At the risk of sounding like a bad film reviewer............. if you read no other article this year to help your weight-loss mindset (among other things in life), read Act Like An Optimist from the April 2009 Redbook. Buy the magazine & clip the article, print it out from the Redbook site, scan it -- do whatever you have to in order to keep it near you.
This morning, I began computer training on receptionist duties at our local WW center, and the leader asked me to say a few words to the group at the first meeting. I have been to this center on a few occasions when I've needed a catch-up meeting or an extra boost, and I really enjoy the people there. One of the questions that is always posed to me -- whether at a WW event or elsewhere, and phrased a million ways -- is "How do you get through bad times?"
My answer is usually that it has to come from within. I have been blessed a million times over with a strong will and an optimistic outlook, and those are gifts for which I cannot be thankful enough. I am just absolutely dead determined that I am not going back. I allow myself a window of forgiveness, but I refuse to stretch that window any further -- because even with a strong will, weakness is there to prey on me.
If I could pass those two qualities on to any person who deals with food addiction or weight loss struggles, I would. Oh, believe me, I would. Determination and outlook are not things that flip on and off like a switch, but they can be developed. The Redbook article mentions both a site called OptimismResearch.net, and a book by a professor at the University of Kentucky called Breaking Murphy's Law. I have just ordered my copy and am most definitely looking forward to reading it. And I went to the website, just to check my level of optimism..... as I suspected, it was "highly optimistic."
Being optimistic is not the same as being naive. A healthy realistic optimism is this: believing the best, and being prepared for less than the best. I expect the best of others, because I expect it of myself. I know when I am not living up to my best efforts. I know that if I had a good weigh-in on a slack week, I must be prepared to pay the piper the next week, and to work hard to stay on program anyway. It's also throwing away the calendar ("I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks"; well, honey, don't we all?) to truly focus on the end result ("I want to lose 10 pounds and I don't care how long it takes.")
Weight loss requires reality: there are going to be sucky weeks. There are going to be gains (whether it's 0.2 or 2.2). There are going to be weeks when you have to work extra hard to fit in exercise (like this past week here in the Western Carolinas, when it has rained for days on end -- no complaints, since we badly need the rain). There are days when the vending machine will call your name, again and again ("Hey, it's us, your friends the pork rinds. Yummy yummy!"). There are days when your perfectly planned day is shot to hell and back and the lunch you'd planned to take and relax and eat in a nice outside-the-office location suddenly becomes the Chick-Fil-A drive thru and wolfing it down at your desk because of some crisis (not that it's ever happened to me; ha......).
But it also requires an equal dose of optimism, of the belief that the best is yet to come, that good things will happen if you work the program as you should and you are patient ...... ah, patience. That's another must-have for this lifestyle, as is a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself.
But I digress....... So, why do I believe so strongly in being optimistic? Well, I have a close family member who is as pessimistic, fearful, and weak-willed as I am optimistic, brave, and strong-willed. It breaks my heart because in my childhood, this person didn't seem to be any of those things. If he/she was, he/she kept it well-hidden. It is only in my adult life that I have seen these traits in this person; quite honestly, his/her example keeps me in line. When I catch myself thinking negative thoughts, or slipping into a "woe is me" mode, thinking of this family member usually snaps me right out of it -- the idea that I could be like miserable Auntie Sue or whiny Uncle Ted is just more than I can bear! And it is no surprise to me at all that this relative constantly complains about feeling poorly, of being unable to lose weight, etc. etc. Bad attitude and a real lack of self-discipline play a big part in this person's life..... and I refuse to get sucked in.
Another key element for me is that I do believe in the power of faith in my journey as well -- not only in the sense of particular religious beliefs, but faith in myself. I believe that there is a higher purpose in my journey, to have gone through this now at this point in my life rather than earlier. I believe that I am worth more than whatever obstacle is coming my way, that the end result is far greater than whatever temptation is facing me. Am I stronger than a piece of cake, even devil's food with chocolate icing? You better believe it. Is that momentary relief I get from the bag of barbecue chips (because I am stressed) really worth the physical and emotional misery I will feel an hour later? No way, no how. Am *I* really worth giving up 30 minutes of my lunch time to squeeze in an aerobics DVD? Yes, without a doubt.
These are questions I ask myself. These are questions we must all ask of ourselves.
- Am I worth it? (You better be answering yes.)
- Is this action worth the later reaction? (Only you can know for sure - sometimes, the answer is yes, sometimes not).
- Do I have it in me to be optimistic-yet-realistic; if not, how can I develop these resources?