Despite how people typically think about it, weight loss is actually very simple. It isn’t EASY – in fact I admit it’s incredibly difficult – but it is simple. Eat less, exercise more; consume less, burn more; indulge fewer times throughout the week, go to the gym more than you feel like it. However you put it, the scientific rules that govern the process of weight loss are fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. The difficulty is not finding a treadmill; the difficulty is getting onto it. (Hell, do some jumping jacks in your room – if you want it bad enough, nothing will get in the way.) The hard part is not figuring out what foods to stay away from; the hard part is staying away from them. How you respond to those challenges doesn’t come from your body – it all begins with your mind. Tell yourself you can, and you will. Tell yourself you can’t, and you won’t. Simple. Not easy.
After having lost 150 pounds, it’s rare that I feel able to relate to others about my journey. I mean, how many people do YOU know that have cut their body size in half before turning 21? Recently, however, I had a talk with someone who seemed to really get me. It wasn’t because he had a similar experience, it wasn’t because he currently struggles or has ever struggled with his weight and/or body image – in fact he’s one of the most naturally thin people I think I’ve ever met – and it wasn’t because he made a similar lifestyle transformation. It was because I found somebody who understood that my physical transformation was really just hard evidence of a mental one. He understood that my weight loss was, as he put it, “a metaphor.”
How so, in what ways, and why do I think of my weight loss as a “metaphor”? Because the results are physical, but the process is entirely mental. My success was a direct reflection of my mentality. It was all one big, long, hard mind game. And as I’ve since come to learn, this goes for everything in life. My relationships with diet and exercise during weight loss were the means through which I learned how to best approach LIVING, not only how I learned to drop pounds and build muscle. The more time goes on, the more I realize those factors were just minor details of my story. What I learned to do – how I learned to think – was the real transformation.
Losing weight taught me the difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t”/“I don’t want to”/“I’d rather not”/“I don’t feel like it”. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to “run” a mile on the treadmill every day at 300 pounds if I told myself I couldn’t. I felt like I couldn’t, I sure as hell didn’t want to, but my body did what my mind told it to. As I’ve heard it said: “Once you can control your mind, you can control your body.” I get it now. Take it from me – it’s true.
Losing weight introduced me to true mental strength, but every day of maintenance provides me with the opportunity to apply it. Losing weight was the reason for me to cultivate a mentality with which I constantly talked myself up instead of down, in instead of out, and through instead of around. Losing weight has set my mind to channel everything I can do over everything I can’t, and losing weight was what taught me to see everything in terms of possibility and potential rather than difficulty and hardship.
Every minute of every day is an opportunity for you to put your mind to the test. Do you look at a challenge and tell yourself you can or you can’t? Do you tell yourself it’s possible or impossible? Do you tell yourself you’re strong or weak? Beautiful or ugly? Do you focus on the things you like or the things you don’t like? Do you choose positivity or negativity? Optimism or pessimism? Simply put, do you point your own thoughts in the right direction or not? Do you even realize you have the choice?
Weight loss is my metaphor. For many, it’s weight gain. For others, it’s weight maintenance. For some, it’s getting sober, kicking a habit, or beating an addiction. The lesson applies to everyone: no matter the specific situation, your struggle can become your strength. I feel unfairly lucky; I wish all of those people were also fortunate enough to have physically evident proof of their equally as impressive feats. A before and after picture can capture the change my body made, but nothing could ever comparably represent how different my mind works. Was weight loss the best gift I could have ever given myself? Absolutely. Not because I can now wear smaller clothes and blend into a crowd, but because it showed me I can do absolutely anything.