Soooo… This post was originally going to include tips on how to become motivated to lose weight. Really. I figured I could search online and come up with some brilliant insights that would be kickstarts sure to get everyone inspired, sort of like the equivalent of a magic wand.
Then I realized that I haven’t a clue as to how to motivate someone else to become healthier. No one truly knows how to motivate anyone else to do anything. That’s because motivation needs to come from within. So since I can’t motivate anyone else, I figured I’d talk about what motivates me.
What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me. ~ Helen Keller
Back when I weighed 200 pounds, it was exhausting to think of exercising more than I already was. How on earth could I ADD something else to an already busy, stressful life? I mean, I was riding my bike around town as much as I could, and I went to Curves for Women as often as I could. I ate salads, and tried to find low fat recipes to make for my husband and me. I worked all the time so, naturally, it was relaxing to sit back with a drink at the end of the day. I even went to Weight Watchers and sat through ENTIRE meetings. But I kept gaining and gaining weight, so the problem must just have been that I was middle aged and my metabolism was slowing down.
On paper, it looked like I was doing all the right things. But you know what I was really doing? Eating a LOT more and exercising FAR less than I thought. A salad a week didn’t counteract all the fat and sugar I ate the rest of the time. That drink I had at the end of the day sometimes extended into 2 or 3, and it was every night. Going to a Weight Watchers meeting doesn’t help if the program isn’t followed. And exercise? That consisted of riding my bike a few miles every few days, and a hit or miss approach to going to Curves. Not a very diligent approach to health.
Diligent. Good word. The only thing I was really diligent about was piling on enough stuff onto myself so that I couldn’t see what the real issue was. I thought it was needing to work so hard to pay bills. I thought it was weight gain. I thought it was drinking too much.
When I figured out what the real issue was, I could see that all the other “issues” were what I was using to avoid dealing with it. The real issue was that I was miserable in my marriage. We’d been unhappy for a long time, but neither one of us could bring ourselves to talk about the change that needed to be made. I won’t go into specifics but suffice it to say that, even after trying everything possible, we were simply two people who were no longer on the same path together. It wasn’t easy. After 15 years of marriage, there is a lot to undo, and a lot to change.
The process was hard, hard, hard. But once the decision was made (I call it “my epiphany”), I realized that no matter what I had to do to create my new life, it would NEVER be as hard as being in a loveless marriage. And with that realization came a tremendous surge of energy. I had no idea I was capable of that much energy! Every ounce of strength I had used to stay in the marriage was released. I was bubbling over with euphoria. I needed an outlet.
So I started riding my bike for miles along the Rillito River (or just the Rillito, as most people refer to it) in Tucson, where I live. Like all the rivers in Tucson, it is a dry riverbed most of the time, except when it rains. The Rillito has a walking/jogging/cycling path along it. I rode when it was cold, when it rained, and when it was hot. I rode in the morning, I rode in midday, I rode at dusk. Euphoria sometimes sped me along, and sometimes I'd be sobbing from working through the grief of an ended relationship. But I rode every day.
I starting going to Curves almost every day too, and worked out hard. I met two great fitness technicians there who helped me with proper form on the machines so I wouldn’t hurt myself. They also saw long before I did that my body was ready for heavier, harder workouts.
And food? Food just wasn’t that important anymore. I followed Weight Watchers principles (which I knew inside and out because I’d been going for 13 years), and basically ate as little fat as possible while increasing fruit and vegetables. I also stopped drinking every night. In fact, I only have a drink now and then. I simply don’t want to eat all the time, and alcohol is just not that appealing anymore.
My weight fell like a stone. I was going down about a size a month. Talk about motivation to keep going! I still kept wearing my old clothes even though they were falling off me because I didn’t want to pay the money for new ones each month. A friend finally told me to get clothes at a local thrift store. Getting smaller sizes REALLY kept me motivated. In 9 months I lost 70 pounds, and am currently maintaining my goal weight of 130 pounds.
You know what didn’t motivate me? A diet pill, a diet plan, a shake, or “special pants designed to burn fat.” Yeah. The only way those pants are going to work is if people put them on and then go exercise.
The bottom line is that I finally gave myself permission to take time – quiet, still time – and honestly look at my life. What was working? What was not working? What did I need to jettison in order to be happy? To fit focusing on my health into my life?
Everyone’s life is, of course, different. So that’s why I haven’t the slightest idea of what would motivate others. But I support you in spending some time in quiet reflection to discover for yourself what does motivate you to make your health a priority. Because at the end of the day, that may be the most important thing of all.