The Metrics of Motivation

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Since sharing the story of my hundred pound weight loss, I’ve been inundated with questions about how I did it. Most focus on what I ate and how I worked out. But before diving into the process of it all, I think we have to talk about getting started in the first place.

It’s not about IF you want it. It’s about how badly. It’s about why.

There’s no point in discussing low-cal recipes or running shoes if you’re not in a frame of mind that will allow you to reach your goals.

Losing a lot of weight takes a long time. It means enduring weeks – even months – of not seeing any change, and stubbornly refusing to give up. If your motivation is a high school reunion or a bikini season, you might be doomed to yo-yo or just throw your hands up in defeat.

I wasn’t able to do it when my motivation was to look smokin’ hot on my wedding day.

I couldn’t do it when the way I looked in clothes reduced me to tears in dressing rooms.

I couldn’t do it for vanity. And trust me, I’ve got enough to go around.

It took decades of yo-yo dieting before it clicked: Your motivator needs to be big & strong enough to beat the crap out of your daily, momentary desires.

I wanted to look hot in a bikini. But I didn’t want it more than I wanted to avoid physical exertion on any given day.

I wanted my husband to find me totally irresistible. But I didn’t want it more than I wanted to eat and drink anything that struck my fancy when we went out to dinner together.

My long-term motivators were too weak to overcome my right-this-minute desires for comfort and consumption.

My addiction to the yumminess is powerful, as is my general aversion to working til I sweat. These predispositions are hard to fight. Without powerful motivation to defeat them, it’s easy to rationalize, justify, and excuse unhealthy choices ‘just for today/this week/this holiday season’.

If you want to lose a lot of weight, but are well trained in the art of making excuses for yourself (I hold an advanced degree in this department) Step One is to find a kick-ass form of motivation. You need a motivator with the power to take on addictions and aversions.

Dig deeper than the pretty. Find something visceral, something without an expiration date.

You need something big, because you need to inspire your own full-scale lifestyle change.

Stop thinking about your diet. Start thinking about your top-to-bottom healthier new life.

There’s no way for me to know what will motivate you all the way down to your toes, only you know that. But here are a few things to consider:

Think about the people that you love. How many healthy years do you want to spend with them?

How about your family history? Are you genetically predisposed to Diabetes? Heart disease? Stroke? Wouldn’t it be nice to head that off at the pass while you still can?

Do you have people around you who look up to you? Kids maybe? Think you’d inspire them by modeling an active and healthy lifestyle?

I hate to put it like this, but you should consider scaring yourself a little.

The fear of sacrificing healthy years with my kids on the altar of my laziness lit a fire under me that even my wedding dress couldn’t ignite.

My 100 pound weight loss was driven by survival instinct. Vanity’s got nothin’ on this mama’s compulsion to be around for her kids for as many decades as possible.

When you find motivation that comes from your soul instead of from your vanity, you will be ready to do the hard work.

You’ll stop making excuses.

You’ll succeed.

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Shiny Objects

Before surrendering to calorie-counting and exercise, I tried everything else under the sun.

Calorie-counting and exercise are hard, and I’m not a big fan of hard. I have a black-belt in letting myself off the hook when things feel hard.

Also, I rock at American Consumerism.

I was once the proud owner of an Ab-Swing. If there’s a more worthless piece of non-exercise equipment, I have not yet found it. “Just sit on a swivel seat and swivel back and forth! Your love handles will melt away!”

You name it, I was taken in by it. ANYTHING to avoid the hard work.

Once, my chiropractor’s wife told me that she had gotten her blood screened for inflammatory foods. She found that she didn’t tolerate corn well. And, when she eliminated corn from her diet, she lost 50 pounds Just Like THAT!

So, what did I do? I forked over more hundreds of dollars than I care to admit to ship vials of my blood off to a lab for screening.

“Surely the problem isn’t that I never move my ass at all! Surely it’s not that I eat too much! I’m just swollen from eating inflammatory foods! I’ll stop eating oats or something and my fat will magically melt away.”

Know what the results said?

I don’t tolerate lettuce well. LETTUCE! Oh, and cabbage, cucumber, lime & cauliflower.

You can imagine how the pounds just melted away when I cut out the dreaded lettuce and perilous pickles. (Hint: Not at all.)

My library of minimal-effort exercise DVDs is truly impressive. I have everything from belly dancing to Carmen Electra’s Fit To Strip. No, I’m not proud of that. But, hey – maybe walking slowly around a chair can get me a Carmen Electra body! Right?

I spent months and years of my life on diets that allowed me to avoid actually eating less. I cut fat grams, while munching on Twizzlers. Hey, they’re fat free!

I cut carbs.

I took ‘energy pills’.

I drank shakes.

I ate freeze-dried NutriSystem foods.

NutriSystem actually helped me to lose around 30 lbs when I wanted to look like a hot little number when I had to send my husband off to Iraq. But you can’t sustain a NutriSystem life without eventually sobbing into your meals.

If those weight-loss-powders (“Sprinkle some on your food and eat as much as you want while losing weight!”) had been  on the market before I figured out my fitness, I’m sure I would have busted out my credit card for that, too.

While every diet I tried worked a little bit for a little while, none of them inspired me to incorporate them into my lifestyle for the long term.

Every fad diet made me so miserable, I counted the MOMENTS til I could give it up. (And put whatever weight I’d lost right back on, but I didn’t like to think about that part.)

Nothing worked properly, because I was looking for an easy way out.

What it took me decades to realize is that there is no such thing as an easy way out when it comes to fitness. If there was, no one would ever struggle with their weight.

So, friends, take it from me: Save your money. Every ad that tells you they have the solution ‘when diet and exercise don’t work’ is suffering from a grievous case of Pants On Fire.

Diet and exercise always work. You just can’t half-ass it.

Hey, at least it’s a lot cheaper than blood tests and Ab Swings!

Dieting In Front Of My Daughter

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My daughter is probably my greatest motivation to live a healthy life.

She looks just like me, and she wants to do everything just like Mommy does. Paying attention to this fact helps to get me going when I’d really rather skip my workout for a day.

I don’t want her to follow in my footsteps of avoiding exercise like the plague until adulthood.

I want her to have the confidence of strength.

My greatest hope is that she finds a sport (or seven) that she loves, and a peer group that loves to play those sports with her.

God, I hope she’s more coordinated than her mother. That would really help.

I want to run and jump and play with her. I want strong, fit, healthy womanhood to be a foregone conclusion in her world. I want to lead by example.

In a perfect world, I would shield her from all the voices telling her that her body’s not good enough.

I grew up with an older woman in my family telling me I was embarrassingly heavy. Her voice echoed through the years as I developed paralyzing shame and disastrously low self-esteem. I know the harm that a cruel voice can do.

So, I do my best to build my little girl up and to keep the cancer of female body issues away.

To that end, I took off 100 lbs without ever breathing a word of ‘diet’ to my children. I don’t want them to know that one’s size can cause them pain. Every day they get to live innocent of those issues is precious to me.

It wasn’t easy, because my girl is as smart as they come. She notices that Mommy doesn’t have dessert when the rest of the family has dessert. She notices my cheat days. “Mommy only eats sugary things on special days like birthdays.”

I don’t tell her I fantasize about swimming in a vat of Ben & Jerry’s for the rest of my days.

Instead, I tell her too much sugar doesn’t make my body feel as good as I like, so I don’t eat too much of it. That’s enough for her. She still gets to have dessert, so she’s happy.

She doesn’t always make it easy, though.

One day she came into my room when I was clearing the plus-sized clothes out of my closet. She wanted to know what I was doing. I told her some of my clothes were too big for me, so I was getting rid of them. She suggested I put them on a shelf for when I got bigger, like we do with the clothes that are too big for her.

I had to bite my tongue HARD. Must not tell her I’d rather set a match to them.

When she saw my first set of Before & After pictures, she looked back and forth between the ‘before’ picture and me. She was puzzled. It took me a year to lose all the weight, and of course it came slowly. A year is a lifetime to her, and the lady on the left doesn’t really look so much like her mommy anymore. Then, I saw a light bulb go on over her head.

“Oh!” she said. “That’s when you had a baby in your tummy, huh, Mommy?”

I just smiled. “Something like that, sweetie.”

Losing 100 lbs. How I did it and why.

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I can’t believe I’m going to admit this. A lady never admits to her weight. Especially not THIS lady. But, this is the story of my road from 243 lbs to 142 lbs. (Should I rename this? Losing 101 lbs?) … Continue reading