I run into this phrase a lot when I talk with medical professionals who serve obese patients:
“Highly motivated individuals.”
This, brothers and sisters, is code for “people who lose weight and keep it off.”
Getting medical help for obesity is a tricky prospect. I won’t tell you that all of my experiences have been great on this front. Life grew remarkably better when I met Tim, a GP who struggles with his own weight. A little human experience with a slow metabolism is a wondrous thing, helps break down conversational barriers between doctor and patient. No doubt about it.
But turn the examination table for a second, and consider the life of a doctor who is in the position of advising patients about their weight and recommending weight loss efforts. Would you want that job? Roughly how many of your patients do you think would come to you expecting a prescription for hard physical labor, a new way of eating for life, counting calories, measuring servings?
Most people want an easier answer. They feel they deserve more from medical science. And who can blame them? They work hard, do what they’re told, exhaust themselves through child-rearing and job responsibilities, community volunteerism, and house keeping. And they’re cranky when they learn that medical science can’t yet “cure” obesity. Even the pills, the surgeries, come with instructions for exercise, learning to eat differently, learning to count what you eat.
Can you blame doctors for wanting to move on to the next patient, possibly a nice ear infection, where they know that what they prescribe will, in fact, work?
The doctors who work with obese patients every day have come to recognize what’s different about their patients who do succeed by choosing to exercise nearly every day, to count their food, to read labels, to participate actively in learning about the things they put into their mouths.
They call the difference “motivation.” Motivated people lose weight. Highly motivated people keep it off.
So, how do you get some motivation? How does one become “highly motivated”? Many of us go looking for weight loss motivation. We surf the web, scour magazines and diet book aisles, scour the magazine stands for before-and-after photos, naked celebrity photos, for stories, secrets. We’re happy with myths, too. Diet mythology is a great fallback for many of us, and a wealthy industry.
Unfortunately, only a very few of us and Dorothy know that the only place to find what you’re looking for is in your own backyard. There’s no place like home.
Somewhere inside you there is a voice, a self-preserving voice. This is the little part of you that understands innately what you need and what you don’t. This is the little part of you that knows full well you should be out of bed and exercising before the demands of your day take over. This is the part of you that tells you not to reach for the cake even as you reach for it, that reminds you to pack nutritious food before you head to the office so you don’t rely on holiday treats for nourishment.
Given an opportunity to speak, this little voice can become a big voice. Given the opportunity and a forum, this little voice can bellow. Can sing. Can yawp. Can bring you to life again. And transform you into a “highly motivated individual.”
Write, friends. Give yourself the gift of a body log this season. A beauty bound in something pretty, a ratty old binder, or desktop file, or a blog (short for weB LOG, or Body LOG). Any space to give that little voice of survival room to squawk. A way for your own inner wisdom to pop up and counsel you.
When you have it chosen your medium, after working out, before grocery shopping, give yourself a half an hour to an hour two or three times a week to write about your body, your diet and exercise efforts, your medical concerns and queries. Write out what you’re struggling with, why you think you’re struggling, and what you plan to do to overcome any barriers you’ve found. If you write yourself into a difficult place, then take your log to a professional for help.
Don’t know what to write? Start by answering a good question: What do I want to change about my body? What is my health worth? What am I willing to do to feel good again?
Is writing awkward for you? Pretend you’re writing to a friend, a sibling, a child, an elder. Sometimes having an audience in mind helps us put one word in front of another.
Don’t edit yourself, neatness doesn’t count, you won’t be graded. This record will be useful to you down the road, on those days when the going feels tough. When that happens, you can pull out your log and use it to remind yourself why losing weight is important, why you’re working hard, why you’re getting up every morning to exercise. You’ll use it for the year it takes to drop the weight, for the two more years it takes to learn to maintain it, and for years after. Consider it the owners’ manual for your self.
In it you’ll create the motivation you’ve been looking for. I swear. It’s the only diet magic I know.
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