(and why that’s so important to your Health and Weight Loss Goals)
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You are all amped up to lose weight and start (yet another) diet/workout plan where you can’t skip even 1 day/multi-level pyramid scheme etc. It goes really well for like, four to five days. Then you realize you’re tired and “don’t feel like it today,” so you promise yourself if you skip ONE day, you’ll be back at it tomorrow. Except tomorrow never comes. Well, I mean it does, but by then the thought of going back to that rigid ridiculousness is just too much to consider. So you bail on the entire thing and convince yourself that you’ll never be able to achieve your goal and that you’re just a horrible person with no willpower, destined to a life of gluttony and feeling like garbage.
Except that’s not true. You just didn’t have your priorities in line. Or, rather – your “why.” Let me explain.
When you set off on any weight loss, training, or health journey, it is absolutely imperative to have a strong “why.” Most of our “whys” are actually superficial and have more to do with vanity (thus, making them superficial and easy to crack). Example: “I want to get back into my college jeans.” This also takes the form of “I want to lose ‘x’ pounds” or “I want to be a size [x].” On the surface, these seem fine, but they all involve an obscure number or thing and aren’t really anchored in anything important, thus making them SUPER easy to bail on when things get rough.
When you choose goals that have to do with looking a certain way or being a certain size, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. They just are aren’t good enough whys! Even if you attached one of those to a specific event (“I want to lose 20 lbs for my class reunion”) they are still incredibly superficial and might get you to the event, but after that – fuck it – and you gain all that weight back plus some. These goals all lack substance and aren’t going to get you anywhere for long-term health.
I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing to want to lose weight or “look good” for an upcoming event, but you have to understand that once that event is over, your goal is no longer anchored in anything and then you have nothing to work towards. You’ll also gain all that weight back because you’ll go lax in your habits and start rewarding yourself for achieving your goal (“Cant hurt to treat myself for a few weeks, I’ve been working so hard!”). By the way, diet industry absolutely LOVES this cycle of insanity and wants nothing more than to try to sell you the next 100 medium hard or whatever the fuck program that’s going to rocket boost you into peak health and fitness.
My advice? Start finding your WHY. When you start asking yourself why you want to “get healthy” or lose weight, you need to pull out the toddler-method of asking why. My clients HAAAAAATE this (I do as a parent, too), but it works.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
Client: “I want to lose 20 lbs”
Client: “Because I want to get back into my pre-baby jeans.”
Me: “Ok, but why.”
Client: “Because I want to feel good.”
Me: “Wine makes you feel good. Why will getting into a pair of jeans make you feel good?”
Client: “Because I’ll have proven to myself that I can lose the baby weight.”
Me: “Why do you have to prove that to yourself?”
Client: “I don’t know, I just do.”
Me: “Not good enough.”
Client: “Ok, well I want to like the way my body looks.”
(and on, and on, and on). What I’m getting at with this client and with every client I go through this with is specifically what FEELING they are looking for here. Most of them want to lose weight to feel confident, happy, or to be able to have more energy to be able to play with their kids. It’s the FEELING of being confident in their body or just being plain old happy. It has very little to do with the size of your jeans or whether you have abs. It’s the fact that you want to “feel” a certain way. You think getting a certain body shape is going to get you there, but if you can’t access that feeling now, that goal is never going to get you beyond that class reunion or whatever you have upcoming. I got this idea from Oona Duncan’s book, “Healthy as F*ck.” In the book, Duncan talks about how you think you’ll be happy once you hit your goal weight, but that what we’re really after is a particular feeling – happiness. But that can only come from within and so we should start practicing feeling happy (at our current weight) now!
Let me give you an example. At my lowest weight, I was neither happy nor satisfied. I had an “idea” where I wanted to be, sure. When I did get there, I was exhausted from over-exercising and not eating enough and terrified that I was going to gain the weight back. I was missing out on social events because I didn’t want to be “tempted” and I was irritable and constantly thinking about food. Sounds great, right?
Speaking of happiness at a certain weight (or the idea that you can’t be happy UNLESS you hit a certain weight). There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, I think it’s natural to want to be in the best body for you so that you can do all of the things you want to! But, it’s a chicken or the egg thing. If you can find happiness and kindness towards your body now, you will want to treat that body a LOT better. It becomes easier to put healthy foods into your body because you want to perform and feel your best when you have some fucking respect for your body. And this might sound woo-woo, but your body hears you and it hears all the shit talking that you to it.
If you’re constantly down on your body and trying to shame yourself into losing weight, you’re doing it wrong. Re-frame the issue. Talk nicely to yourself and see what happens. You can want to lose weight and do this. In fact, I almost hate to tell you this, but once you start treating your body better by fueling it with healthy foods, you start to FEEL BETTER. And guess what happens when you FEEL BETTER? You DO BETTER. You have more energy to exercise, you are less irritable, and you’re sleeping better. All because you stopped treating your body like a dumpster and respected it enough to fuel it appropriately. WOW.
Ok, back to our Whys.
I promise I’m not shitting on people trying to lose weight. All I am saying is that if weight loss is a goal of yours, you need to get VERY clear about what your WHY is and make sure that it will carry you through the hard part of developing healthy habits.
Let’s say you’ve got a pretty decent “why” for losing weight. I want you to imagine what happens when you don’t feel like doing the things anymore and the going gets tough, as it inevitably will. Is this why going to pick you up the next morning and keep you going? Or will it be too easy to allow yourself to plunge into the shame spiral and give up on your goals? This is where the why comes in. A really great Why won’t leave you alone. It will haunt you and nag at you and be a constant reminder of those goals you set for yourself.
Of course, there are SO many other pieces to success. Starting out slow and getting quick wins, setting goals that are achievable, making habit changes easy and rewarding – all of those things along with consistency and building mental resilience are keys to being successful in your health and weight loss goals.
For now, though, wherever you’re at in your health journey, take a few moments to sit and think about your WHY and what feeling you’re desiring from it. Once you’ve identified your WHY and feeling, see if you can find a little of that feeling now in your everyday life – regardless of how far down (or not) of the path you are. It takes such a little amount of time to do, and is SO worth it in the long run.