When I struggled with obesity the solution and reward were two different things. The solution was the next diet, regimen, over the counter diet pill, or exercise routine. The reward was some imaginary point in the future where I reached my goal weight.
It is a good thing I abandoned that paradigm. My solutions always felt like a punishment or sacrifice I had to make in exchange for the reward. There was giving up this or that, feeling guilty if I didn’t push it hard enough when I worked out or feeling pain when I pushed it too hard.
The reward never lasted long on the occasions I did make it. Once in a while I would hit an intermediate goal such as “lose 20 pounds in six weeks.” Once I did there was this sense that I deserved to take a break or reward myself with what I had sacrificed to reach the goal in the first place. Craziness. Those “free days” or breaks never worked out well for me.
Things began working for me in 2009 because I realized the way I live day today has to be the solution and the reward. The reward can not be the light at the end of the tunnel, it has to be flashlight I’m carrying with me. I can’t afford to allow the solution to make me miserable in the long term.
My solution and reward today is being happy and content and at peace with what I eat and how I eat. The effort or willpower I put into my weight loss was directed at making that a reality. For example, instead of investing all my energy into doing something I hated like measuring all my food I directed that energy at accepting the benefits of weighing my food and learning to appreciate the results of that discipline. I came to terms with the fact this is something I need to do for myself. It worked. Weighing my food feels good now. It is part of the reward and solution.
Another example is letting go of the foods that were not good for me. I used to think I really loved pizza. Friday nights, a DVD rental, and a huge pizza was something I could not imagine parting with. When I was on a diet I put my energy into resisting the urge to call for a delivery and burned even more energy feeling sorry for myself. What finally worked is taking a detailed look at exactly what eating things like pizza does to me. I didn’t feel good with a belly full of pizza. I didn’t feel good the next morning. None of the ingredients in a pizza were very beneficial compared to wiser alternatives. Finally I learned to see the connection between stuff like pizza and the misery of being obese. Pizza stopped looking good.
What I never realized when I was in the diet mentality was that eating and living well would feel so good. I sleep well, I have a lot of energy, more mental clarity – the list goes on. Even better, I never feel the guilt about anything I eat, there are no dilemmas, and that leaves me free to enjoy all the other things life offers.