcting that course is done pretty much the same way: one good choice + more good choices + years of making those same good choices. It’s not “don’t eat donuts” only on Tuesdays or only until the end of the year: it’s “don’t eat donuts” every day for the foreseeable future. It means you have to keep making the course corrections every day all the time wherever you are, and that is work. We’ve all agreed to ‘be good’ because Someone Important wants you to be healthier, but how many of us have been out with friends and mumbled ‘don’t tell my Someone Important’ as we stuff pizza or chips in our mouth? Just because they don’t see you eat the Forbidden Food doesn’t mean that your body ignores it; it just means the Someone Important won’t scold you for eating it. ‘Not getting caught’ does not equal success at weight loss and nutrition. Success comes from not-eating the chips and pizza and choosing the vegetables and healthy options instead. If we really want it and we are committed to making those changes, we will get the success we want. It means we have to become the Someone Important when it comes to making these changes. We are the ones who are telling ourselves not to eat the Junior Mints or the chips and we have to remember to bring our gym bag because we are going to the spin class tonight and we have to go for a walk at lunch time rather than sitting at our desk and shopping online.
The things that are important to us- the things we really want- are what drive our behavior and our decisions. They keep us focused on our goals; they keep us on course to where we want to go. It means we have to do the hard work making changes all the time, not just when it suits us or someone else is watching. If we really want it and we are really committed to it, then we put in the hard work because the goal is worth it to us. There is a nice little bonus to putting in all the heavy lifting that goes with making all the lifestyle changes, and it’s not just that we reach our goals: it’s that the more we make the everyday changes, the easier they become! And sometime, long before we reach our goals, we realize that all that hard work isn’t really work anymore!