My Advice About Losing Weight: Fourthly, Your Brain
This is a series of posts about losing weight. I broke them up so that I don’t produce an 8,000 word post you won’t read. Instead, it’ll be four or so posts that you most likely won’t read. I’m OK with that.
The first one had the intro and dealt with the basics. Read it first for a better feel for the context. The second one was about Calories Eaten. The third one was about exercise, burning calories, and yoga pants.
OK. We’ve talked about the basic premise – burning more calories than you eat – along with calories and exercise. Now, it’s time to get to the important part.
But but but diet and exercise ARE the important part! They’re the ONLY part!
Yeah, no. Not at all. All that stuff is great, and can be vital to the process of getting fit and healthy and all that. But more important than the physical aspects of weight loss is the mental aspect. See, if your mind isn’t behind what you’re doing, forget it. It’s over. That’s why I don’t buy any of those “tips” that talk about “fooling your body into thinking you’re full”. Eating crunchy bread (/wanking motion), chewing your food extra slowly (/roll eyes, wanking motion), drinking 87 glasses of water during dinner (/wanking motion into Spider-Man gesture) – all of those things designed to “fool your body” aren’t going to work, because your brain knows the trick. The reason why we eat too much and don’t exercise enough isn’t because of body signals. It’s our brain saying “I can totally eat this large pizza. I want to eat this large pizza. I will eat this large pizza.” Most of us don’t even know what real, actual hunger feels like. But our brains sure as shit know that when we’re bored, an ice cream sandwich is a great answer. Our brains make us fat.
It’s a pretty powerful little bastard.
But that power can be harnessed for good. In fact, it MUST be harnessed for good, or you won’t succeed. This post is all about the Mental aspect of fitness.
Why Do You Want to Get Fit?
This is important. It’s also important to be completely honest with your answer. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell anyone. As long as you know why you’re doing it, because your answer will have a lot to do with your success in the long run.
If your answer is “I want to fit into X outfit by X date”, chances are decent that you will hit that goal, provided you don’t have far to go and enough time to do it. It’s a very limited, short-term goal, though, that will probably have little effect on you afterwards. In fact, a lot of the times when you have a certain goal, you’ll achieve it and celebrate by undoing it rapidly. Short-term goals work best when they have another long-term goal behind it.
If your answer has to do with anyone else, like “My significant other wants me to” or “My friends are thinner than I am” or “I think my sexual preference will find me more attractive” or “someone my height should be X weight”, then I have bad news. You aren’t as likely to have long-term success. You’ll try, but your head isn’t really into it, not completely. When you bypass that piece of cake, you’ll resent the other people who are “making” you sacrifice. Then you’ll eat it to show them… something. It’s unlikely to work. You’ll sneak food, lie to everyone, and forget you ever started doing it at all.
Really, there’s only one answer to this question that is a good one, the right one: “I want to do it for me.” You have to want this for yourself, and it HAS to be important to you. If you say “I want to lose some weight” and it carries the same emotional weight as “I want a pony” or “I want a Bugatti Veyron” or “I want to say something that I think you want me to say”, then forget it. You aren’t ready. Because the thing about all this fitness bullshit is this: you have to want it. It has to be IMPORTANT to you. Maybe not the most important thing in your life, but damn near. The more you really want it, the more chance of long-term success.
I started many times with the attitude of “It’d be great to lose some weight.” That didn’t last. It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror one day and said to myself, “this isn’t what I want. I want more, and better, and I want it for ME.” I wasn’t looking for attention from other people (although that’s nice). I wasn’t doing it so my wife would find me even more irresistible (although that’s uber-nice). I wasn’t doing it for anyone at all, except myself. I’ve been through periods of time where looking in the mirror was literally impossible. I’ve hated myself. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I saw. I wanted to be strong and feel strong. I wanted that for me. Until I reached that day, I had no chance.
Wanting it more than just about anything is key. It drives your thought patterns. It makes walking past the donuts that much easier, because you have someone’s respect you are trying to earn, the only person whose respect matters in the end. Your own.
Willpower is Bullshit
Willpower. Everyone talks about it like it’s a stat we have, and when we come across something tempting, a cosmic entity rolls a 20-sider and compares it to our stat. Success! You walk past the cookies. Failure! Oh no, you eat three cupcakes while hiding in the closet. We tend to characterize ourselves as having strong or weak willpower, and give different objects power over this. “Oh, I can’t walk away from cupcakes EVER! My willpower isn’t strong enough!”
Bullshit. Bullshit bullshit bullshit.
There is no such thing as willpower. It’s a cop-out, another way to berate ourselves when we “give in”. We have the power to make choices. We have the power to stick by our decisions. This isn’t willpower. It’s making a choice that either supports our long-term goals or goes along with short-term desire. It all relates back to why you’re doing this journey in the first place and how much you want it. The more you want it, the easier it is to ignore temptation. It doesn’t even register as temptation anymore. It’s an obstacle to avoid, like a pothole. It’s never about the “right choice” or the “wrong choice”, it’s choosing to support your long-term goal or not. Making it “right vs wrong” makes it too easy to go into self-loathing, which leads to disaster. If you sometimes make a choice – sometimes, not every fucking day – that goes against your fitness goal, move the fuck on. Work out harder next time. Make a different decision next time. Now, if you find yourself excusing your choices 5 times a week, then you don’t want it enough, and you need to reevaluate.
Just don’t blame “willpower”. It’s a cop-out.
Oh, and if you find yourself with someone who thinks it’s “funny” to wave things in your face and talk about how delicious they are and one little bite won’t hurt, grab a lemon and squirt it in their eye. While they’re blind and helpless, grab a bike chain and proceed to flay them with it, tearing off as much skin as possible. Then get a big bottle of rubbing alcohol and pour it over the wounds. Because that’s what those fucking dicks deserve. Or, you can ask them politely not to do that, and as a friend you’re looking for their support. Me, I go for the lemon and bike chain. Tire irons work too.
Love You Some You
I love me some me (thanks, T.O.!). I really do. People call me vain or shallow or narcissistic, and I don’t give a shit. Because I love myself, and not just in a masturbatory sense. I love the person I am. And because I love myself, I try to take care of myself, for myself. I want to live long enough to hit the point where they can transfer my brain into a cyborg body, because I love being me.
You should feel the same way about you, because you are awesome. You can do almost ANYTHING you set your mind to, if you want it bad enough. I believe that. I believe in you. Believe in yourself. No excuses, no bullshit. Getting fit and healthy is about doing it for yourself. It has the added benefits of helping your spend more and better time with your kids and loved ones, too, which is great, but this is also about YOU. It’s why I say all the time, “Do what you like to do, eat what you like to eat”. You have to enjoy it. It has to become me-time, a time where you can think and dream and concentrate on becoming the person you want to be. Half my blog posts are born while I work out. This whole series was drafted in my head yesterday during a 45-minute workout session. Think about your hopes, your dreams, the things you want to do in life or the clothes you want to buy or how awesome it’ll be to see someone you haven’t seen in a year and you’ve lost 30 pounds and your body is smokin’. Your fitness journey needs to be about you, for you, and in order to complete it you need to believe in you. I do. I know you can hit your goal, whatever it might be. As long as you really want it, you can do it.
Go ahead and love you some you.
Forget the Scale
I don’t mean the food scale. Seriously, buy a digital food scale.
What I mean is that horrendous fucking destroyer of pride and accomplishment, that gleaming little metal and plastic bastard that sits smugly around waiting to ruin your shit. The other scale. The one you stand on, hoping for a great result, which it coldly laughs at and spits back a number designed to make you weep. Scales suck ass.
So here is what you do. When you decide to begin your journey, weigh yourself. See where you’re at. Write that number down somewhere. Forget about it. Change your eating habits. Exercise often. Start feeling better and looking better. Don’t weigh yourself.
I mean it. Fuck the scale. After your initial weigh-in give it to someone to hide or throw it away. It’s dead to you now.
Fine, I get it. You want to check your progress using an arbitrary number system that is ultimately meaningless. Fine. You want to be able to say “I lost 10 pounds yay me!” I get it. I understand. If you simply HAVE to weigh yourself regularly, do it once at week AT MOST. Do it at the same time and day every week. Better yet, do it every two weeks or a month. If you can handle it, do it every other month. Because scales are evil.
I’ve been a weigh-every-day person. Over a three day period, I would gain a pound, gain 3 pounds, then lose 6 pounds. It’s all ridiculous bullshit. Too much factors into it like water retention and other shit. It simply isn’t worth it. DON’T WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY FOR THAT WAY LIES MADNESS.
See, the reason why I don’t like using the scale is because 4 things can happen, and only one of them is good. One, you gain weight since last weigh-in despite eating right and working out hard. Panic and despair and cutting ensue. Bad news. Two, you lose no weight, which leads to a slightly lesser reaction to the previous result. Three, you lose weight, but not as much as you hoped. Disappointment ensues even though you’ve made progress. Finally, the fourth result, where you lose as much or more as you hoped. It’s rare. It feels fucking great, don’t get me wrong. But I found that the lift I got from those times wasn’t as good as the other results made me feel bad. So I weigh in once a month at most.
Oh, and don’t do what my wife occasionally does: go out somewhere to eat the night before, eat a shitload of food, then weigh yourself the next morning. Just grab a lemon and start squeezing it into your own eyes first.
You have better ways to measure your progress. How you feel. How loose your clothes start to fit. How things you couldn’t fit into before now go on with ease. How you look in the mirror. How other people ask you if you’ve lost weight. Yes, yes you have. Who gives a shit about the number?
Plus, muscle mass can really make a huge difference in your weight. I know a fitness person who posts pictures of herself side by side. On the left she’s 118 pounds. On the right, she’s 133. You wouldn’t believe the numbers if you saw her. A fit body with muscle mass will look like it weighs less, but will actually weigh more. So fuck the scale. It doesn’t like you anyway.
OK. I’ve got one more post in me, just general tips and tricks and shit I forgot to say earlier. That’ll be next.