One of the most annoying things about certain weight loss professionals (for me anyway) is that they always want to know “why do you want to lose weight?” I understand why they ask that, because most dieters don’t have as much weight as I do to lose. They are looking at losing (usually) thirty pounds or less and while their journey is just as important as mine, what is driving them to lose weight is a little different than my impetus.
One of the stupidest things I ever saw on My 600 lb Life was a therapist who showed up at the house of a bed-bound patient weighing well over 500 lbs and she asked the patient: “why do you want to lose weight?” Though the patient was a very uncooperative and uncompliant woman, I had to agree with her response: “that’s the most asinine question I’ve ever heard!”
While carrying around an extra 20 or 30 lbs isn’t healthy for you, it’s a lot different when that extra weight is 130 lbs! When you are that obese, weight loss isn’t about fitting in those skinny jeans for the family trip or looking great when you go to the High School Reunion! It’s about sleeping without a CPAP; it’s about being able to walk across the Walmart parking lot without panting; it’s about climbing a staircase without being afraid of having a heart attack or passing out!
However, as annoying as that question is, I understand the impetus behind it. For a lot of us, whether it’s 10 lbs or 100 lbs, we believe inside that “once I lose this weight, I will be finally be happy!” When we make our weight the major problem and obstacle in our lives, it becomes the scapegoat for everything that’s wrong: “I haven’t gotten the promotion because of my weight”; “I can’t find someone who loves me because of my weight”; “I’m unhappy in my life because I’m not comfortable with myself because of my weight.” Sorry to tell everyone: the weight is a problem but not THE problem! The real problem is YOU. Specifically, it’s your mindset: happiness doesn’t come from outside– it comes from within!
We’ve heard all the platitudes about beauty being in the eye of the beholder and similar sayings. (My personal favorite is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind; therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.”) Just because their ancient and we’ve heard them all a million times doesn’t make them wrong but because we’ve heard them so often, we’ve stopped paying attention. We don’t stop to think about what the expressions actually mean, and the same is true when it comes to our happiness.
We’ve all heard that if we want someone else to love us, we first have to love ourselves. No one will love someone who hates himself and being happy starts the same way. How can we be happy if we hate who we are? We don’t have to love everything about our lives, but we do have to accept who we are and that we are a worthwhile person who deserves to be happy, even if we weigh 450 lbs! We have to learn to love ourselves even if there are things that we wish were different or things we are working to change, and loving who we are right now is the first step to being happy!
“Yeah…great….I love me…what does that have to do with losing weight?” Actually, it has a lot to do with losing weight. Let’s be honest: weight loss is hard work, especially at the beginning. Remember when you had to do something you really didn’t want to do (like taxes, maybe?) Remember how it was hard and you dreaded it and put it off as much as you could? When you don’t love and value yourself, how well do you take care of yourself? How much do you get down on yourself? I know of people who routinely treat themselves so badly it would be considered abusive if someone else did it to them. These are things like calling themselves morons or idiots or telling themselves that they don’t deserve good things because they’re trash. They’ve been convinced that they are worthless and that’s how they treat themselves, so when it comes to weight loss, why bother buying the healthy nutritious food when they’re just going to blow this diet like they’ve blown every other diet they’ve tried? “That program/ food/ gym is expensive and I’m just going to screw it up, so why waste the money?”
The same thing happens when they’re faced with temptation: “I might as well eat the leftover Halloween candy since I’m going to blow this sooner or later…” No one wants to love Sid or Cindy Sadsack because they’re always negative and depressing. The truly sad thing about them is that they also tell themselves that once they’ve lost weight, they will be deserving of love and happiness but their negative attitude to themselves is what’s keeping them from being happy and loved right now as well as keeping them from losing weight!
When you are happy or at least in a good mood, you are more confident. You are more likely to try a challenge or try your best at everything that comes your way. You just plain take better care of yourself! A guy might wear a brighter tie than normal or a woman might put on a little more makeup. When faced with temptation, rather than tell themselves “I’m going to screw up anyway!,” they are more likely to pass on the indulgence because “I can do this!” They just plain feel better about who they are right now! They don’t need the sugar, the indulgence or the food to bolster their mood, so it’s easier to say no. They are more likely not to avoid emotional eating due to depression, loneliness, stress or boredom. They are too busy feeling happy and good about themselves. They are more likely to exercise and stay active because being happy usually energizes us while depression, loneliness and sadness leave us feeling drained.
The trick is to learn to love yourself and be happy with who you are right now. When you are happy with who you are now, you don’t have to wait until you’ve hit your weight loss goals to feel happy. The sad truth is that being thin won’t make you happy. Things and outside influences don’t make you happy. They might make you feel better, but real happiness comes from how you see and feel about yourself. [Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen Citizen Kane and don’t want the end ruined for you, stop reading here!]
When a dying Orson Welles looks into the snowglobe and whispers “Rosebud” at the beginning of Citizen Kane, it begins the fruitless search to find out “who is Rosebud?” Like a lot of us, the characters all miss the point. Rosebud was a memory of the last time Charles Foster Kane was truly happy: as an 8 year old boy playing in the snow with a beat up wooden sled. Alone in a giant empty castle of a house after a life of wealth and influence, he still was still searching for that lost happiness.
[Spoiler alert over!] True happiness doesn’t come from what you have or what you look like: it comes from who you are inside. All of us have to wait to be thinner and healthier but we don’t have to wait to be truly happy and when we are happier, we will probably lose weight a little faster!