It’s that time of year. Four words: before and after pictures.
All year long people eat like Professor Klump after an embarrassing night of Reggie-styled fat-shaming. Then, long about December, here come the before and after pics calling them to task, and to new beginnings.
And the before and after strategy works! Let the guilt and shame and vanity purchasing begin!
And how well does it work?
Well, check out these numbers.
Weight loss—a $20 billion dollar a year industry?
Why, that’s a rather significant demonstration of shame, guilt, and vanity.
A hundred and eight million Americans are on diets, and make four or five attempts a year?
Oh great. So along with the shame and guilt and vanity, we can add failure to the emotional mix.
And celebrities get paid $500,000 to $3 million dollars to endorse major weight loss programs?
Well, for $3 million dollars, who couldn’t choke down one of those green, broccoli/cucumber frappés, lick their lips, and smile convincingly for the camera?
Deee-licious! This is the best unnaturally colored, visually appalling, foul smelling shake I’ve ever had!
I could do it.
And what’s this statistic? Of the customers consuming weight-loss products and services, 85% are … female? Oh boy. Not good. This has to imply something bad.
Why, yes. Yes it does imply something bad! It’s sexism!
The weight loss industry caters mostly to women! And rest assured this particular statistic isn’t going to go over very well with men. Everyone knows how offended men are by female dominance—in any area. Tisk-tisk.
I foresee a maleism protest. Men in the streets, with boy-blue penis-hats and all. Little furry testicles tied underneath their chins. Carrying signs. Talking about being “Naaasty men,” and about being disrespected and cheated by a matriarchal culture.
Yeah, no. I don’t see it, either.
Makes sense the number is 85%, though. Shame, guilt, vanity—women have the market cornered on those issues. The numbers pretty much bear it out. And these statistics are from a 2012 report, for chrissake! You know there has to have been at least another $2 or $3-billion worth of additional shame, guilt, and vanity profitability since then. Right?
There must be.
So in view of all this, there’s this question, which, is aimed mostly at women evidently: is there a bigger mental and emotional burden in the modern human experience than weight loss?
The fact is, weight loss is a nightmare—a genuine, ceaseless nightmare. Largely a female nightmare, mind you, but a nightmare nonetheless.
And here’s the truth about it: everybody is willing to help people with weight loss—as it pertains to their wallets, at least. Yet nobody prepares people in the ways that matter, or in the areas that will more likely facilitate weight loss success, which are matters and areas mental, emotional, and practical.
So, got your attention? Good.
Sound like something different? Something a little more substantive than before and after pictures? Like an idea that might be of real benefit?
Indeed, it is something unique. Trust me, I won’t let you down.
Basically, I sat at my desk and started jotting down some of my own thoughts on food and weight and weight loss. Some are brief. Some are more detailed. I believe most people want to succeed at losing weight. I just don’t think they grasp all that is involved in that success.
So, beginning with the two most important aspects to success, the issues are as follows:
Rule Number One
When it comes to weight loss, most people don’t realize the forces aligned against them.
Try this scenario: You’re determined to lose weight. So, in compliance with the goal, you begin a regimen, and have a half a grapefruit for breakfast. You feel good about yourself, proud of your choice, your discipline. You feel thinner, even:
Look at me! My pants fit better! you think, getting dressed. And this after but one breakfast on the new diet.
As you walk out the door for work, what is that you see sitting on the counter?
Glazed donuts! The kids love them.
Full of early success resilience, you think, Nope! Defiantly, you turn-up your nose in visual protest, and exit.
Good for you—you’re an oak.
In the car, you turn on the radio. Leaving the neighborhood, you hear: “… so, come on in to Dan Tana’s tonight! Mouthwatering steaks, mahi-mahi, and of course our award-winning desserts…”
I’m hungry, you think. Then, coming to your senses: Nope!
You change the channel.
Only, a few moments later you hear: “… so, come on in to Dan Tana’s tonight! Mouthwatering steaks, mahi-mahi…”
You turn off the radio.
Driving down the road—in silence, the voice in your head says like a mental tour guide, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your right you’ll see Wesley’s—a premier southern-style eatery…”
An invisible force tugging your chin, you glance at Wesley’s, start recalling the scrumptious Chicken Marsala you had there just last week. And those to-die-for scones, you imagine, biting your lower lip.
Stiffening, you think, Nope! Sorry Wesley. You’re not getting in the way of my terrific new body.
Arriving at work, you walk past the coffee counter and, what’s this?
Oh no. Bearclaws! Somebody brought bearclaws! Damn you…whoever! Damn you!!
But wait! Next to the bearclaws, some conscientious fellow member of the struggle brought a vegetable tray! Whew! Thank goodness—something healthy.
Relieved, you make your way to your desk, thinking about the “Battle of the Bearclaw” to come—maybe just a half of one. That’s not so bad, is it? I only had half a grapefruit for breakfast, after all. I’m ahead! Aren’t I?
On your way, you pass Julie’s desk and her large, ever stocked to the brim container of Hershey’s Kisses. You see them and, oh Lord—you’re on your period.
Your gait slows as you approach the conveniently placed, community container. Julie is obese, and wants everyone to share her pain. You’re sweating now.
But, Nope! You look away, and continue to your desk.
And then, Jeff—sitting at the desk next to yours. You can’t believe your eyes. You think: what asshole eats miniature Snickers bars in the morning?!
An ovary barks angrily; you sneer at him. And not only for his breakfast choice, but for the boy-blue penis hat he’s wearing and the furry testicles tied underneath. And there’s the sign leaning against his desk: “Weight Loss Is Sexist!”
He sees you glance. “Going to a protest later,” he says, the words muffled by Snickers melt.
You roll your eyes in disgust, throw you briefcase on the desk.
The bearclaw, you think. It’s calling …
As a distraction you turn on the radio, click—
“…so, come on in to Dan Tana’s tonight! Mouthwatering steaks, mahi-mahi, and of course our award-winning desserts…”
You throw your hands up and head for the bearclaw. And you’re having a whole one, too, dammit!
The point is, this is the level of food temptation people face all day, every day.
Turn on the television—food.
Turn on the computer—food videos.
Turn on the car radio—food advertisements.
Roll down the car window for some air—Five Guys is pumping hamburger aroma straight off the grill and into your car.
Billboards, bus signs—food.
The quick mart for gum, to quell the hunger pangs—not only are there foody impulse buys on every step of the strategically constructed pathway to the counter. They’re grilling hot dogs.
Food is everywhere. Literally everywhere! And the senses are being constantly overrun.
So as I said, when it comes to weight loss, most people don’t realize the forces aligned against them, and against their success.
Hence, Rule Number One: to be successful at weight loss, people have to realize they are more than just tempted by food. They’re immersed in food temptation.
This is, in fact, the most important aspect of the weight loss game. In this contest, food is everything. And not only is it everywhere. In terms of marketing, it’s being made to look irresistible. Advertised apples are vaselined to look shiny and delicious. Donuts are warm and gooey. When has a hamburger in a box looked as well put together and fresh as those on a billboard?
They never resemble the billboard.
Ergo, the accessibility of food and the relentless sensorial temptation are realities for which people must be both acutely aware and prepared.
Rule Number Two
The entire weight issue is the result of a standard. In other words, bodies are only attractive and desirable if they look like “X,” and are unattractive and undesirable if they do not. So, modify yourself to look like “X,” or be seen as an unacceptable and undesirable slob.
Imagine it: a room full of people of diverse body-types. Someone walks in and says, “To be physically acceptable and desirable, you all have to look like me.”
That’s literally what we’re talking about with this standard business.
Of course, someone isn’t actually saying it. It’s implied—implied visually, through cultural media, via super models and hunky men with abs, via people of elite attractiveness, and through before and after pictures, too. Those sorts of things. And having their mediocrity implied every moment of the day, and everywhere they look, how do people respond?
Why, they awake every day to a substandard existence.
Hence, in the weight loss game, this standard business is as important to recognize as food temptation, and is just as onerous.
And as to that standard, consider this: most of these standard-bearers can’t maintain relationships for being philanderers and narcissists. They have addiction problems, broken homes, and ill-behaved children. And when the cameras are off, they’re smug, condescending assholes no one but their parasitic posses can stand to be around. And that they have zero body fat and ripped abs—that’s the important standard?
So here’s the message: set your own standards and your own goals.
It’s Rule Number Two.
Eating—that’s the problem
So stop with all the political, scientific BS. Food going in the mouth equals weight gain and fatter bodies. Rather, too much food going in the mouth equals weight gain and fatter bodies.
Don’t believe it?
Go to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The visible rib cages? Not enough food going into mouths there.
And food isn’t the enemy, either. The constantly bending elbow is the enemy, which food manufacturers want to encourage, naturally. Not maliciously so, but profitably so. Manufacturer’s want people opening their mouths and shoving-in their products as frequently and as liberally as possible.
Solving any problem starts with identifying the problem, which in this case is a lack of discipline. To which there are these two truths: one, people are rarely as hungry as they think. And two, exposed to food at every turn, people are being conditioned to hunger, and to thinking they are hungry. In other words, Rule Number One: people are being constantly provoked to eat.
We could come up with a load of Pavlovian data as to how the senses and the brain respond to the sight, smells, and the mentions of food. But, is that really necessary?
People are made hungry for profit. So to win at weight loss, they simply have to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the ubiquitous assault on their senses, prepared for the associated hunger feelings, and steeled in their resolve to disjoint the constantly bending elbow.
Winning at weight loss really is that simple.
Manufacturers will say anything to entice consumers. What advertisers are saying now is already intellectually insulting. At the current rate, a package of bon-bons will soon read: “Special Formula: Gets rid of muffin-top and dimpled thighs. The more you consume, the better the effect! So eat all you want!”
There’ll be 17 year old, bikini-clad super model on the package shoving bon-bons in her mouth, too. Only, for the sinless flavor experience she’ll only allow the bon-bons to melt, upon which she’ll spit the entire mess out.
And why spit the mess out? To avoid muffin-top and dimpled thighs, of course.
The perfected visual is for all those suckers who believe there’s a “Special Formula.”
And the super model—she’ll make $3 mil, incidentally. A not-so-sinless $3-mil, perhaps, deceiving consumers and all.
The Downside of Prosperity
There is nothing at all wrong with prosperity, except that it has the tendency to make people comfortable, lazy, undisciplined, and fat—pretty much in that order.
The American experience—awesome though it is—would have people confined to the sofa. Its goal is to cater to people, to make things easier for them. So much so, that people actually have to move less.
Got a remote? Check.
Got an Echo Dot?—“Alexa? Turn on the robotic vacuum.” Check.
Got the robotic vacuum? Check.
The marketplace says to people: “Relax. Let us make your life easier.”
Why this approach?
Because human beings tend toward laziness. Thus, the “Relax” strategy is an extremely seductive marketing approach. Therefore, people have to resist the seduction. Else they become comfortable, lazy, undisciplined, and fat.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
People can look at themselves approvingly in the mirror one minute: Not so bad. I’m looking pretty good! And for “looking pretty good,” they can then travel straight to the kitchen and eat a donut. And returning to the mirror immediately after the donut, they have a completely different self-perception: Ugh. I’m so fat.
There is no way eating a single donut can change one’s physical appearance a single degree—not a single degree! So, what changed? The change occurred mentally, emotionally. Driven by guilt and vanity, the mind simply created a new perception. A fatter perception.
In the weight loss/body image battle, the perception change not only underscores the power of the mind, and its less than encouraging nature. It highlights the need for positive mental and thus emotional reinforcement. The mirror isn’t the enemy, no more than food is the enemy.
The mirror merely reports exactly what it sees. People apply the feelings and ultimate perception, which should be positive, which then requires an unnatural human response, which should become natural, which can only become natural through continual practice.
Self-approval and promotion—that’s how people stay optimistic and motivated, and how they succeed at the weight loss game.
Friends Like These, Right?
Your friends—and family, too—will sabotage your weight loss efforts.
It’s true! Particularly for women.
Men say to each other, “You lost some weight, Jim. Good for you. So, are you going hit the ball, or are we just going to stand here?” Men couldn’t care less about their friends losing weight.
Women on the other hand—85% loathing their bodies and dieting, they don’t like other women succeeding at weight loss. Women say they’re happy and supportive, but they aren’t, really. They’re jealous, envious.
Thus, women are waaay more subject to having their weight loss efforts sabotaged. And by other women, no less—specifically their so-called friends and their family members.
The answer? Secrecy.
“My goodness, Barbara! Are you dieting? You look so much thinner!”
“I do? Nope. Eating like I always do—a few less sweets maybe. Girrrl, I abhor dieting. I’m opposed to it.”
With the secrecy approach, there’s no saboteurish jealousy and envy among Barbara’s girlfriends. It isn’t to say there isn’t jealousy and envy over Barbara’s new luster. It’s to say there’s not the type that necessitates sabotage. Barbara isn’t disciplining herself or making any efforts. Her weight loss is inexplicable and fortunate, instead of resulting from self-discipline and dieting, which would then be irritating and worthy of sabotage.
Oh c’mon, Barbara! Try one of these scones. They’re from Wesley’s and, oh-my-gosh!, they’re sooo delicious. Just one bite. C’mon. Just one. Try it. C’mon …
Friends like these, right ladies?
Two points: one, nobody cares about someone else’s diet. Two, talking about dieting is just an effort to get attention.
So, shut-up about it, and secretly do what you have to do. Given the human tendency towards jealousy, and the tendency of the jealous to dull the luster of those who achieve, the less people know the better.
Atonement Takes, Like, Two Seconds
Russell bounced around at 260 pounds for twenty years, a weight and subsequent appearance he sorely disliked, but did nothing about. He had a health crisis, ultimately. Alarmed, and with consequent purpose, he began a stringent diet and started exercising.
He was a svelte 190 pounds within 6 months.
Three points: one, twenty years of self-loathing and emotional misery, versus, six months to a new body, a new appearance, happiness, and self-confidence. Twenty years is a long time to suffer physically, mentally, and specifically emotionally over 70 pounds that can be lost in six months.
In other words, you can sin like a heathen for twenty years and atone in six months, or so.
What a bargain. And it’s true.
End the suffering
Two, that it requires crisis to motivate people is a sad commentary.
And three—okay so, people end the suffering in six months and reach their “goal weight.” Then what? The weight struggle is over? No more worrying about food and calories? No more self-discipline?
Weight control is a lifelong challenge. Get used to it.
Invest six months, accomplish the goal, and live your life in a healthier and happier way from then on.
The only exercise people need when trying to lose weight is cardio. Burning calories and raising metabolism is what facilitates weight loss, along with disciplined eating, of course.
Walking, jogging, treadmill—dedicate to cardio. Achieve the desired weight, and then incorporate muscle training and toning.
When people decide to lose weight they bite off more than they can chew mentally, emotionally, and particularly physically. A vigorous workout approach is defeating. Formerly unchallenged muscles aren’t ready for the physical trauma of strenuous exercise. And when their muscles and bodies revolt for the trauma, people quit.
It’s no way to approach weight loss.
It’s not a sprint to your weight and fitness and health goals. It’s a marathon. Like I said, it’s a lifelong challenge. Treat is as such—approach it that way.
Start casually, comfortably, and continue the cardio routine and pace for a few months. The leisurely, virtually pain-free approach will not only help maintain motivation and desire. More importantly, it will serve to develop both every day consistency and the exercise habit. As the body acclimates, it will also strengthen. Endurance will increase, too.
Ultimately, people will feel better. Their confidence and desire will increase. They’ll feel disciplined and successful. And to continue feeling physically better, and to continue the successful vibes, they’ll feel more like exercising.
None of which occurs when a body is traumatized and in angry revolt, incidentally.
They talk about the fitness lifestyle—it’s habit, that’s all it is. And if people are going to make it a habit, then they’re going to have to enjoy it. They’re going to have to feel the benefits, without so much of the discouraging burn. By taking this approach, and by making fitness a marathon as opposed to a pain-ridden sprint, people will get to a point where they have to exercise or feel otherwise crappy.
Then, it’s an addiction. Then, it’s a lifestyle. Then, it’s sustainable.
For working out in a public setting, there’s this little nugget: nobody is looking at you, and judging you. Everybody is too self-absorbed, too aware of their own flabby flaws. So stop being so self-conscious. Most people don’t give a damn. They’re too busy giving a damn about how they look.
In losing weight, start with mental and emotional fitness. That’s right—get your head right. Set down all the baggage and get yourself in the right place emotionally. It’s the precursor to success in the physical realm.
People spend so much time and energy on the cosmetic outer. Well, what about the inner? The inner is the furnace. Determination, will, focus—it’s where all the good and necessary stuff comes from. People can have the bodies everyone is supposed to want, yet they are still miserable.
Why? Because they haven’t invested in their mental and emotional fitness.
Vanity: fix the outside because it’s visible, neglect the inside because it isn’t.
To win at weight loss, people have to start with the inside. Otherwise, they’re in for a bumpy, inconsistent journey to virtually assured failure.
UCLA’s legendary John Wooden said, “People usually know what they should do to get what they want. They just won’t do it. They won’t pay the price.” He said, “Understand there is a price to be paid for achieving anything of significance. You must be willing to pay the price.”
Weight loss is largely vanity- and thus image-driven. It lays on people’s mind because they don’t like the way they look as compared to a fitter standard. And as to that standard, consider this: if everybody in a culture was fat, the culture would look down on thinness and skinny people.
Basically, and except for health-related issues, the entire weight loss thing revolves around a whole lotta’ nothin’. That’s why people don’t want to pay the weight loss price—because they aren’t really achieving anything of significance, wanting only the ego-warming admiration and envy of others.
In other words, weight loss is based on desires and pretenses that aren’t going to provide sustaining motivation. And even if they do provide motivation, when people achieve their goals they still have to maintain that new position.
Thus, it only makes sense that weight loss be driven by something more substantive and motivational. And what is that something more substantive and motivational?
Personal excellence—that’s the answer.
People can say to themselves: I’m not happy with where I am mentally, emotionally, physically. I don’t like my attitude, my lack of discipline. I don’t like the way I feel about myself or the image I’m presenting. Ultimately, I don’t like where my life is headed. I want to be a better, more complete version of myself—the best version of myself.
Nobody places more demand and pressure on us than ourselves. So, make it the right kind of demand and pressure: the demand for personal discipline and the pressure of excellence. We just get used to compromising, and to letting ourselves down. The habit perpetuates, which ultimately kills the demand for discipline and excellence.
And then—the rut of mediocrity we fall into.
The best pep-talk ever given can’t get people out of that rut, either.
Rescue comes from within.