Weight Loss (aka Life) Lessons
Whether you want to call it lessons in weight loss or lessons in life doesn’t really matter, they are one in the same. As a weight loss doc, I have learned that the principles that make us successful in our weight loss journey are extrapolated from a mindset that makes us successful in life in general.
This became clear in a conversation I had with my younger bro this week on my podcast, HealthBite where he shared his 125 pound weight loss journey. Yes, Alex was nearly 400 pounds when he had a revelation which he describes unfiltered. I asked him to share his story on the podcast because, real stories are, well, real and overweight or not, we can all gain insights when people share themselves vulnerably and unapologetically.
Here are some insightful takeaways from our conversation:
What do you do the moment after?
Difficult circumstances are inevitable. Hardship, setbacks, mistakes, imperfections and losses happen to all of us. But what do you do the moment after? As Alex said, It is how you deal with those circumstances which is “the ticket for admission for really living your life.” I always talk about dietary setbacks with my patients not in terms of the setback itself: the big celebratory meal, the weekend spree, the vacation when we “fell off the wagon,” but in terms of what we do with it after.
If we shame ourselves, berate ourselves, bang our fists at the wall at ourselves, chances are, we will never get “back on the wagon.” We can’t, we are too busy fighting ourselves. But, if we can accept it for what it is, an enjoyment, an indulgence and then move on, then the dietary set back is meaningless. In fact, scientific studies have shown this to be true. People who catastrophize their setbacks are less likely to resume their healthy habits and more likely to gain more weight, while those who can brush them off are much more likely to resume course and resume their healthy habits and therefore more likely to achieve weight loss in the long run.
Isn’t it so with life? If we stopped the very first time we were rejected, the very first time we failed, the first time we heard no…then where would we be now? It is said that James Patterson, who has sold 425 million books worldwide, was rejected 31 times before he published his first book. One of my best friends from college took the MCAT (the medical school entrance exam) 4 years in a row before she got into medical school. Then went on to figure out some nerdy thing out that saved our ICUs during the pandemic and landed her the RAND gold medal award Damn! Colonel Sanders offered up his chicken recipe to over 1,000 restaurants before he found a buyer. You get my point…
When we sell ourselves short, we play small
How often have you said I can’t do something before you ever tried. How often have you labeled yourself, I’m not a runner, I’m not a writer, I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, fit enough…whatever? Alex shares a story of refusing to go on a hike with a girl he was dating because he didn’t think he was fit enough to go with her. Ultimately, she broke it off with him for reasons that included his activity (or lack of activity) level. After the fact, he decided to go on that hike himself, realizing in fact, not only was he able to do it, but was able to do it with ease, despite his weight. (As an aside, he was very active, and of course many wrongly assume that weight and fitness are one and the same). Alex says that moment was so painful for him, he was the most angry he had ever been at himself because he sold himself short. That’s the thing with self-limiting beliefs, they make us play small and then we betray ourselves. Where might you be selling yourself short? How might you be labeling yourself? Is it really true or is that just the story you are telling yourself?
Comfort is the Enemy of Progress
That language is a touch strong for me, but I agree with Alex here. After the hiking fiasco, Alex wondered, what else might I be able to do? He hated running, but then again, he thought he hated hiking too. He has now run 2 5-K’s and is signed up for his first half marathon. He hated cycling but pushed himself to do it and now takes his work calls on the peloton, when he’s not walking that is, and he clocks in about 13 miles of that per day. But the beautiful thing is that this trickled into other aspects of his life. He started pushing himself into uncomfortable places professionally and found growth there too, financially and found growth there too. In fact, pushing the boundaries of his discomfort trickled into growth in virtually every aspect of life. And this is indeed a golden life lesson, as he says, “growth
happens when you do the things you don’t want to do and when you do the things you think you can’t do.”Growth happens on the other side of your comfort zone. Bam
Stay Focused on the Process, not the Goal
Yah, yah, yah, you must be saying. So damn cliche, right? But it is so damn true! The goal is necessary, but it is the thousands of tiny steps in between that gets us there. Moreover, focusing on your big audacious goal, like losing 125 pounds, (or writing a book, or creating a nutritional product line– two things I kicked off my bucket list in the past 2 years) is at times overwhelming, no? But if you plan one meal at a time, write one page at a time, plan and execute one day, one milestone, one small win at a time, you eventually get there. And here is a bonus, you get there with more ease and even some joy! Hey, imagine that. Actually getting joy out of our goals and dreams rather than meeting them with drudgery? You achieve your goals not by focusing on the goal itself, but by focusing on the journey. Cliche yes, truth, also yes.
(Changing your) diet and exercise is necessary, but without a change in mindset they are ineffective.
When people lose weight, as Alex says, we focus a lot on on the how. What did you do? Meaning what diet, what trainer, what shake, pill, supplement? And don’t get me wrong, I do believe in practical strategies and employ them in my medical practice. But the truth is, we know what to do, right?
More from the earth, less from the pantry,
More fresh, less processed,
More green, less white.
I’m pretty sure we don’t need to pee on a keto stick to know that we are doing it the right way, now, do we?
But all that knowing does not mean doing. What gets us to do the thing and to do it consistently, is mindset. A mindset that favors resilience over perfection, a mindset that favors growth over stagnation, self-compassion over self-depreciation. A mindset that abdicates short-term pleasure in favor of long-term success. If that’s not applicable to every aspect of our life then I don’t know what is. My husband and I were still working for what I have calculated to be pennies per hour well into our late 20s and 30s as medical residents. We were living like students, despite being parents already ourselves, long after our peers had started living their lives as real adults. But our profession required time, patience, and perseverance. Any worthwhile endeavor, be it our education, our relationships, our personal growth, requires time, patience and perseverance, why should our relationship with food be any different?
Sounds applicable to a lot more than numbers on the scale, no?
And I would love to end with this from Alex himself,
“You should always be asking yourself one question, and it’s ‘what if?’
‘What if I can? What if I did it? What if I got there?’
Imagine the possibilities of the future and ask yourself, ‘what if I got there?’
That’s going to make all the difference.”
Here’s to reaching your goals, whatever they may be
If this resonated with you, give it a clap and share it with one person you love. Interested in hearing the whole episode with my little bro? You can find it on my HealthBite podcast here or anywhere you podcast.