As January wanes and the newness of shiny bright resolutions fade, many people are asking, “How do you stay motivated to lose weight?”
Yesterday, while working out on the elliptical, I was reading an article on resilience and I thought how almost everyone I talk to about weight loss has lost and gained weight more than a few times. It’s as chronic as disease. Everyone’s looking for that key to permanence.
The word in the blank in the quote above was “arthritis,” since the article was published in “Arthritis Today,” but “weight” works, too, as it defines so many of us.
I’ve written before and still believe that you can’t lose weight permanently unless the core of your intent is you, your health, your future, and your peace of mind. Once you believe that you are worth every moment you will spend cooking, eating, and living a more healthy lifestyle, you will succeed. It’s only through that true, heart-felt belief in yourself that you’ll “get it.” That no matter what life throws at you, you won’t let food or excuses dominate your life.
I’d like to tweak that philosophy just a bit by adding “resilience.” When it comes to losing weight, motivation comes and goes. But resilience asks us to stop allowing one issue to define who we are. Only when we see ourselves three-dimensionally, enveloping all our strengths and weaknesses, can we venture outside the box we’ve called home and roam about freely, making better decisions for our well being.
Easier said than done, I know. But I found the article’s tips on how to build resilience to be helpful in how I define myself as arthritic. So with all due respect to the article’s author, Camille Noe Pagan, I offer my adaptation for tips on how to build resilience in the contemplation and/or act of losing weight:
1. Focus on the upside. “The more hopeful you feel, the more resilient you’ll be. Boosting your optimism requires you to ‘reframe your experience so that you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive,’ says David Hellerstein, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.” Ask yourself three questions: Does weight loss provide new opportunities? Can I look at weight loss differently? Is there any good to come out of weight loss?
2. Learn from experience. If you have lost weight in the past, you’re already more resilient than you probably give yourself credit for. When you’re dealing with setback (“I’ve gained half my weight back! I have no motivation!”), ask yourself, “How have I dealt with this problem in the past? What strategies worked and which strategies should I skip this time?”
3. Expand your knowledge. Ask lots of questions when you’re online or at a Weight Watchers meeting or talking with your doctor or dietician. Read all you can about weight loss and health. “Learning boosts resilience,” says Dr. Hellerstein. “The more you learn how best to [lose weight], the more control you have. Control as well as resourcefulness give you the confidence to move forward in the face of adversity.”
4. Find your bliss. Make time to find and do things you love. Resilience researchers at the University of California, Riverside, found that “emotions like joy, satisfaction and interest…provide individuals with a sort of ‘psychological time-out’ in the face of stress and help them perceive the ‘big picture’ of their situation.”
5. Get moving. In addition to its physical benefits, exercise “decreases anxiety and depression, improves sleep and increases the levels of mood-improving chemicals,” says Dr. Hellerstein. As many of you know, I didn’t start exercising until I’d lost over 100 pounds. If I knew at the beginning of my journey what I know now, I’d have started much sooner. Slowly, to be sure, but the freedom I found in the act of walking even a few blocks was so liberating that it spurred me on to lose more weight.
6. Seek support. I don’t need the article’s help on this one. That you’re reading this blog right now means you have or are looking for support. I can’t say enough about the Weight Watcher 100+ To Lose message board while I was losing weight. The people I met there (some of whom have become BFFs and maintenance partners) were key to me reaching my goal. I am forever indebted to their knowledge, support, and ass kicking.
7. Count your blessings. Researchers at UC Riverside found that individuals who expressed gratitude or wrote in a gratitude journal several times a week felt more connected, autonomous, optimistic and happy – traits that contribute to resilience. “Gratitude makes you think about what you have, which in turn keeps you from focusing on what you don’t have,” says Wicks. “When you feel blessed, it’s easier to keep going – no matter what you’re up against.” Here’s my two-cents again: When I view my own personal adversities (arthritis or weight gain) as a gift, something I can learn from, I am definitely more optimistic and am better able to act accordingly. Also, when I sit in metta meditation and simply repeat, “May I be happy” or “May so-and-so be happy,” I am sitting in gratitude for viewing myself as a person who is worthy of giving and receiving love, not a person who is in pain or not at some ideal weight.
So…what word or words do you allow to be your entire narrative? How will you undefine yourself and discover that you really are more than your issue?