“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones
is the way you use them.” – Proverb
Tying shoelaces is a trivial task for most people. But when I was at my heaviest it was a daily challenge and a constant reminder of my generous girth and poor health.
Kneeling down or bending down to reach my feet was very uncomfortable. So, to put on my shoes, I would sit myself down in an armchair. As I reached down for my feet my gut would press up against my diaphragm, which severely restricted my breathing. This meant I had to hold my breath as I was tying my laces. After finishing the first lace, I would sit back, take a little break, and snap a gulp of air before diving down for the next shoe.
When both shoes were tied, the next challenge was to get out of the chair. To do this I would rock my bottom to the edge of the seat and then push myself up out of the chair whilst making various strained noises. All this made me toy with the idea of wearing slip-on loafers. Thankfully, I managed to lose weight before this became more than a fanciful idea.
Nowadays, things are very different. I stand when I put on my shoes. I simply balance on one leg, lift up the other and slip on the shoes without making any strange noises or feeling any discomfort. To tie my shoelaces I kneel or bend down without thinking about it. It takes a fraction of the time it used to, and I view it as a daily opportunity to take satisfaction in the changes I have made to my life.
My weight loss has taught me that small things make a big difference. That’s why I advocate writing down the niggles and discomforts that are part of overweight life when you first embark on an effort to regain your health. Here is a list of things to think about to get you started:
- When you get home from work, do you change into comfortable clothes like sweat pants with an elasticated waist?
- Do you sit down or stand up when you put on socks?
- Do you hide behind other people when someone is taking a group photo?
- Do you have any aches or soreness that won’t go away?
- Are there times of the day when your energy level crashes?
- How do you feel after you have walked up more than two flights of stairs?
After you are back to normal weight, it is easy to forget how your body used to get in the way, and it is worth reminding yourself frequently. Take pride in all your little victories and resolve to make them permanent. Once you have escaped the limiting impairments of obesity, you won’t want to go back.
“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”
General wisdom says dieting is something you do temporarily with a specific goal in mind. Most people think weight loss involves lots of sacrifice, and no one in their right mind would deny themselves the good things in life indefinitely. The goal is to get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Otherwise, why would it be worth dieting?
This is how I used to think about weight loss. In fact, last year my New Year’s resolution was to be back to normal weight by end of 2011. I fully intended to then stop dieting. But things have changed. I no longer view the food I eat as a weight loss regime and I don’t want things to go back to the old “normal”.
I admit my daily diet is restrictive in some key areas. But I enjoy the food I eat and I love what it’s doing to me. I can’t remember feeling this good since I was a teenager.
Aside from weight loss, lot’s of other things have changed in my life since switching to a primal life-style. Overall, I have gone from a person who was chronically fatigued to someone who is full of energy.
- I used to hate physical activity, but I now find myself exercising with great enthusiasm. I can’t bear to be sedentary. I have to move, otherwise I get jittery.
- My mental stamina is better than I thought possible at my age. I no longer have the volatile ups and downs I used to have. My energy level stays high throughout the day.
- I wake up refreshed in the morning, and I rarely need an alarm clock to get me out of bed. I sleep better because I no longer snore, and I no longer get up 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom.
- Somehow, I am less stressed and less anxious than previously. I don’t quite know how to describe or explain this. But somehow I have acquired a quiet confidence and it’s making a real difference to my daily life.
The way I look at it now, my new waistline is the least of my achievements. It’s no exaggeration to say I have gained a whole new life. That’s why I will never stop “dieting”. It just makes me feel too good!
The Christmas break is coming to an end and it is time to look forward to 2012. I thought I would sign off for 2011 by sharing a selection of favourite quotes:
“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” – Frank Tibolt
“You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act. It’s a habit” – Aristotle
“Whatever the situation, it is important you recognise that fearfulness is a product of your own mind. You should aspire to operate with an awareness of your fear and to contain the danger of paralysis by deliberately self-managing your mindset with great determination.” – Unknown
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
“Attitude, not aptitude will determine your altitude.” – Unknown
“An expert is a master of the basics.” – Unknown
“Although nobody can go back and start a new beginning, anybody can start now and create a new ending” – Chico Xavier
“The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of it’s way to line up all the pins either.” – Tim Ferris
“Do not stop yourself from acting because you overestimated the competition and underestimated yourself.” – Unknown
“Purpose as a currency is more valuable than money.” – Proverb
“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” – Vince Lombardi
“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.” – Lou Holtz
“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda
“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong
“You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act. It’s a habit”
Weight loss is not just about what you eat. The way you think about food, exercise and why you want to loose weight is at least as important.
To turn my health around, I realised I had to address my mindset and consciously change the myriad of little decisions I make every day about what I eat and drink. Your health is a reflection of your habits, and these in turn are a reflection of your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and emotions.
So, how do you change all this?
Everyone is different, and my example does not apply to everyone. But here is what I did:
I FIRST ADDRESSED MY SELF-MOTIVATION. I started by confronting my personal inertia and developed a technique to keep myself motivated and honest. This technique helped me make a subtle but profound shift in my thinking. It became more about the differences weight loss would make to me rather than the weight loss itself.
I RESOLVED TO DO MY OWN RESEARCH. The diet and exercise regimes I have tried in the past did not work very well and made me miserable and vulnerable to colds and flu. I told myself this time would be different, and I began to question everything I had been told about healthy living. This led me to explore the writings and research by serious minded people who offer an alternative viewpoint on human health. Many of these take an evolutionary perspective on health, which means they look at the life-style and diet of hunter gatherers for clues to how we should live and eat today.
I MADE EXERCISE PLAYFUL AND SOCIAL. Instead of being a means to an end or a chore, I turned exercise on its head. Exercise became something I would be able to do and enjoy as a result of loosing weight. I also chose to do social activities over solitary ones. I play a lot of basketball and tennis now. My level of proficiency in both games is no more than mediocre, but I enjoy the camaraderie and I have fun.
I will explore each of these three topics in more depth in separate articles. The main point I want to make is that to a degree you think yourself thin. You need to get your head right if you want to loose weight.
Often the epiphany that makes people change their life-style is some kind of dramatic or threatening event. It could be that a person close to you got seriously sick or even died. Sometimes it’s a medical test that says you are sicker and in more trouble than you thought. I hope that neither is the case for you, but in some ways these dramatic events make it easier to change your mindset. If you don’t have any of these things driving you, in some ways you it’ harder to get and maintain your motivation.