When I started my low carb journey, I was incredibly overweight. Actually, I had passed the overweight mark and became obese. Then I took it a step further and became morbidly obese. Overweight and obesity had been the theme of my life, virtually since I was in grade school. I felt it was my doomed existence.
Life wasn’t much fun being overweight and obese, unless I was eating, usually something I craved. Looking back now, I can’t remember really enjoying it much towards the end of my weight gain. I usually felt guilty afterward, especially if I ate more than I intended. But, I was getting what I wanted, and that seemed to be what mattered the most. Everybody enjoys getting what they want, especially if you’re feeding an addiction.
In this post I want to share some strategies I used to prepare for the mental battle of weight loss … and there will be battles my friends! This was a great starting point for me, and can work for anybody that has the desire to end the life of overweight and obesity. No action required, just some thought.
Preparing For Battle – Knowing Your “Whys”
I knew there was a mental aspect involved in the process of becoming overweight. I knew I ate at times just for the pleasure, the taste, the bliss. But there were also times when I didn’t really know why I was eating. I knew it wasn’t due to hunger. It was either a mental thing or an emotional thing.
I knew that at some time during the evening, while watching some TV, the voice would eventually start talking to me. (Do you have the voice, or has my cheese slid off the cracker? We all have that voice, right?) It would start telling me what sounded good. That sneaky little bastard knew I just finished dinner an hour ago, so it didn’t start off with “we’re hungry”. It started with “you know, a few cookies sounds really good”, and then it would escalate from their. It just wouldn’t leave me alone, and it always talked me into something I thought I wanted.
Then if the voice wasn’t already enough to deal with, the commercials would start setting me off. The food always looks so delicious and tempting in the commercials. Commercials that have been perfectly created to trigger my desires and addictions.
For me, there was a lot more to losing weight than just deciding I wanted to lose weight and didn’t want to reach 400 pounds. I had to create some solid “whys” for myself. Some “whys” I could use as tools to beat down the voice in my head. The voice that rationalized, begged, and convinced me to make the wrong choices, over and over and over, by giving in to my cravings and addictions. I needed some tools for the battle. I needed a mental game.
Tools For Battle – Personal Problems
Although my health was important to me, I had failed to change my eating habits by keeping my health in mind on any previous weight loss attempts. Health smealth, when I wanted a burrito I had to have a damn burrito! But to be successful, I needed to think about how carrying all these additional pounds was affecting my health. I started with how I was feeling, mentally and physically, on a daily basis.
- My joints ached, especially my knees, even when I was just sitting at my desk. I work at my desk 7 to 10 hours a day, and after sitting for a couple of hours, with my knees bent at 90 degree angles, they would ache endlessly. I would have to get up and walk around or fidget in my chair to ease the pain a little.
- I tired out fast during the simplest activities. Simple activities like taking a shower, walking any distance that exceeded the number of steps to the kitchen or the bathroom, and going up the stairs to my bedroom would just wear me out.
- I randomly fell asleep. This one was kind of scary. It really concerned me when it started happening shortly after I got out of bed. I would sit down and start looking at my phone. Maybe reading emails or an article, and I would fall asleep … with my phone in my hand! I had just slept all night so this shouldn’t have been happening.
- I had chronic heartburn. I had to take medication for over a decade to stop the heartburn. I should have owned stock in Prilosec. Anything, including water, resulted in heartburn.
- I didn’t sleep well. I never woke up feeling truly rested. I woke up several times during the night, usually to pee, but also for no apparent reason at all. My wife told me my snoring was out of control, so I know there were times she woke me up so I would roll over and give her a break. I’m pretty sure I had sleep apnea, but I was never diagnosed because I couldn’t afford the testing.
- I had episodes of shooting pain in my mid-section. It was really strange. If I got into certain positions, it would set off this pain that was similar to a cramp. I would have to stand up until the pain subsided.
- I was regularly depressed. My outlook on life was bleak. I looked forward to the sweet relief of death. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to die, I was never suicidal, I just knew that if I did die I could leave my meat suit behind and all the pain it brought me.
- My self-esteem was at an all time low. Every time I looked in the mirror, I felt like a failure. How could anyone allow themselves to get this fat? How could I do this to myself?
- I was told by my doctor I was pre-diabetic, and my blood pressure was a bit on the high side. I didn’t want to be full-on diabetic, and I didn’t want to have to take any medications.
These were my personal weight related complications. Pretty good reasons for wanting the extra pounds off of me. Good tools to start my tool bag. But, I needed more.
Tools For Battle 2 – Potential Problems
There are many scientifically proven health risks related to overweight and obesity provided by the medical community. This following list was an eye-opener for me. Especially since I was already experiencing some of these issues. This list is from the National Institute of Health.
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning.
There are 11 items in that list, and I was already dealing with 5 of them. I sure didn’t want to go for the full 11. I stuck these in my tool bag too. But, I still felt like I needed more. I wanted to gather all the ammunition I could get my hands on. I fought this weight loss battle many times, and always lost. I wanted this time to be different. I started thinking about what I wanted, because everybody likes to get what the want, right?
More Tools For Battle – Wants and Goals
What did I want? What did I want? I just let my mind wander to what not being so fat would give back to me. What opportunities would losing weight provide to me? After thinking it over for a while, I was able to come up with a lot of things. Some minor and some major.
1) I want to enjoy some time not working. I’ve been working since I was a young kid. I want to enjoy the freedom of retirement, and collect that money I’ve been paying into Social Security all these years. If you die without collecting, they win! Not going to happen if I can help it.
2) I want to enjoy my yet to be born grandkids. I have 3 kids all in their 20s. None of them have started families yet. But, I’m looking forward to the day that they do. I want to play with my grandkids. I want to be their Poppa. I want to spend time with them, and teach them things. I want to spoil them and send them back home to their parents.
3) I want to wear the nice leather jackets I have in my closet. Beautiful jackets my wife bought for me years ago, but I quickly outgrew them. I want to look good in them again, like I did back in the day, and they’ve never gone out of style.
4) I want to wear various pieces of clothing I have received as gifts over the years. I have several items in my closet and drawers that didn’t fit me the day I received them, most of them with the tags still on them. I held on to them for that day, that someday, when I lost weight.
5) I want people to see me again and not the fat I was carrying around with me. People see you differently when you’re obese. It made me avoid leaving the house to be perfectly honest.
6) I want my wife, kids, family, and friends to be proud of me and amazed by my weight loss. I want to blow their minds.
7) I want to be proud of me again. I’ve achieved goals in my life that required countless hours of determination and dedication, and it felt great. I want to experience that feeling again.
8) I want to live a longer, healthier life. I really want to enjoy my impending golden years. But, I have to get there and be healthy to make it a reality. Overweight and obesity greatly diminishes the odds of that ever happening.
These wants resonate within me. No matter how trivial they may seem, they are important to me, and after all, I am doing this for me. These wants are actually goals. These also went in the tool bag. But, I needed to look at one last mental aspect I would need to prepare for, my relationship with food.
The Most Important Weapon – Thought Shifting
Overweight and obesity cannot occur without food. In order to be as successful with weight loss as I was with weight gain, I had to put this relationship under my mental microscope too. Surprisingly, I had never really thought about this a whole lot. I just followed the voice, the cravings, the addictions, and my taste buds.
I knew I really loved food, but there were times I didn’t really know why I was eating. It certainly wasn’t the only reason I should eat … hunger. This required me to be mindful of what was going on in my head.
This is when I really started noticing that voice that was leading me into negative actions. This is when I noticed my mental responses to food related commercials. This is when I noticed there was an addiction element to my appetite for sweets and junk food. I used food for more than satisfying my hunger.
Food comforted my boredom, my anxiety, my stress, and my depression. It took the edge off of my dull existence. I used food as a celebration at times and as a social experience at times. I think in some ways, food was a form of entertainment for me at times. It was almost my hobby. Food was my pleasure.
To be successful with weight loss, I had to change the way I thought about food. I decided to go with the simplest definition I could find … Food is fuel. Food is fuel for my body and my mind. Period.
I had to be mindful of this at all times. I needed to focus my thoughts on the foods my body was designed to process into energy, not the food my brain, my taste buds, and my addictions wanted. I had to shift from thinking about food as being a pleasure inducing experience to food being a refueling experience.
I wouldn’t put kerosene in the gas tank of my car and expect it to perform at it’s best, or at all. But, I was putting foods into my body that didn’t allow my body, or my mind, to perform at it’s best. This was going to be a big change for me, but it was going to be a critical component of my weight loss battle. I had to make this my primary, numero uno weapon.
My new mantra is food is fuel. My tool bag was full. I had amassed the weapons I needed. I was ready for battle!
Just Think About It – Nothing More
Dealing with the issues of overweight and obesity is a personal struggle. Losing weight is also a personal struggle. It’s going to require a significant amount of mental preparation, determination, dedication, and discipline. You have the ultimate power, even though it sometimes feels like you don’t. You really are in charge of what you do, or do not, eat. You are in charge of how you respond to the voice, the cravings, and the addictions.
If you use a screwdriver to pound a nail, you’ll make some progress, but it won’t get the job done like a hammer will.
Having a full arsenal of reasons why, and end goals for losing weight, gives you a full bag of tools that you can use to battle back against the voice, the cravings, and the addictions. By changing your thoughts about food, and how you relate to food, you’re repositioning its priority in your life. To be successful, you still have to consciously make the right choice.
Having a support system in place is beneficial, but weight loss is going to mostly be a mental, and entirely a solo journey. People that haven’t been there won’t really understand what you’re going through, but I do, and I really want to stress the mental aspect to weight loss because that is where 95% of this battle is going to take place. The primary battlefield is going to be in your head.
If you sleep a full 8 hours every day, you’re left with 16 hours that you’re awake. If you eat three times a day, and it takes you 1 hour to consume the meal, 13 hours remain in the day. That’s 13 hours of potential eating opportunities. 13 hours to deal with that demon, that voice in your head. You can either be ready for battle or give into the cravings, temptations, and addictions. But, as sure as the sun comes up every morning, this is true … if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got!
Here’ the good news. When you stop eating sugar, junk foods, highly processed foods, and keep your carbohydrate consumption very low for an extended period of time, the cravings and addictions will disappear, and you will find yourself gravitating towards good food choices. It happened for me at about the 9 month mark, and it’s fantastic.
Right now, 9 months may seem like a long time, but I ate this crap my entire life! I think it’s pretty damn amazing that my body/brain were able to auto correct in just 9 months. Commercials? They don’t affect me anymore. The voice in my head? Still there, rarely engaged, and never acted upon! I hope to get into this in more detail in future posts, but for now I want you to know what is possible.
Overweight and obesity can be resolved. I suggest as a first step you get ready for weight loss by just thinking. Put some real, intentional thought into it. Be mindful of what you do and why you do it regarding food. Put a mental tool bag together. Write it down and read it often. Plan for how you’re going to respond when the tough times come (not if, when, because it will come) so you don’t have to react.
As I said early, this only requires some thought, no actions. But maybe, just maybe, it will lead you to the next step of getting set to lose weight.
What you do today is who you’ll be tomorrow. You are capable of great things!