As I said in the first post, I was motivated; my “light bulb was on”.
But then what? How could I (and how can you) keep motivation going in a tough area like weight loss? Four fundamentals began working for me. The first one today.
Think through, and write down, a mix of goals (short-, mid-, long-range) alongside your long term vision.
Many people approach weight loss with just one goal in mind. “To lose the weight.” There’s another version that’s even less effective. It’s some version of “I want to lose 20 pounds before the wedding/reunion/vacation, etc.” The first goal is too fuzzy; it just won’t take you very far toward a healthy weight. The second revolves around an event — an event which, as it fades in your rearview mirror, will likely take your goal with it! A key problem with the second kind of goal is, we’re just wanting to “look good” (for others, or for the pictures). Once that “limited vision” goal is achieved, the desire well may be to go celebrate!! In my case, celebrating would have meant plunging into the old food habits!
Habits aren’t sustained if clear vision and appropriate goals don’t support the habits!
My vision was that my wife and I attain the best state of health we could reach for the rest of our lives. A fundamental commitment we made to each other with regard to Weight Watchers was “we will not quit.” We agreed this time we’d stick, even after we had early good results (or even if we didn’t some weeks!) We were on this journey toward health for all of life. We wanted to feel better, sleep better, move better and enjoy physical activities. So we studied and read about the benefits of appropriate weight and good food. We read about the liabilities of some of the things we’d been eating! Our vision became more and more compelling. We watched shows like “Biggest Loser” to stir motivation. Those activities buttressed the vision and kept us wanting it!
As the vision developed, I had appropriate goals. Weight Watchers encourages steady — not steep — weight loss. Most “diets” revolve around some version of deprivation. A couple of problems with deprivation: one is the rubber band effect. We “bounce back” toward consuming what we missed during the deprivation phase. And two, healthy habits are never developed. You can’t live “real life” with “real food” with that approach (more about that in the next post). What I experienced was not deprivation! I quickly discovered that whole foods not only tasted good, they satisfied much longer and did not leave me hungry like “diets” do.
My weight loss goal was a half pound to 2 pounds per week! The philosophy I heard was, “you put the weight on over many years. The body is unlikely to allow you to suddenly reverse those decades in a few weeks or even a few months.” Eating is a highly complex human behavior. So my goals were often simple short-term ones, like “the next 5 pounds in _____ weeks” or “20 down by the end of the year” and so on. It was slow but steady. Many weeks I made it; sometimes not. There were plateaus; but again, there was no magic date looming in the future. (Once, after a cruise and an “up” day at the scale, I reminded my wife, “That’s just a snap shot, not the whole movie!”)
And there were sweet mileposts all along the way. The pants I had to donate; going from XL shirts (or bigger) to L’s; a lady at church asking my wife, “Is Dean sick? He’s really losing weight!”
At one point I even had a goal for someone else (something we coaches don’t recommend!). Mine was, I wanted to hear my doctor say something good without me fishing for his comment. This was the physician who earlier prescribed for me a blood pressure med for my borderline hypertension. Then came the day when he took me off of the drug! And he said, “This is really good; it’s so rare for people your age – with most, I’m adding drugs, and here I’m taking you off of your only one!”
So, your vision will move you and excite you about a long term objective. But you need to remind yourself of it often — I certainly did, in restaurants and at people’s homes for lunches or dinners; when we traveled; when I was faced with a plate of cookies or brownies at a meeting. You simply have to have the vision in front of you often: so…picture yourself fit, trim, moving, exercising well, feeling great, fitting into new clothes…whatever it takes to keep you going. Think of the powerful health benefits you gain for yourself. Weight Watchers leaders often say, “nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I love that!
So, if you’re at the starting line, think long-term with a powerful vision, and rehearse it often to yourself.
Then, add short-, medium-, and long-range goals; as you reach them they will propel you forward!
The next installment: Use a program that supports real life