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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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"Cure the mind and the ass will follow."

There's this fat guy named Steve Vaught who is walking across the country right now in an effort to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle. He's chronicling his adventures on his blog at FatManWalking.com, and a recent entry of his contained a large portion size of wisdom. I can't link to it directly because his blog is kind of messed up technically, but the entry I'm writing about today is about motivation on 03 22 06 on this page.

From browsing his site, I've learned that after completing two-thirds of his trip (several thousand miles!) he still hadn't reached his target weight. It was bothering him and he didn't understand why he wasn't succeeding. He ended up deciding that he was still eating too badly to lose weight, and that made him take a break from his walk and re-evaluate what he was doing. Some of his insights line up pretty closely with the ones I've been developing lately about this. Things like leaving aside the guilt, stop beating yourself up over bad food or exercise choices from one day to the next, etc.
There is no elusive motivation that once possessed will whisk you into a supermodel body, there is only you and your desire to be happy. The fact that you want something to fix you is the best indication that what needs fixing is you.  Logically you know what the answer is, eat less, eat better and move around once in a while. (Or walk across the country.--ed.)
Vaught says that we all have different justifications and motivations for our bad lifestyle choices, and that we all have our own ways of convincing ourselves that we are "powerless against this 'disease'." He gives us a reality check: You are the problem! You overindulge and have done so for quite some time. Now you need to work to reverse that bad behavior which by now is probably habit. You need to get over yourself and simply go and do something.Vaught:
Once you stop setting yourself up for failure you will release yourself from the cycle of guilt, self-loathing and desire for comfort, then you will start to see that you have to take the good with the bad. In releasing the cycle of weightloss/weightgain and accept the successes with the failure as the big picture you will find that you have all the power and do not need to find motivation, it comes naturally. You are not trying to get happy by losing weight; you are trying to get healthy by losing weight. Happiness should be an element in your life regardless. Once you take the power away from the weight you will feel a burden lifted from you shoulders, start to feel happy and stop punishing yourself and ultimately losing weight will become natural. Cure the mind and the ass will follow.
He discusses a "one day at a time" approach that works for me. I think of this as a sort of continuum of eating and exercise, wherein sometimes good choices are made and sometimes bad choices are made, but ultimately, over time, more good than bad choices get made and you become tangibly healthier. Vaught:
Try your best everyday, make little reminders in your routine to point you in the right direction, It is not the weight that holds you captive or even the food, instead it is the inner conflict about failing to control oneself that keeps you from being successful.
Later on, he came up with a list of specific behaviours he is finding useful. I don't disagree with them. They are (with my paraphrasing):

1. Portion control. To lose weight, you must consume less than you burn in physical activity. To maintain a healthy weight, you must consume the same amount that you burn. It's common sense, and it's true.

2. Variety. Our bodies need a mixture of sugar, salt, fat, protein, everything. But overweight people need it in smaller amounts. Expanding your habits to include multiple food choices is beneficial. Overindulging in any one food is bad, but so is avoiding any one food.

3. Nutrition. Vaught: Once you eat less and learn to feel real hunger and then you have mixed it up and are not in food ruts, then you are ready to start choosing good food over bad. If it is modified, sugar or caffeine or whatever-free dump it. Now you want to eat natural whole foods over processed. If the food does not have a naturally occurring color – then pass.

4. Exercise. After finding that healthier eating habits are starting to take root, you'll find that you naturally want to become more active. It almost happens of its own accord. And even if it's something as simple as walking, that's enough. You can lose weight just by walking!

5. Your mind. Vaught: This effort will fail miserably if you start to beat yourself up over transgressions. You will have good days and bad days. Individually they do not matter. Success is a lifetime thing not a daily. If you are not accepting your weakness then you are not accepting that you are human and that is why you are struggling in the first place.