Let’s say that in today’s mail an invitation to your 10th high school reunion arrived. The reunion is still six-months away so you have time to plan. You think out loud, “Wow, in high school I wore jeans with a 36-inch waist. Now my waist is 40 inches. What will they think of me, gaining all that weight.” Right then and there you decide to go on a diet so that you’ll fit in those 36-inch jeans again and in time for the reunion.
Fast forward six months. You go to the reunion in those skinny jeans. Everyone comments how good you look. How you haven’t changed a bit over ten years. Holy cow do you feel great. It surely was worth the pain to lose all that weight for the reunion. You surely feel some relief that it went so well. But where has your motivation gone? For most people, around 85% of people who diet for an event, that motivation being gone makes the diet look much less appealing.
Say you break up with your boyfriend (or girlfriend). Devastated, you decide to show him (or her) so you go on a diet to lose weight out of spite. Some might even say revenge, “I’ll show you how good I can look. What you’ll be missing forever.” What psychologists tell us is that spite or revenge has its roots in anger and deep rage. Rage poisons only the one doing the raging. The target of your rage may not know or care about your vow to lose weight to spite him (or her). Another poor motivator for weight loss.
If we wish to tell the truth, the best, perhaps the only, powerful and sustainable motivation for permanent weight loss does not look to externals for justification. No, it erupts from within. It is clouded in shame and disgust with what one sees when looking in the mirror. It is that uncontrollable desire to eat the whole bag of potato chips while watching TV. It is the problem of eating a box of Oreo cookies in one sitting. Of gorging on Quarter Pounders and diet Coke or always eating seconds even when you feel stuffed. It is when you finally, one day, look in the mirror and scream for help. That is the motivation for permanent and healthy weight loss.
It is in moments like these that you admit to yourself just how much power you have given up. You realize at that moment that you are absolutely powerless when it comes to food. You are now ready to do something about it for the last time. Now you are done thinking about other people, for external motivation. No more can you afford to think about your spouse or significant other, your kids, or anything else outside of yourself as a strong motivator for losing weight.
The irony is, however, that you are now ready to step outside of yourself to seek the aid and comfort of others just like you. It is not enough to make a decision to lose weight. You must now take action. If you find a support group to settle into, you’ll surround yourself with people who are just as powerless as you but who have found meaningful ways of changing their lives. You can and should learn from them. This is the perfect way to lose weight permanently and to preserve your good health.
Sara Dawson is the author of The Science of Permanent Weight Loss. She is the owner of The Science of Permanent Weight Loss, one of The Fischel Group’s partner companies. She works with private clients to manage weight loss and fitness.
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