“If you're going through hell, keep going.”
As a plus-size nation, we are obsessed with weight loss. To achieve that picture perfect body, we have tried every possible fad diet, every magic pill, every gimmick in the book: tapeworms, zapping belts, cotton balls, tongue patches ... You name it, it’s been done.
It goes without saying that one shouldn’t expect anything from zapping belts except irritating shocks, while sharing one’s meal with 20-foot long tapeworms is obviously a very bad idea. But how about those approaches backed by science, like calorie restriction and exercising? Common sense suggests that these methods should work beautifully.
But do they?
Multiple studies indeed show initial weight loss and health improvement upon the adoption of a sensible diet and/or exercise regimen, while the results are even better with consistent professional monitoring. However, follow-up studies have consistently demonstrated that we immediately lose motivation to maintain the regimen when the weight loss goal is achieved. The consequences of this attitude are very predictable - any weight that was lost is rapidly regained. We need some sort of a proverbial Drill Instructor to keep us going.
Various quacks and confidence artists suggest that this propensity to put the weight back on is due to a variety of factors, from genetics and glandular issues to moon cycles and astrological signs.
Hogwash! There is one word for why many of us can’t keep this weight from coming back: willpower (or lack of it)! Everything else is secondary.
Some would say that willpower isn’t really relevant in this day and age, when life has become so comfortable, predictable, and organized. But, as it happens, scientific and social progress doesn’t make contemporary life less tough or demanding.
Modern life presents different type of challenges. Daily stresses and anxieties, sedentary lifestyles, and bad diets have been killing us just as effectively as sabertooth tigers, poisonous critters, and the fury of the elements had been slaying our ancestors thousands of years ago.
These new challenges and stresses seriously impair the willpower of modern people. They don’t do it in a violent manner but attack us insidiously without being clearly recognized, which makes them even more harmful. To cope with them, we have to engage our resolve not once and not even ten times a day - we must exercise willpower and self-control almost constantly.
We have to prioritize in order to survive in the world that is getting more and more complex. We need to parse through our obligations and responsibilities and select the ones that are most important.
These first tier responsibilities can’t be ignored or placed on the back burner. Most of us pick work, family, and personal wellbeing as the most important obligations. The big question is do we have the required resolve to keep them as such.
The world is full of temptations and distractions, which accost us every step of the way. In many instances, they are intentionally designed by very smart professionals to paralyze our willpower and take advantage of our weakness. On top of that, the fast pace of life gives us very little time to recharge our willpower batteries and sooner or later we are running on empty.
It is crucial that we allocate our willpower smartly and do everything we can to keep it strong and in steady supply. Being in good physical shape is one the most effective ways of achieving that - we need to keep our body lean and strong and our mind sharp and pliant.
How can we do it, anyway?
It is undoubtedly true that dieting is the most popular method of weight management and health improvement. But when we do decide to go on a diet, we intentionally put ourselves in a pickle. We find ourselves constantly fighting hunger, deprivation, and stress, combined with an unyielding craving for the food we like, but are forced to avoid.
Dieting is one of the greatest paradoxes of modern life – we are well aware that it doesn’t work, but we keep “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
According to Einstein, that’s insanity. But in this case, the genius theoretical physicist made a mistake. Doing the same thing time and again is not insanity. On the contrary, it is normality. That is how our brain works: we love to ‘fall into the same trap’ and ‘keep making the same mistakes’.
Fad dieting is an accurate example of that conduct. If there were just a few thousand of us going on a diet every year, we would probably find it abnormal and call these people idiots. In reality, there is a 45 million strong multitude of Americans, who embark on a diet knowing from the previous experience that nothing good will come out of it. Naturally, young inexperienced people behave even more irrationally - nearly one in three go on a new diet each month. Almost half of them give up after a week and another half quit within a month. The sheer numbers elevate these illogical behaviors to normality.
On the other side of the spectrum, exercising really isn’t any better. If you don’t particularly enjoy exertion and sweat, like most people, you have to allocate a big chunk of willpower simply to get off the couch and begin. And when you’re already in the process of working out, you need to keep summoning a substantial amount of willpower just to keep going.
And then there’s the post workout phase, which is supposed to be the glorious pinnacle of a job well done. We expect rewards, plaudits, even paens of joy being sung in our honor. Alas, the post exercise time is ridden with bolts from the blue.
Just when we think our suffering is finally over and we’re due some relaxation, we are in for a surprise instead. Troubles come in all shapes and sizes: electrolyte imbalances may shock us with intolerable cramps, or the lactic acid buildup will set our muscles on fire. All of a sudden, we may feel a sharp pain in the neck, or back, or any other body part – the consequences of badly executed exercises. And finally, delayed muscle soreness (DMS) will test our will again 24 to 48 hours later.
After all is said and done, it really isn’t that surprising that regular folks like you and I, soft and spoiled by modern life, don’t stand a chance at keeping the weight off. Eventually, a lot of us just give in to temptations. We let ourselves go and dump certain responsibilities. After all, some obligations seem more important than others.
Can we stop earning our daily bread? Of course not. We have to assign willpower to our gainful employment as a simple matter of survival.
Can we stop taking care of our family? Highly unlikely. Quitting on family is anathema to most of us. A big chunk of our willpower will always be allocated to supporting our loved ones, through good times and bad.
But can we stop taking care of ourselves? Of course, we can! Here are some facts to support that: “Research suggests that 50% of persons starting an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months.” And how about dieting? That happens even faster: “50% give [it] up within a month.”
When people were asked, “Would you rather lose 15 pounds or have your 401(K) balance rise 15% this year?”, most people chose the money, not realizing, however, that the financial payoff from losing those 15 pounds and consequently being healthier is much greater than any increase in their 401(K).
But that’s a topic for another conversation. First, let’s get our priorities straight: To be or not to be (on a diet)? To exercise or not to exercise (regularly)? Our health, our employment, our very futures depend on this decision!
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Do we really believe that living an unhealthy lifestyle will actually increase our chances of success at work? Do we really think that being an ailing and week person will allow us take care of our family?
We may try telling ourselves that we can survive and even succeed without taking good care of ourselves. But, deep inside, in our hearts, we know that without a healthy diet and regular exercise, there is no golden future for anyone.
Step I: Get Real
Those who fall into the slightly overweight camp are usually the first to quit. Their rationale for doing so is something like this: “I’m just barely overweight. I don’t have to work out or eat healthy just because I have a few extra pounds on me. My health is fine. What’s more, plenty of doctors have confirmed there’s nothing wrong with carrying a few extra pounds around.”
Yes, there are some doctors out there who think that there exists a “healthy overweight” category. This may sound true since there are no conspicuous symptoms of the disease yet, except for some redundant fat. It is also true that many diseases start stealthily, without obvious symptoms.
However, it is indisputable that obesity is a chronic illness, and simply being even slightly overweight represents the first stage of this malady. And no reasonable physician can ignore the fact that when an illness is not stopped at stage I, it inevitably progresses to stage II, III, or even further. This happens with every chronic illness, whether it’s hypertension, heart failure, cancer, or, in this case, obesity.
Furthermore, treating an ailment in its latter stages of development is much more difficult than treating it right at its beginning. Sometimes, it’s too late to even try.
Step II: Change The Narrative
For decades now, all our fuss about carrying extra weight around hasn’t helped us in our fight against obesity whatsoever. We need to approach this extra weight as a symptom of the disease of obesity instead. In this way, we become more motivated to get rid of it.
The superficial pursuit of a perfect body just for looks or a bikini body for a swim season are shallow. These approaches do not carry gravitas. Even when we achieve our hollow goals, it doesn’t do us any good in the long run. The frustration and disappointment, which we inevitably experience when our weight is regained, only deepens our unhappiness.
We should think strategically and long-term. That implies we should think about our health and how to make it better. Health begets more health. More health leads to healthy body and mind, not just for show or a swim season but for meaningful purposes.
When we conscientiously replace weight loss with health gain, everything falls into place. Not only is our newfound desire for health improvement good for our physical and mental well-being, it also adds years to our lifespans and delays the frailty of old age.
Step III: Face The Music
Some people say they hate exercising. Nothing unusual about that. Too much arduousness, to all outward appearances, is a lot harder on our bodies than too much lounging.
But I am convinced that if these people actually found a physical activity they enjoyed doing, their tunes would change faster than jukeboxes on fast forward.
Why is this important? Because there’s no getting around it: Regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.
Currently, there is a plethora of workout routines available for every taste and ability. Granted, you might not like running, swimming, volleyball, basketball, or what have you, but there is so much more out there.
Google ‘new workouts,’ for instance. How can you not be intrigued by the results? From ‘antigravity yoga’ to ‘piloxing,’ the world of ‘new workouts’ sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel!
With ‘antigravity yoga,’ for instance, you hover above the ground in a hammock and stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the entire body. It completely removes the gravitational pressure on your joints and spine. Hence the name.
But if that doesn’t sound up your alley, there’s ‘piloxing’! A combination of pilates, boxing, and dancing, that alone sounds like an adventure just to try! And who knows, you may even like it so much that it turns into a good (healthy) habit.
Just keep in mind a few important considerations on your search for an enjoyable workout routine:
Step IV: Exploit The Good News
Eating right is an area where EatApp might just be the thing you’re looking for. If followed correctly, it will:
Does it require sacrifice and pain? Far from it! I specifically designed EatApp to avoid any sort of stress or deprivation.
So how does EatApp work? Here’s the gist of it:
Good health starts in the mouth. EatApp changes the way we eat by tweaking how we bite, chew, and process food in the mouth. It is powerfully simple and easy to follow.
EatApp does many things, but what it does not do is go against our innate physiology, like so many other weight loss methods. It does not:
EatApp does, however, achieve satiation, and with just a fraction of your usual portion.
My goal is to nudge you toward healthier food choices, but ultimately it is your decision how you lead your life. There’s no pressure on you to eat exclusively ‘healthy’ foods, but I firmly believe that you’ll end up surprised how actually eating properly will eventually change your food preferences for the better.