Last week in this space, I posited the theory that, with almost seven out of ten people overweight (including over 30 percent obese), the reason most people don’t stick with their diets long enough to reach goal weight is because they give up when the pounds don’t drop “fast enough.” Logically, that makes no sense. After all, a slow weight loss is still preferable to no weight loss, which is the inevitable result when one throws in the towel altogether.
Of course, the motive for quitting isn’t rational; it’s one of two emotional reasons. The first reason we are so desperate to speed diet is that we fear motivation will vanish before we reach our goal, and we’ll end up spent, frustrated, and still fat. That is born of the false belief that motivation leads behaviors. Last week, I explained how motivation follows behavior and therefore we can motivate ourselves whenever we desire by engaging in behaviors. Due to limited space, I couldn’t address the second reason we quit, which I’ll do today.
That second reason we are in such a hurry to lose weight — as opposed to in a thought-out, healthy, and sustainable manner —
is complicated, but in part due to the fact that “fat shaming” is still accepted, even when so many other tactless slurs are now considered loutish and vulgar. The humiliation and guilt of being overweight casts its sufferers as lesser and out of control. The overweight are recipients of ignorant, countless wagging fingers — in person and throughout the media — proclaiming boorishly that if they possessed better willpower and a stronger moral character, they’d be thin. Condescending, hurtful, and hateful messages are hurled without end.
The unfairness of how society treats its citizens of size however is not the issue.
What matters is how we, the punching bags of those cultural jabs, react to it; swallowing the false premises and believing that until one can “get his or her act together,” he or she is not allowed to be fully happy and accepted.
So, once the decision to drop weight is made, we desperately want to do it hurriedly, allowing us to enjoy our lives upon completion. Sadly, the unrealistically fast expectations perpetrated by fad diets and snake oil charlatans enhances the feelings of disappointment, sadness, and incompetence, some of the more powerful triggers of the habit. This causes the journey to be even rockier and more difficult, becoming unnecessarily laborious cause the resumption of “comfort behaviors.” Progress stalls. Feelings of failure and ineptitude are further cemented in place and, alas, the cycle is reborn.
Since we can’t change how others think, the solution is to silence one’s own inner jerk and appreciate that the number on the scale has no correlation to moral value. If one is a cretin at 250 pounds, he will remain a cretin at 150 pounds. If one is a lovable, caring soul at 175 pounds, she will sill be the same even 35 pounds heavier.
We mistakenly believe that upon conquering our habit; it will always be sunny, bills will never arrive unexpectedly; stress will vanish; and our friends, families, and co-workers will always treat us in the fashion we expect. The Promised Land is advertised as the destination to every phony diet claim.
Guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.
One does not become “better” simply because the scale flashes an appropriate number.
What does happen is he or she becomes healthier. Sure, people who have successfully lost weight might appear happier, but it’s a result of the sense of accomplishment of beating back a monkey hoisted on our backs for too long, not because we became “better.”
Most importantly, happiness and improved health do not commence at “goal weight.” Rather, they begin the moment one sets foot on the path to change and they amplify with every additional footfall.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. Check out his new 30-day, two-minute-a-day program to help combat yo-yo dieting in conjunction with Avanoo.com. Find out more at scottq.avanoo.com or visit his website.