The Difference Between Then And Now and The Power of Personal Responsibility
I've mentioned many times before about how my weight loss attempts in the past were simply “going through the motions.” What does that mean? It means that I had a solid understanding of the fundamentals of weight loss: Eat less and exercise more. If you do these things consistently, you lose weight. That's all I knew and all I did back then. I never really understood or wanted to understand what people meant when they said “you have to change your lifestyle.” All I needed to hear was the word “change,” and I didn't want to hear anymore. Change can be scary, uncertain, and completely outside of my little comfort zone. If someone was going to reach me, I needed them to be more specific. I understand now what they were trying to say. But I wouldn't say to someone, “you have to change your lifestyle.” I would say, “you have to change the way you look at food and exercise.” That sentence is the difference between past attempts and today. I lost weight back in 2004, 115 pounds worth, then quickly gained it all back plus five pounds. Why? Because the entire time I was losing weight, I was also looking forward to my next opportunity to cut loose and eat whatever and how much ever I wanted. I was going through the necessary motions to lose weight and completely ignoring the mental aspects needed for long term success. I was like a smoker in church anxiously awaiting the end of the sermon so he can get outside and light up. When I hit the 100 pounds lost mark in July 2004 we celebrated at our favorite restaurant with all the pizza and fried mushrooms I could possibly stuff down. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Hey, 100 pounds is a big deal! We were celebrating. I can't tell you the number of times I said “hey, when we all lose 50 pounds, we'll go to that big buffet place.” An alcoholic wouldn't celebrate a year of sobriety by getting plastered, that would be nuts, and so is the “reward feast.” Celebrating milestones is fine, but I do it now with clothes and anything else that isn't food. Oh sure, we might have a nice meal, but it's a normal meal in normal portion sizes and calories. The easiest way to tell if you're going through the motions is to honestly answer this question: Do I look forward to cutting loose and eating like a maniac once the weight is lost or a particular goal is met? If the answer is an honest “yes,” then you're just going through the motions needed for temporary results. So how do you cross over and really change the way you look at food and exercise? I can only speak of my personal experiences, so here's what I did:
First of all, I let go of the idea that there was a list of foods I could never eat again. If you tell me I have to forget about ice cream, pizza, and hamburgers for as long as I live, well, uh...I might cry, or at least be kind of depressed at the thought. Knowing that I could still eat anything I wanted immediately eliminated any feelings of deprivation. I knew that it wasn't the food, it was the portions that were hurting me. So I immediately stopped looking at food as the enemy. I quickly realized that I was indeed my own worst enemy. Food wasn't my enemy, food was a friend that I used and abused everyday. My choice of portion sizes, not my food selections were the problem. My choices. That's very important. I had to accept responsibility for my choices. I had to be honest enough to say “it wasn't my co-workers fault that I over did it when they brought donuts, it was my decision to eat five of them, my choice was the culprit, not the co-workers raised and glazed generosity.” The same idea can be applied to fast food restaurants. I eat fast food. No one can tell me that you can't lose weight eating fast food, because look at my results, I'm proof that it's not about the restaurants, it's about our own choices, and those decisions determine our results. There isn't a fast food place where I can't make good choices. There isn't a sit down restaurant where I can't make good choices. Remember that guy who tried to sue fast food restaurants for making him fat? I don't know what the judge said to him, but he's lucky I never became a judge, because he would have received a big lecture from me on personal responsibility. Understanding that my morbid obesity wasn't the fault of friends, or family, or that 99 cent chicken fried steak special at “Yer Mothers” on the strip in Stillwater circa 1985, or any other restaurant, was a major breakthrough. It put it squarely on me. But it's so easy to blame others! Excuses are better received if we're an innocent victim, right? Poor us! I had to get over that psychological non-sense of making myself feel better about bad choices by blaming everything and everyone but me. I set out on a journey 187 days ago where nothing was off limits. If I avoid certain things like real butter and real mayonnaise, it's because I find them to be horrible “calorie value” foods.
What about emotions and stressful triggers? I spent years convinced that the only way I would ever really lose weight successfully is if I won the lottery and all of a sudden I hadn't a care in the world. Then, and only then, free of stress in all it's forms, I could concentrate on doing the right things needed for weight loss. I finally realized that if I was waiting for a stress free life, then I would probably just need to accept dying young and obese. I learned that the most effective weapon against stress comes from within. It's my attitude. Attitude can change anything and everything, regardless of the stress level. I made a decision that no matter the circumstance, the stress, or the emotion, I wasn't going to let it effect my eating habits ever again. I made that decision, that choice. And it was an “iron clad” decision. I no longer allow my emotions to find comfort in counter-productive choices. Instead I take these emotions and stressful triggers and I throw them in a room filled with my motivating thoughts and positive attitudes. After a short while inside that room they come out tame and much easier to handle.
I haven't even touched on changing my mind about exercise. I'll get into that tomorrow night. Let's just put it this way: When I would see people bike riding down the highway or running “for fun” and not survival, I would immediately wonder “why are they putting themselves through that torture?” I've discovered exactly why they do it and how they feel incredible all the while. More on that tomorrow evening.
Speaking of exercise, I did lower body weight training followed by the most intense treadmill workout I've ever completed. Until tonight, my highest miles per hour was four. Tonight I had short burst of 5.8 mph! I made myself do it for as long as I could handle before dropping back down to 4 mph, about 30 seconds. I bet I go longer tomorrow. Maybe I'll make myself do 45 seconds at 5.8, and eventually even more. It felt fantastic! And I've certainly learned that significant progress comes easily when you are consistent in the effort. Good night and...