Before I started my weight-loss journey, I thought I needed to hit “rock bottom” to finally get enough resolve to do something about my weight and health.
There is truth to the old saw of “being sick and tired of being sick and tired” to make a significant change. But using that attitude to fuel weight loss can also backfire. For me, it was equating being fat with being a “loser.” Society and media nurture this belief. Body shaming is real, and it’s devastating.
Because I felt bad about myself, I had little energy for making healthier life choices. It seemed easier to order a pizza than prepare a healthy meal. I was too drained from feeling less than, unworthy, and not good enough to make positive changes.
A few weeks into my half-hearted attempt at weight loss, I was feeling pretty low. I wasn’t being consistent with eating well and I wasn’t exercising. I sat there ruminating about my situation.
I was 35 years old. I had so little energy I fell asleep on my couch after work every day. I went to see a blood cancer doctor on the advice of my family doctor. My blood work came back “healthy,” but I wasn’t. Over the last six years, I had gained 70 pounds from sitting at a desk, eating takeout, and never using my gym membership. I couldn’t buy clothes at the store anymore because they didn’t stock my size. I stopped getting my photo taken because I didn’t want to see what I had become.
I sat there feeling upset. I was too young to feel so old. The best years of my life were supposed to be ahead of me, but now I felt like a man out of time. Looking back, I guess I did hit rock bottom. But it was what happened next that ignited in me a true resolve to change.
I had a thought: I deserve to live well and be well.
It was simple, but that thought changed my life.
I repeated the thought aloud. “I deserve to live well and be well.” In that moment, I began to love myself unconditionally. I deserved to live well and be well.
How this one sentence inspired change:
When people love themselves unconditionally, they can tap into amazing powers.
These powers are helpful when it’s been a long day and a whole pint of ice cream seems like the only thing that could make the day bearable. When you live from a place of unconditional love, you can be present and say to yourself, “I don’t need this ice cream. I’m good.”
One of the reasons my first attempt at weight loss didn’t take was because I was too focused on the “whats” of dieting and not the “whys.” I already knew to eat more broccoli than french fries. But until I had a deep-rooted why for wanting to lose weight, the French fries would win over broccoli every time.
When I told myself I deserved to live well and be well, I committed to a philosophy that was necessary to press beyond the temporary discomfort of getting off the couch and going to the gym.
Believing that I was worthy of good health allowed me to address the negative self-talk that had plagued me my whole life and manifested as overeating. Believing that I deserved to live well and be well helped me to deal with moments with family when I had to assertively but politely decline to eat certain meals and desserts that no longer fit my model for nutrition. (This last part was especially hard because I am a notorious “people pleaser.”)
Getting off the couch and exercising is much easier when you believe you’re worth giving your body the exercise it needs to be well. It also makes overcoming weight-loss plateaus easier. Instead of feeling like a failure when I hit a weight-loss plateau, I looked at the situation as feedback. I shifted from cardio to high-intensity interval workouts. I adjusted the amount of fruit and starchy carbs I ate. I experimented with intermittent fasting. I gauged what worked, what didn’t, and I kept going.
Instead of getting swallowed up in negative self-talk and reverting back to my comfort zone of pizza and Netflix bingeing, I gave myself five minutes to feel sorry for my sluggish metabolism and then moved on.
It took me two years to lose my goal weight of 70 pounds. I’d like to think that if I knew then what I know now, I could have shaved that time in half. But that’s part of the journey.
I’ve come to understand that lasting weight loss is an inside job. That to get to your ideal self you have to first go inside and love the eternal You, the You that you don’t ever see in the mirror but you feel deep inside.
These days, when I coach clients on weight loss, I ask them to identify their “Great Why” for wanting to lose weight: the simple, emotional, powerful reason they want to live well and be well. My clients’ "Great Whys" are never to look good in a bikini or to have six-pack abs. It’s always something much more beautiful, simpler, and more powerful: like being around to see their kids grow up or to experience the fullness of life’s great adventures.
To me, that’s the real secret behind why people lose weight. Beyond the important health benefits, we lose weight because we want to feel a certain way about ourselves: confident, attractive, resilient, awesome.
I say, don’t wait to feel those feelings. Tap into those amazing feelings now, regardless of what the scale might say. We deserve to live well and be well. Right here, right now.