I strenuously exercise on a regular basis because I want to be healthy. I eat vegan because I don’t want animals to suffer on my behalf. I decrappify because I want less stuff cluttering up my house and attention. I do 90 percent of the repairs on my house to save money and frankly, because I can. So there you have it, the motivations for four of the big ticket items in my life.
Here’s the thing: motivation is all at once personal and situation-specific. At the end of the day, each of us must identify that which we value and how much we value it. For example, if you want to lose weight but aren’t willing to move a bit more and eat a bit less, you like the idea of losing weight but you aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary work. I lost count of the number of times someone has told me they’d love to drop a few pounds, but when I suggest easy ways to start, they balk.
They are not motivated so much as they are wishful. Well guess what, there ain’t no genie in a magic lamp here.
It isn’t just weight loss, either. Anything that can or should matter to you (and I leave it to you to make that distinction) is subject to motivation. And, that which is subject to motivation is also subject to its loss. So how do you find and maintain motivation? Here is what works for me: keep the reason I started something in mind (I keep my “before” photo on my fridge to remind myself why I exercise), I participate in online accountability groups for support and feedback, I view challenges (like home repairs) as opportunities not limitations, and I don’t let setbacks define my level of success (speed bumps are not the end of the road).
What kind of relationship do you have with your scale? Here are a few things to keep in mind for a healthier relationship with your scale.
You don’t need to weigh yourself daily. Set a different increment—once a week, maybe, or even less often—by which you will weigh yourself and stick to it.
Your weight can fluctuate 2-4 pounds from day to day. There are a number of factors that can greatly affect your weight from one day to the next including the amount of salt in your diet and when you had your last meal, among others.
Don’t obsess on a number alone. In addition to weighing yourself, track your progress by taking measurements, getting your body fat tested, and/or keeping track of how your clothing fits.
Lastly, remember that your character is far more important than a hot body. Do your best, take care of yourself and be health, but know that your self-worth is based on who you are on the inside, not on a number on the scale!
According to a recently published online article, “Exercise and healthy eating reduce body fat and preserve muscle in adults better than diet alone, according to a study funded and conducted by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases…part of the National Institutes of Health.” Okay, sure. Isn’t this already widely known? Doesn’t every doctor and personal trainer try to drive this point home to their patients and clients? Seriously, how is this news?
Well, for starters this study used participants from TV’s The Biggest Loser. While the show’s producers always add the caveat that these are not typical weight loss results, there’s no denying that under close supervision the combination of altered eating habits and exercise works. Secondly, the results were documented with a computer simulation which assigned weight loss amounts to diet and exercise separate from one another. This allowed comparisons of variables and their relative impacts.
The practical upshot of this study is that the simulations revealed that folks who have lost a lot of weight can sustain their weight loss by adopting moderate lifestyle changes. Just 20 minutes of daily vigorous exercise and a 20 percent calorie restriction is enough to maintain the weight loss once you have lost it. You might say it’s 20/20!
I did a P90X workout last night, Legs & Back, when I had a sort of epiphany. I was doing calf raise squats with two 20 pound dumbbells. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was just about what I weighed before I began taking care of myself a couple years ago.
In retrospect, it was no wonder that I was tired and sore all the time. Lugging around that extra weight was a literal burden!
There are all sorts of clever sayings and pithy comments about fitness and health which I could quote right now, based upon this experience. But I won’t, because no clever saying or pithy comment is going to motivate anyone who isn’t ready to change.
That sort of motivation must come from within, or it’s only for show.
If you had an infection, you would take an antibiotic, wouldn’t you? If you had asthma, you would use an inhaler, wouldn’t you? If you had a headache, you would take an analgesic, wouldn’t you? And if you had a bad cut, you would get stitches, right? These things all mitigate an adverse health condition.
So why are so many Americans unwilling to mitigate their obesity?
Maybe it’s because unlike an illness or an injury, the repercussions are less immediate and therefore more easily ignored. That does not mean that the repercussions are any less real or dangerous.
We all know that high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and diabetes are killers. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not for quite a while, but inevitably they will prevail. Even so, two thirds of the adults in this country and about half the children are overweight or obese.
The solution could not be simpler: eat sensibly and exercise regularly. But that’s not presently the American way. Let’s change that!