How many times have you read stories where people stated, “until I saw myself in that picture, I never realized how serious my weight problem was”?
How many times have you heard doctors say, “you’re in remarkably good health” even though you know in reality you’re overweight, sedentary, depressed and likely taking multiple prescription medications? If your doctor resembles the picture above, do you think his opinion may lack credibility even though you want to believe him?
The following is a story many of you will relate to:
A 57 year old man (we’ll call him Mr. Smith) weighing 377 pounds was driving to work when he began to experience right arm numbness. He wasn’t overly concerned because a month earlier he had his annual physical exam that revealed NORMAL blood pressure and NORMAL cholesterol findings. Mr. Smith interpreted these two values as a “clean bill of health.” He knew he needed to lose “a little weight” but believed otherwise he was “healthy.”
When he returned home he informed his wife of his symptoms. A google search by his wife resulted in a visit to the hospital where stent surgery was performed for a blocked artery. Further testing revealed the need quadruple bypass. This too, was eventually performed successfully. This FEARFUL cascade of occurrences provided the motivation to begin a rigorous low fat, low sodium, calorie counting nutrition plan. 10 months later, Mr. Smith was 100 pounds lighter.
THEN THE PROBLEMS BEGAN!
Mr. Smith believed his hard effort to lose weight had ended. He had successfully reached a weight he was satisfied with. This is when:
“old habits gradually resurfaced.”
Back in college (at 180 pounds) his physical activity (tennis and running) and youthful metabolism kept his weight in check.
“After graduating college, getting a time consuming job, marrying a woman who worked night time hours and no longer exercising, I began to eat out of BOREDOM and LONELINESS.” I reverted to my “old ways” and began eating fried fast foods and larger portions often equivalent to 2 or 3 meals. Within 2 years my weight climbed back to 338 pounds.”
DID THIS MOTIVATE A CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR?
“It annoyed me, but didn’t motivate me.”
“I was alive and already did the hard work before.” “I was at a point in life where I felt too comfortable to change.”
Mr. Smith’s surgeries and knowledge that “old patterns” played a major role in his heart disease was not enough motivation to overcome the “joys of comfort food eating” he was engaged in including cheeseburgers, french fries, chips and desserts at every meal.
“I knew losing weight was important, but doctor’s orders weren’t enough to change my behavior.” “I was resigned to the fact my life expectancy was likely to diminish.”
But he kept justifying to himself he was in better health than his doctors suggested.
He was able to play tennis a few times a week rationalizing:
“an unhealthy person would be unable to perform this physical task.”
As his heart condition worsened, he was required to wear a defibrillator vest. This vest was used to shock his heart to restore a normal heart beat. In one tennis match the defibrillator fired 4 TIMES. Even this event was not enough to compel Mr. Smith to alter his destructive lifestyle eating habits.
Finding justifications (regardless of how irrational they were) to support his damaging lifestyle became his solace. After all, he was still down 40 pounds from his initial heart surgery and the eventual pace maker surgery he underwent provided a “safety net” to maintain a “normal” heart rhythm. He convinced himself he could rely on a mechanical device to maintain his “health.” It was clear at that point he decided there was NOTHING that would change his current lifestyle.
WHAT TURNED MR. SMITH’S LIFE AROUND FOREVER?
His children began developing the same weight problems resulting from the same destructive patterns he was following. He knew the extensive health problems they would face and didn’t want to be the “example setter” for their demise. It wasn’t his own health that motivated him; it was his concern for his children’s well being that motivated his return to a healthy lifestyle. Since his love for his children had no end point in time, he knew his return to a healthy lifestyle behavior would last FOREVER!
WHAT’S THE COMMON THEME IN BOTH HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHANGES?
SATISFYING EMOTIONAL NEEDS!
We, as a society, want to FEEL something. If it’s not going to be quality health, than disease through unhealthy satiety will suffice.
I shared this story to show just how difficult it is to overcome habitual patterns of destructive behavior. Many of us are saying, “this is not me,” when in fact, it absolutely is! Nearly 7 out of 10 people are following this path. Dieting OR exercising OR reducing stress OR _______________(you fill in the blank)…. is the focus, but NOT THE ANSWER!
Discovering the hidden EMOTIONAL NEED(s) providing lifelong motivation for quality health is the solution for so many people. The easier part (we focus too much attention on) are the vehicles used in the process to achieve this goal including (1) nutrition, (2) exercise, (3) stress reduction, etc…
You must ask yourself:
“What emotional need(s) can I identify to create a defiant strength within myself necessary to override my addictive destructive behaviors and patterns?”