“Unless you puke, faint, or die, KEEP GOING!” -Jillian Michaels, “The Biggest Loser”
Reality TV has presented a harrowing view of the weight-loss process. Researchers have found that people watching such shows tend to see exercise as a torturous activity that they want to avoid, and view obesity as the result of laziness and gluttony. Simultaneous increases in a bias against obese people and against exercising? Hardly helpful, methinks.
But what about the end result of all that yelling, sweating, crying, and dieting? Well, that doesn’t look so great either. Turns out that the vast majority of former contestants on reality weight-loss shows have gained back 80-90% of the weight within a few years. So while shaming, anger, and extreme physical conditions might make for compelling television, they are most certainly not the ingredients of a successful weight loss program.
Much like great musicians, artists, or athletes, very fit people commit a lot of time to practice. To be truly healthy you must dedicate thought, effort, and hours to that end. And also like great musicians, artists, and athletes, a love of that practice is what will keep you coming back.
Yes, I just said you have to love losing weight.
The good news is that your body is ready to love it, you just have to uncover its ability to do so. We have a physical drive toward health that, for many of us, has been dulled by an onslaught of modern technologies like the drive-thru and television. But it can be unearthed and awoken! And once that drive is in place, the hard work is over. I’m not saying that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t require work, but when done in a positive way, it’s work that is enjoyable. In the same way you might work on designing an adorable holiday card or planting flowers in your yard, fitness can feel like a fun hobby, one that you look forward to and feel excited about. And anyone can make the change from hating fitness to loving it.
I liken the patterns in our mind that prevent us from enjoying fitness to a computer program. Every time we eat a ‘healthy’ food that has no flavor, push ourselves to complete a work-out that we don’t enjoy, or tell ourselves that if only we weren’t so lazy or weak we would be thin, we are building a negative program about fitness. When we think something is unpleasant, we tend to avoid it. So most of the time when we try to live healthily through coercion, we give up and go back to poor health choices.
The alternative to this cycle of beating yourself up and then giving up is to build a new program. This takes time. It’s like building a whole new engine for your car instead of just continuing to put gas in one that keeps breaking down. But once built, this engine will drive itself, and you won’t have to constantly fight to live well.
Remember this mantra: If it ain’t fun, it doesn’t get done! Now, I know this isn’t completely true. We do things all the time that are not fun (emptying the diaper pail comes to mind). But when something isn’t enjoyable, we will naturally look for reasons not to do it. So if you want to repeatedly make healthy choices (which is what it takes to stay healthy), you have to enjoy those choices. This means that your healthy food MUST TASTE DELICIOUS. If it doesn’t, don’t eat it. Your workouts MUST FEEL GOOD. If they don’t, stop doing them. Now I know this might sound crazy, but there are actually lots of healthy meals that taste great and lots of activities that feel great. Just not if you try to change too much too fast. Slow change is lasting change, and changing in a positive way will keep you coming back for more. Sound intriguing? Let’s talk about it. Join the conversation at EatingForOurFutures.com.