You know what’s really easy? Losing weight. No really. Any old fool can stop eating for a few days and lose weight, it’s almost stupidly simple. The tricky bit is to keep that weight off. If you don’t mind landing up an emaciated, dehydrated and crabbier version of yourself after these few days, then go right ahead. But I’ll assume you’ve probably tried this once or twice before already. It didn’t work then, it won’t work now.
Today, we start our journey with a “weigh in”. No, not the kind you see on The Biggest Loser where everyone gets to gawp at obese people, but a more subtle, more realistic weigh in. Today, we’re going to do an accounting of everything for and everything against staying the way you are right now.
This is kind of weird. Surely there can’t be any advantages to staying overweight and unhealthy? Well, sure there are, and they’re the reason you still are. And there definitely are disadvantages to losing weight and becoming healthier since you haven’t done it yet, right?.
The honest truth is that for most people, they get out of bed everyday and weigh up the pros and cons of staying overweight. And every time they procrastinate visiting the gym or have a second helping of doughnut flavored cereal for dinner, the fear and risk associated with changing wins out and they cast a vote for staying their same old selves.
People will just assume that everyone wants to lose weight, and that wanting it is all you need. You can be like most people and conclude that nah, you’re OK, you’ve actually decided in the meantime that you’re perfectly OK with being a little chunky – you love it actually – and that you’re overweight because you want to be. Or you could go the other way and convince yourself that the disadvantages of working hard to lose weight are way, way more than you’re willing to bother with, and you psych yourself out of even trying.
Today’s task: a realistic accounting of the pleasure versus the pain. Take an A4 piece of paper and divide it into four equal blocks. On the left – staying as you are now, not changing, not working hard, not taking any risks. On the right, taking the leap to be better, to change your lifestyle and to risk stumbling a little as you try something
new. The upper squares will be the positives, the lower squares the negatives.
Now, add in at least one negative and one positive for changing and one negative and positive for staying the same. Bear with me here. You may choose as your positive for staying the same, “I get to really enjoy my food” and the negative, “I’ll probably worsen my early onset arthritis”. For changing, you may put, “it’ll be a lot of hard work” as the negative and, “I’ll finally get to express myself more with my clothing” as a positive. Keep going until you can’t think of anything else.
The problem with being unable to break out of bad eating habits is that there’s good reason to stay there. Nobody would argue that. Any heroin addict can probably come up with dozens of reasons why it makes sense for him to keep on doing heroin. There’s a ustification behind everything, even something as nonsensical as eating doughnut flavored cereal.
The reason we’re putting all of this down is that if you know what your excuses are, you can be prepared. The trick to lasting and realistic weight loss is to amplify the pleasure of changing and the pain of not changing. If you are overweight right now, necessarily it means that the pleasure of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. How can you flip this around?
Argue with yourself. Think of counterarguments for all those arguments that keep you where you are now. “I get to really enjoy my food” is not such a fantastic reason, seeing as good, healthy food in reasonable quantities is totally enjoyable. Go further: change “it’ll probably worsen my arthritis” to “it will worsen my arthritis and once it has, it’ll be even more difficult to exercise and even more difficult to lose weight…”
Go down the list of all the excuses and reasons that are keeping you overweight. Keep this list somewhere safe, so that when one of them rears it’s devious head, you can whip it out and, well, argue with yourself.