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Giving Up the Weight Loss Obsession

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Updated October 19, 2010

If you're like millions of people, you'd probably like to lose a little weight - maybe a lot of weight. You'd probably like to make some changes in your body - maybe around your belly or your thighs, or around your hips or butt. Maybe you've been trying to achieve this for years and you're frustrated because it hasn't happened.

If you're like most people, you've tried a number of things to make this happen. Diets you eventually gave up on or exercise programs you've started and stopped more times than you can count. Maybe you've even bought expensive equipment, joined a gym or hired a trainer. But none of it seems to work. The question is: why?

The Weight Loss Conundrum

Though you may be asking why nothing you've tried seems to work, there's a bigger question you may need to answer: Do you really want to lose weight? If you said yes, let me ask you another, perhaps more difficult question: Are you doing everything you need to do to lose weight? Take some time to think about that and then rank the importance of losing weight on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being most important and 10 being least important). Now, think of a typical week in your life and figure out how much time you spend doing the things necessary for weight loss. Some of those tasks include:

  • Cardio exercise (5 or more times a week)
  • Strength Training (2 or more days a week)
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Being as active as possible - taking the stairs, walking when you can, moving around more, etc.
  • Eating healthy, balanced meals and watching your calories
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Managing your stress and keeping it at reasonable levels

Do you do all of these things each week? Maybe a few, but not all? Maybe none? Take a moment to compare these two things: Where you ranked the importance of weight loss as opposed to how much time and energy you spend in the pursuit of it. If you're seeing a gap there, you're not alone. For many of us, there's a difference between what we say we want and what we actually do. Where does this gap come from? I think the disparity lies between what's really important to you and what you think should be important. If weight loss is more of a 'should,' maybe it's time to give up on it.

Giving Up the Weight Loss Obsession

The idea of giving up on losing weight may seem completely foreign to you. In fact, it may sound downright dangerous, especially if you have health issues that could be managed with weight loss. But, I'm not suggesting you stop losing weight...what I am suggesting is changing how you approach it.

One thing we know is that focusing on the process of exercise rather than the outcome leads to greater long-term success. Why is that? Because, as Dr. Jim Gavin and Madeleine McBrearty state in their IDEA Fitness Journal article, Exploring Mind-Body Modalities, "Once the pounds are off or the health risk is reduced, why would any clients continue doing something that they don't enjoy, that doesn't have intrinsic meaning...?"

In fact, in one study about exercise and motivation, researchers concluded that "...[a] change in exercise-related motivational factors, with a special emphasis on intrinsic sources of motivation (e.g., interest and enjoyment in exercise), play a more important role in longer term weight management."

With this in mind, ask yourself what would happen if you gave up on weight loss as an end result? What would happen if you freed your mind from the pursuit of an ideal you haven't been able to reach? What would happen if you forgot about results and focused on what you're getting out of your workouts right now? Are you willing to find out?

Next page: Finding Out What's Important to You

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