Tuesday, May 22, 2012

#19 - Changing Body, Changing Mind

-- Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
                                               --  Thomas Jefferson

What is harder? Changing your body or changing your mind. I don't mean changing your mind like "hmmm, I think I'll have chicken instead of fish today." I mean changing the fundamental mindsets that you have developed over years of experience. How do you change some of those core feelings, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that make you who you are?

--  We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
                                                        -- Buddha

Clearly, I am showing my bias that it is more difficult to change your mind. This is a scary concept to me because changing my body is a long and difficult process. To face the prospect that I may have a harder journey of the mind ahead of me is more than little daunting. And timing is everything. My inclination is to say "Right now, I am working on my body. I will work on my mind when this first journey is over." But it isn't that simple. So much of this journey to better health is tied into those pesky mental pitfalls. Thus, I must begin to look at them if I am going to make significant progress in the changing of the body. For example, I must understand why I packed on 350 extra pounds if I am going to be able to effectively make the life long changes necessary to lose the weight and keep it off.

This is such a convoluted issue that I cannot possibly address all my mental battles in this one blog.  However, here are a few that challenge me.

--  There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.
                                                                                                        --  Ronald Reagan

First, and most crucial, I must start addressing self image.   It is almost universally true that overweight people have a self image problem.  We can debate whether this is due to a dislike of our appearance or a reaction to the way a society that reveres the thin judges and treats the obese.  But the reason for the self image problem does little to help me on fixing the problem.  However, it is a crucial mental attitude to adjust because we have seen so many people who lose the weight and still don't like the way they look.   Weight loss can certainly help the self image, but it is clear that if you are not comfortable in you skin long before you lose the weight, you may still be uncomfortable with the newer, thinner you.   I wish I could offer my solutions on the matter, but this is a continuing struggle for me.   I can say that making progress on my journey and working in a club designed to help others is doing wonders for the self image, but it has not eradicated the image issues I've had for a long time.

--  Giving up represents a choice you make when you decide not to take action on something over which you actually do have control.
                                                                                                        -- Darren L Johnson

Second, one makes a great many mental resignations as they get older and fatter over the course of many years.   I have made a number of them.   In nearly every case, they are a giving up of things you really want in order to be more comfortable in your worsening situation.   It hurts to make the resignation, but helps in the long run because once you admit it isn't in the cards, you stop wishing for it or being sad that you don't have it.   One of the biggest of these resignations for me was a decision that I was going to finish life alone.  Never a boyfriend, never a husband, never a father.   I decided I would be content to be a good uncle, brother and friend to those around me.   I had managed to convince myself that it was ok that, in my opinion, I was unlovable (in a romantic sense) and I was too old to pursue the goals of love and family.   How does one re-establish that connection to the heart?   How can one make himself believe?   And most worrisome, has one waited too long?   Again, I don't have the answers.   I will say that the hope this journey offers makes some of this seem more possible, but it is a nagging concern.

--  It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.
                                                                             --  Epictetus

Third,  the catalyst.   Many overweight people have some sort of event in their life that serves as a catalyst to truly getting out of control.   A lot of people at the club report that they have struggled with weight their whole life, but the truly obese always seem to have an event of some kind that made them really start gaining weight much more rapidly.   I don't know the psychology of this, but if I had to guess, I would think there is something that occurs to make a person stop caring about the struggle.   Something that damages their self-esteem to the point where they no longer worry about fighting their weight.   A death of a loved one.   An abusive relationship.   A truly embarrassing situation.   It could be any number of things.

I have been trying to find this event in myself.  It is difficult to pinpoint because I have had a general progression to higher weights for a good portion of my life.   Where did it get worse?   Where did I stop caring about how much I gained?   As near as I can figure, my catalyst was .... a girl.   I felt I was in love and that person rather abruptly left my life.   I think this began a cycle of emotional eating and marks the moment where weight became my shield.   I used it to push away potential romantic interests so no one could hurt me again.   If I was unlovable or unattractive, good!   I may not be completely happy but perhaps my heart would be safe.   This is a difficult thing to overcome because it becomes so ingrained that it is nearly completely subconscious.   I wish I knew how to change it, but it is a part of my struggle.   Again, no answers.  But hopefully acknowledging it here will give me some reminder to be putting my mind to changing this within myself.

The mental journey, just as the physical one, is a forever one.   Even if you reach your goals and handle some of these issues, it will more than likely just reveal more.   However, I am hopeful that by honestly accepting these failings within myself, I can begin to make them better.   And in so doing, I may help myself continue on the path to better health.  Both physically AND mentally.

--  All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.
                                                                                                           --  Abraham Lincoln


  1. Very well said, Kevin. It is not just the weight loss but the frame of mind of how we see ourselves. I have also tried to figure out where I started going wrong with my weight gain and now I see different situations that have led me to be an "Emotional Eater". I am very unhappy with my job right now and it is why I feel I have given up recently too. I do believe that once I meet my goal that I will always see myself as "fat" or "obese". This will remain a struggle for me but the biggest struggle will be keeping the weigh loss off. It is so easy to fall back into those same patterns of eating. I proved that the past 1-2 months. I love Square One and am glad to be a part of a family that understands the struggles of losing weight. I am very proud of your accomplishments as of today. You are a great guy and you have inspired me to continue on this journey with Square One as long as it is necessary.

    1. Thanks Stephanie. I am extremely happy and honored that I could inspire you to continue. Please feel free to lean on anyone at the club. We are here for you. That is what this place is about.

      As for the blog and your own struggles, I will just say this. The mind can give us the will to continue or give us the "reasons" to give up in nearly equal measure. This is why we have to be proactive about it. We have to spend time thinking about what we want, how we can get there, and what things we can change about ourselves to make it better or easier. If we are passive about, we tend to revert to what we know. And what we know is not where we want to be.

      So if you are going to enact lasting change, it is time now to start working on the things that will make you succeed. We need to start working on that self-image. There are times now when I don't feel like the fat kid. And I am still fat! It is a mental thing. If you can learn to be proud of yourself for what you've accomplished..... If you can learn to look in a mirror and find the good things about yourself rather than the bad.... If you can learn to see strength rather than weakness, beauty instead of ugliness, pride instead of shame .... Then you will begin to be a happier, healthier person and content with whatever number is on that scale at the end of the journey.