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What do you really want?

By September 18, 2015March 17th, 201952 Thoughts for the Chronic Dieter

When you think to embark on your next weight loss attempt, I want you to think of this blog, and remember something. You don’t want to lose weight. Before you think I’ve lost it, hear me out.

We do weight loss for an underlying reason, because we want something…and that thing is not weight loss. Like wanting more money, we don’t want it for it’s own sake, we want it because of how we think it will benefit us. So why are you thinking of losing weight? Maybe you want to be healthier. Maybe you want to wear really nice clothes again. Maybe we want better work opportunities, or relationships, or even happiness?!?

Psychologist call these underlying aims Primary Goals of weight loss – they are the anticipated benefits of losing weight. The diet industry already knows you don’t just want to lose weight, so sells you up big on these primary goals. The “after” testimonials may say “Cindy lost X kilos” but what they show you is “Now Cindy is happy”! The illusion is that when you reach your goal weight, the Lambo rolls up, with the Ken-doll husband inside (and just in time to whisk your way you to your new life!). “Then she lost weight and lived happily ever after”…Now that’s selling!!!

The problem is, your weight is probably only partly related to your primary goals. I’d encourage you to write down your three main goals of weight loss…what you are expecting weight loss will really get you (be honest, no one will see). Now, once you’ve done that (do it, don’t be scared!)…write down what percentage of that primary goal is weight related. So if weight loss to your goal weight will get you 100% of this goal, it would be 100%, if you think reaching your goals weight is about half of the picture, you may be 50%, or you may even find that some of the primary goals are only loosely related to the number on the scales.

Let me give you an example. I worked with a man who was extremely busy up to mid-life, and pretty late getting into the dating scene (like about a quarter of a century). He came to see me as he had become ready to find a wife, and wanted to lose weight to help him! So, focusing on a non-diet approach (I never really “do weight loss” with people anymore), he happened to lose about 10-12 kilos, and he looked “better”. But where was the wife? Surprisingly, she didn’t automatically come with the weight loss (bummer, right)? In fact, his dates still weren’t as often as he would like, so what else was there to do? Well, he still wanted to look more attractive (after all, everyone at least looks at the “packaging”, don’t they?), so we sourced a stylist mate of mine, and they went shopping. After he replaced his business suits with dress suits (before that we both didn’t know there was a difference), the dates were coming thick and fast, and the wife was just a matter of time…but actually he was still having trouble getting past the first couple of dates, even though he now felt women were attracted to him…could it be that finding a wife was more than just looking good? Maybe it could, so we started to look into his attitude to women. Hey presto! When he started understanding that the women weren’t all less intelligent than he was, looking at him like a piggy bank, and obliged to jump into bed with him after a nice night out, the quality of the dates, and relationships stemming from them improved. I don’t know if he found the wife, as he stopped seeing me when he felt confident he was going to, but it also begged the question how necessary was it for us to work on the weight loss first, or even at all. I firmly believe the attitude was more important than the looks, and in the looks department, I personally think the suits improved his looks more than the weight loss!

So how would I encourage you to reach your primary goals? Psychologists in this space recommend you target primary goals directly, rather than through weight loss!!! So if you want to be able to climb a mountain, working on your fitness may be as important as working on your fatness. If you want a better job, you may want to work on your work abilities more than your waistline. And if you want to be happier, you may decide to forget about making your body smaller, and focus on making your life bigger! By targeting primary goals directly, you may actually be able to get what you really want more effectively than by focusing on weight loss. You may even find that focusing too much on weight loss actually impeded your primary goals (e.g., have you ever avoided parties as you were too busy trying to lose weight in order to improve your social life, starved your body into weight loss to become “healthy”, or gotten up before the sun every morning as weight loss would give you energy?)

Am I saying don’t take care of yourself? Not at all. A lot of primary goals are aided by the process of taking care of yourself – healthy eating, drinking, moving, rest, and sleep all make you happier, healthier, and more likeable, whether they result in weight change or not. But I am saying, be smarter than buying the illusion the weight loss industry is selling. If you don’t, you may spend a lot of time, money, and effort trying to get down to a magic number, only to be disappointed when you get there! I want you to be completely happy, and get everything you really want, and I know your time to develop yourself is precious, so think about it.

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