By this time of the year, north of 80 percent of people who — at the beginning of the year — said, “This time I mean it! This is the year I’m going to lose those extra pounds,” have given up. Done. Over. Wiped their hands and walked away.
The Centers for Disease Control says that, as of 2012, 69 percent of our population is overweight or obese, with almost half of those folks classified as “obese.” Those extra pounds underwrite a multitude of health conditions, both physical and emotional; and we all know about them. Therefore, one might think that the urgency to shed an expanded waistline could be enough incentive to stick with a program longer than six weeks.
One might think that. One would also be wrong.
The number one reason people quit their program is that they don’t feel they’re losing quickly enough. Granted, if they could slow down racing to the refrigerator long enough to realize that a slow weight loss is faster than a no weight loss, they might stick with it a tad longer. Yet, in all fairness, it’s difficult to remain cold sober logical about your progress when the scale won’t budge. “Get-thin-quickly” scam artists are partially to blame for the false expectations that drive the frustration, but they are actually symptoms of a deeper problem fostering the unrealistic drive to drop weight faster than a brick can fall from a six-foot wall.
So, why are we in such a hurry?
There are two factors at play.
In no particular order, the first reason we crave losing weight at an unrealistic pace is that we’re afraid that we will lose our motivation before we “get there.” We think, “If I can just shed these pounds before my mojo goes, I’ll be okay. After all, once it evaporates, it’s never to be seen again.”
The reality however is that motivation FOLLOWS behavior; it doesn’t cause it.
What propels us to begin the journey are feelings of desperation, anger, shame, fear, self-disgust, embarrassment, any of the above, all of the above. It matters not which dictionary you chose, none of those emotions will be associated with the definition of “motivation.”
In actuality, we start from a place of “inspiration,” rather than “motivation” — and there’s a significant distinction in that. “Inspiration” is external, while “motivation” is birthed from within. We can control motivation but not inspiration. Moreover, despite common knowledge, “inspiration” is not a choir of angels signing on high and it is not always pretty; it can be downright gritty and ugly. Having a doctor tell you that you’re going to have a heart attack if you don’t lose the weight is inspirational. Hearing your spouse say, “You’ve really let yourself go. What happened to you?” is inspirational. Understanding there are more years in the rear view mirror than through the windshield can be inspirational. Most times, we’re inspired to change because of fear or pain. We hate where we are and we want to move far and fast away from it. To that end, we’ll do whatever it takes.
But because we do take action, we get results. The scale moves, our energy rebounds, our clothes fit better. That feels good and the dark cloud starts to clear, leaving behind it feelings of happiness, pride, success, and empowerment; indeed the very definition of “motivation.” Now motivated and driven by our own actions, we attempt other behaviors and achieve better results.
Motivation doesn’t just “happen,” it is forged from small actions done repeatedly.
It will show up anytime we need it. Invite it in, change a small behavior and focus on how you feel.
Next week, we’ll talk about the other major reason why we give up too early.