Some people are overweight for a range of genetic, hormonal and medical reasons and while those people have my understanding and sympathy, this article is not for them.
No, it’s for the other group.
The group I inhabited for many years. It’s for the people who are overweight or obese as a result of their choices, actions and lifestyle.
Yep, I was member of this club, for a long time. Overweight. Obese, in fact. First, as a child (nicknamed Jumbo at school) who eventually lost a vast amount of weight and then again later, as an adult who regained all the weight and much more.
An educated adult (an Exercise Scientist, in fact) who made bad decisions.
An adult who medicated with food. Rewarded myself with food. Socialised with food. Distracted myself with food. Lied to people about my food. Because I was embarrassed. And ashamed.
For years, I told myself stories about when I would change. It was like a nutritional Groundhog Day. It was always … soon. One day. Monday. But never this day. Never now. I was always delaying, denying and deluding. And eating. I constantly rationalised and justified my behaviour.
I lived in tracksuits. Baggy workout gear. Anything that wasn’t tight. Anything to create an illusion.
But the only illusion was in my mind.
I was a fat bloke who owned three gyms. Ridiculous, I know. An educated fat bloke preaching a philosophy that he wasn’t living. I felt terrible. Firstly because I was physically unhealthy and secondly, because I was faking it.
I was a Fitness Professional and industry educator who wasn’t walking the talk. I was a fraud. I was thirty kilos overweight and at best, trying to manage my ‘disordered eating’ and at worst, dealing with an actual eating disorder. I was constantly making decisions and doing things I regretted (eating junk) and then immersing myself in hours, or even days, of self-loathing.
It was a mindless and painful cycle of self-sabotage, anxiety, guilt and regret. And I while could bore you with all the underlying mental and emotional issues behind my counter-intuitive choices, behaviours and subsequent fat body, I’ll spare you and just say that I made the choices. I ate the food. I did what I knew not to do.
I will say that my body wasn’t the problem as much as it was the visible by-product of my not-so-visible problems. And when I finally stopped distracting, avoiding and anaesthetising myself with food, I found the courage to own up, step up and take control of my body and my life.
Of course, the journey wasn’t an instant or painless one but it was empowering, liberating and life-changing.
After all, I wasn’t fat because of my genetics, some hormonal issue or a medical condition. No, I made myself fat. I ate it. I created it. And eventually, I had to own it and change it. The problem was me.
The solution was me.
If my story sounds familiar or pushes a button (or ten) and you’re ready to do something, then maybe it’s time for some self-awareness (no more self-loathing), an action plan and a totally different level of commitment. Take your mind there and your body will follow. Remove the cerebral safety net, lose the excuses and you might just get off that weight-loss merry-go-round for the last time.
To get you started, here are a few suggestions.
- Find yourself an exercise partner and commit to a non-negotiable weekly schedule. You’re less likely to let them down and statistically, you’re much more likely to persevere.
- Do something today (anything) to create momentum. I mean literally today. Some people have been almost starting for decades. Be the now person, not the ‘one day soon’ person.
- Make gradual and manageable changes. The more extreme the program (dietary or exercise), the less likely you are to maintain it, which of course means, the less likely you are to create any kind of sustained change.
- Work in twenty-eight day blocks. I like this idea because it’s short enough to stay focused but long enough to see some results. If possible, do some kind of testing (fitness, strength, flexibility, body composition, girth measurements, etc.) and the end of each block.
- Mind your mind. Remember, changing your body is largely not about your body. Ask good questions. Make great decisions. Focus on the big picture. Be the solution person. And don’t forget that discomfort is where you develop resilience, endurance, awareness and strength (physical, mental and emotional).Enjoy the journey.
Craig Harper is an Exercise Scientist, Author, Corporate Speaker and Educator. @whiteboardlessons (insta)