Weight Loss and Maintenance by Al Coon

"Stan made a grab for the shrub, long before it was in reach, and somehow managed to get a grip on it anyway. His hand clamped down on that bush like a vice. If they were going over, the bush was coming with them! "

"The age old battle between management and labor has been going on ever since there have been people on planet Earth, because all of us have been playing both parts in our own heads."

" If our young man is rewarded for cutting wood by having his mother (management) praise his actions as being important to the family, and as making a wonderful contribution to their happiness and survival, he might even be more motivated to chop wood than he was to play baseball. The way he perceives his reward makes all of the difference. "

Al Coon Motivation: Stoking the Fire

A Simple Case of Motivation

At the end of the Second World War a group of American GI's was searching for Japanese soldiers who were still hiding in the hills of Okinawa. The GI's were in a straggle line, combing the area along the edge of a very deep ravine, on a sharp incline that fell away towards the cliff at a dangerous angle. George, the soldier third out from the drop, stumbled over a protruding rock and lost his footing. Suddenly, he was sliding on the loose gravel, and picking up speed on his way towards certain death.

Shortly after that, luck ran out for Tim, the second man away from the edge, as his feet were knocked out from under him by George, whose arms and legs were spread wide and swinging wildly in search of anything that might slow him down. George latched on to Tim like a drowning swimmer grabbing a life saver; however, that did nothing to slow down the deadly slide. As he too found himself uncontrollably sliding, Tim felt doubly helpless, because, not only could he not get any traction to slow him down, he was also carrying a terrified George on his back. Things looked very grim indeed.

Stan was walking with great care. He was far too close to that lethal drop for his liking. As you might imagine, he took each step warily, taking no chances. He frequently glanced over the lip of the cliff, to the rocky bottom far below, feeling happy that he was still on top, and walking on solid ground. Since he was so focused on not making a false step himself, he was not paying any attention to his lucky friends. They were walking higher up, farther away from death's jaws, and were in a much safer position than he was in: life just wasn't fair!

Then he found that life was even less fair than he had imagined. Suddenly he felt his legs struck at the knees with a tremendous force, and with complete surprise, he saw his boots fly up over his own head. Stan had joined the "toboggan team," as lead man on the sled. Tim moved back to position two, as his arms and legs powerfully wrapped around Stan like a boa constrictor preparing dinner. Both of the front men on the team were being assisted on their way by George's mass, attached onto Tim's body like a new appendage. The three men appeared to be doomed.

Though completely terrified, and struggling with all of their might, the sliders could do nothing to prevent the edge from coming at them in a rush. The only thing between them and the Grim Reaper's sickle was a shrub, apparently sickly and fragile: a bit of growth would have gone completely unnoticed under other circumstances. But now, to the lost men, it took on the appearance of a giant redwood.

Stan made a grab for the shrub, long before it seemed to be within reach and somehow managed to get a grip on it anyway. His hand clamped down on that bush like a vice. If they were going over, the bush was coming with them!

Instead, somehow the grasped branch held tight to the rest of the bush, and the roots held the bush in place in the loose soil. That little bit of vegetation saved all three of the men—that bush, and Stan's unrelenting grip upon it.

Their near-fatal slide had been brought to a halt just in time, but they were still looking over the edge, a long ways down. Gravity continued to tug at them, and the gravel gave no traction whatsoever. Pebbles, sliding past them, dropped into the abyss. None of them could move a muscle.

While the men sat there, frozen on the brink of death, their buddies set out to save them. A rope was quickly found, and then, with a great deal of effort, just like moving stone statues, they were able to individually peel George and Tim off Stan's back, and move them up the hill to solid ground.

Next, the rope was tied around Stan. However, his hand didn't understand that all was well and he was safe. He could not let go of the bush. His buddies finally decided to cut the branch, and deal with freeing his grip later. Only after Stan was standing on solid ground, far away from the cliff, could he relax his grip on that branch.

In this case, the three GI's didn't have to dig deep inside to find their motivation. No inner searching was required. It came to them in a rush and it was prepackaged, ready for use. They were instantly and completely motivated, placing everything else aside, so that they could hang on and be saved. But not all motivation is so easily obtained, or once acquired, so persistent in remaining with us.

Creating Motivation

In building your own motivation, you must play two separate roles: manager; and worker. The age old battle between management and labor has been going on ever since there have been people on planet Earth, because all of us have been playing both parts in our own heads. We have our good intentions and our high aimed goals, all purposed by our management side, and we have our actual actions that are performed by our worker side.

As is the case with a business, either partner in this dance team can trip up the operation. It takes the two partners working in concert to produce the results we are looking for. So, let's look at both sides.

In leadership and management courses, managers are taught that workers are often motivated by having realistic goals: something to aim for that they can actually accomplish. If a manager expects workers to accomplish more than they can actually do, the workers will become frustrated, because most workers want to do a good job.

It is critical that the goal also be clearly defined, so that there is no question as to whether or not the worker has actually hit the target. When there is ambiguity in the goal, both the manager and the worker may have completely different ideas as to whether or not the goal was reached. This leads to conflict, and is demotivating to the worker. When everything is clear--everyone is speaking the same language--there is no doubt (or conflict) as to whether or not the goal was attained, and frustration is kept to a minimum.

Finding the Proper Carrot

Just having some arbitrary target to hit is not enough. It has to also be embraced by the one who is being motivated. That is a little trickier. How do you help someone become interested in doing something that is not inherently interesting, or pleasant, and not only do it, but do it in a vigorous manner?

Think of a young man who will represent the worker for us. He has been tasked with walking out into the woods, and chopping down a tree, and then cutting it up into firewood. Now, think of the same young man going down to the park and playing baseball all afternoon. In both cases he may well expend the same amount of effort in completing either of his tasks, but he goes and plays baseball, swinging a bat, because he wants to, and he goes and cuts wood, swinging an ax, because he has to.

There has to be a reward in order for someone to be motivated to do something. In baseball, our young man enjoys the feel of hitting a ball and watching it go long and deep into the outfield, and maybe over the fence. He gets a pat on the back from his friends (in this case filling in the role of management) when he knocks in a run, or chases down a long fly ball, and makes the catch. In his mind, he is rewarded sufficiently well for all of his effort, no matter how strenuous, to justify what he is doing. And even though he is tired and sweaty, the reward he receives will create a desire within him to do it again next week.

If our young man is rewarded for cutting wood by having his mother (management) praise his actions as being important to the family, and as making a wonderful contribution to their happiness and survival, he might even be more motivated to chop wood than he was to play baseball. The way he perceives his reward makes all of the difference.

On the flip side, if the young man comes home and gets no praise for his efforts, or perhaps is even unjustly criticized for how he did it, he will look upon his woodcutting responsibilities with disgust and anger. The "manager side" of our brains must provide positive rewards, so that our "worker side" will be happy to produce the results that the whole you so much wishes to obtain. Motivation is an emotional beast, and we must provide positive emotional food if we are going to feed it.

Motivational emotion is created when one happily views the results of completing a task as being positive. If you see crossing the finish line as being a great and wonderful thing, you will ignore blisters and tired legs, while you continue on to the end. It is not uncommon to see an athlete complete a sporting event after sustaining an injury that would have sent him immediately to an emergency room under normal conditions.

When the train of your mind is hitched up behind a powerful motivation engine, with a well-stoked fire heating the emotional boiler, there is almost no limit to what you can do. People deal with pain, inconvenience, hunger, thirst, and all sorts of other obstacles in order to do something that they really want to do. For example, just imagine what hardship you might be willing to put up with if you knew a million dollars were waiting on the other side of it.

Motivation For Your Journey

In the area of weight loss, there is an almost infinite reservoir of potential motivation awaiting you. The rewards associated with becoming thin, living thin, and remaining thin, are as wide and diverse as the breadth of your imagination. I couldn't hope to list all the possibilities, but just think about:

Buying Clothes – This is something that can very easily produce positive emotional images:

During the losing phase, as you watch your weight fall, the feeling is very positive as your clothes get looser and looser on you, and then have to be replaced with smaller clothes, which grow looser in their turn. Positive feelings lead to more motivation, always!

When you are at your goal weight year after year, you can buy the clothes that you want to buy for yourself, and look good in them. You can replace clothes if they wear out, if you cease to like them, or if they go out of style, but you never have to replace them because you outgrow them. More motivation.

Motion – think of the effort that it takes to sit down and get up out of your favorite chair today. Think of what it would be like if you were 50, 100, or more pounds overweight, and then think of what it would be like if you were at your goal weight.

If you are losing weight, it is extremely helpful to be able to visualize what it will be like to move through your days when you are at goal. Picturing the energy that you will have can help you create great castles of positive thoughts. Imagine walking, or even running, up stairs that you used to avoid completely by taking the elevator, and still feeling fresh and comfortable after reaching the top. Is that not a positive image? I experience that today, and even after years at being at goal, I find it very motivating!

Simple things like going shopping, or walking around a theme park, are made so much easier when you are at your goal weight. Using your mind to imagine what it would be like, can create the positive feelings that generate a great deal of motivation. If you are maintaining, imagine what it would be like if you put the weight back on that you have lost. If you are losing, imagine what it would be like to be at goal. In either direction, you can create very positive feelings about being at your goal weight, and from that construct your all-important motivation.

Health— Where is your health heading? Are you at your goal weight? Then you know that certain unfortunate things may be farther away from you than they would be if you were overweight: diabetes; high-blood pressure; heart attack; stroke; and perhaps knee replacement surgery. If you are not at goal, you can create very positive images of being at goal by picturing what your health improvements might be if you were there. The more positive and clear your personal images are of your rewards, the more motivation you will derive from them.

Self Esteem— There is absolutely no reason why you should feel that you are less important or less valuable simply because you are overweight. You are a unique creature, with your own spark of life that is unlike any other in the universe. You are valuable no matter what you weigh. If it were up to me, you would have complete serenity with who you are, and complete joy that you are just who you are, regardless of what the scale says, or what size clothes you wear.

However, there is a natural tendency to feel better about ourselves, when we look a certain way. Call it vanity, or merely a natural wish to look our best. Whatever it is, for most of us, we must admit it exists. And when it exists, we would do well to take full advantage of it to use it to create even more motivation.

Imagine how you would feel being at goal. If that makes you feel positive, as it does with most people, then use it! Grab onto that image, and tap into those positive feelings to build up your reservoir of motivational drive.

What Would You Be Willing To Pay?

If you could put a down payment on being at your goal weight for the rest of your life, and then follow up with monthly installments in order to make it happen, what would you be willing to pay? Most of us would be willing to invest a lot of our money in order to guarantee that we could obtain and hold on to our thin (at goal weight) self.

If you were willing to pay thousands of dollars to reach this dream, it might be well to think of what you would be offering. Just for sake of argument, let's say you are earning $15 per hour. After Uncle Sam has taken his "fair share" of your earnings, you are down to maybe $10 an hour. That means that you would be offering about 100 hours of work for every 1000 dollars of investment that you make. What if you decided to offer the time instead of the money?

As it turns out, you can invest just a small percentage of the time you would be willing to invest as money, and accomplish the very thing your heart desires. The time it takes to plan your meals, to exercise, and to write everything down, is very minor when compared to the hours that thousands of dollars represents to you.

There is something else that you have at your fingertips, the part that you would so much be willing to pay for: a guarantee. Ah, that is the tricky part of weight loss. No one can sell you a guarantee, and you know why? The only guarantee that you can possess concerning your weight loss comes from inside your own heart. Only you can guarantee your own success. No one else can, for any amount of money.

The runner takes another step, not because someone paid him money to do so, but because he has chosen to take that step. He drives to the finish line because he has made the guarantee to himself that he will finish this race.

The Personal Guarantee

When you make your own personal guarantee with yourself, you take the reins in your own hands and make it all happen. In order for you to do this, you have to do the following:

  1. Have in your own mind a clear picture of what it is exactly that you want. It has to live inside you. Do you want to wear certain clothes? Do you want to walk to the top of a mountain? Do you want to look at your reflection in a full-length mirror and smile in appreciation at what you see?

    This cannot be some fluffy, sketchy, ambiguous picture. It must have substance and the more detail the better! If this image doesn't live in your imagination, you must pursue it until it does. Keep at it until you know precisely what you are aiming for. Make it real, and make it wonderful, because this will be the vehicle you will be riding all the way to your goal.

  2. Now that you know what you want, it is time to breathe life into it, and make it live. For example: do you want to wear a particular style of clothes? Get some pictures out of magazines of the clothes you most want to wear, and put them up where you can see them every day. Include one or more of them on your refrigerator, and on your cupboards in your kitchen. Go down to the store and look those very clothes over on the shelves. Hold them in your hands. Imagine what it would be like wearing them. Bring your reward for losing weight and maintaining your weight out in the open, and put it right "on the front burner" of your life.

    Refresh your image of all the things that you want to have as a result of your successful Journey continually. Never let a day go by that you don't think about what you are going to have once you have achieved your goal. Reinforce your internal image of your rewards, so that they will always be alive within you. Every vehicle must have a motive force, and your living image of your rewards will be an integral part of what will be driving yours.

    Nearly all programs and books on weight loss fail to deal properly with weight maintenance after you actually reach your target weight. So, I want to point out here that this step is just as important during the maintenance phase as it is during the weight loss phase.

    Count your blessings, or you will lose them to apathy! Take stock of what you have gained by losing: do it early, and do it often--do it today! If you fail to emotionally celebrate being at goal, you will tend to take it for granted.

    It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and this is nowhere more true than being at your goal weight. By taking your situation for granted, and being apathetic towards your journey, you will cast great buckets of water onto the fire of your motivation, and you will see it go out before your very eyes. The weight will creep back on, slowly at first, and then faster over time.

    You can stop that from happening, by rejoicing in your positive thoughts about where you are today, and by using that emotion to build motivation in continuing to plan out your days, and all the important parts of your continuing journey.

    The Weight Loss Journey is not a short vacation trip, but a complete and permanent move to paradise, if you are willing to make it happen!

    Once you reach this point, you are nearly there. You have the destination clearly set in your mind, and you now also have all the wonderful events and attractions that you are going to so much enjoy once you get there very clearly pictured. The fact that they are in the future doesn't make them any less desirable—any more than planning all the fun parts of a future vacation will lessen their attraction. Anticipation is nearly as enjoyable as actually being there already!

  3. You know where you are going, and what you are going to do once you get there. It is time to plan the actual trip. Let's make a game of this! Games are fun, and planning a trip can be an enjoyable part of the vacation experience.

    Dotti and I always have fun checking out the possibilities on a road trip. How many miles a day do we want to drive? What sort of motel are we going to be stopping at? What landmarks will we be seeing along the way and which of these will we be stopping at and visiting? Will we be swimming in an indoor pool, or shopping at a mall in this town or that? Even the route for the roads we will be taking and potential weather conditions are factors that we look into long before we actually start our trip.

    When you look at your weight loss journey as an actual journey from where you are today, with your current set of conditions contained in your current lifestyle, to the wonderful destination of being at your goal weight--to remain there for the rest of your life--and there celebrating your rewards with gusto, you can see that it is going to be a fun trip! And it can be a wonderful experience planning the whole thing!

    In other articles we will be discussing the actual planning, and the details of the plans that we will be creating, but here it is important to hold on to the concept of the process being fun, because we are eager for the trip, and most of all for our arrival at our happy destination, just like when we drive great distances to enjoy a vacation. This time it will be a combination of a wonderful vacation, and a permanent move at the same time, a move to the very special place where we have always dreamed of living. This is exciting!

  4. Now that we have set our destination, lined out our agenda for after we arrive, and planned out our entire route, it is time to actually make the trip. The car is loaded up, the kids are happily set in the back seat, and we are pulling out of the driveway to head down the road. Can you feel the excited energy of expectation? We are finally on our way!

    Unfortunately, too many people on a weight loss journey lose sight of the fact that they are on a happy, enjoyable road to their destination. It is not just the destination that is very interesting and fun, but the trip itself.

    If someone were on a vacation road trip, and he chose to look at it in a negative way, he could view it as being trapped inside a boring box on wheels. Mile after grueling mile will have to be tolerated before he can reach his destination and maybe start having some fun: that is, if it isn't raining when he finally arrives.

    On the other hand, he could make the very same trip while singing a happy song with his family, enjoying all the interesting scenery as it passes by. He could be looking for things to share, and sharing the things that the others point out. In other words, he could be having the time of his life, instead of being miserable.

    In a similar way, the Weight Loss Journey can be filled with games and happy events if we choose to let them enter in. There is no reason for misery, any more than there is need for it on a vacation.

    On a weight loss journey there are many steps that we will be taking. We will see our clothes become too large for us. Isn't that fun? How exciting! First they are a bit loose perhaps, we are not sure. Then they are for sure getting looser. Finally they are just too loose to wear any longer. It's time for smaller clothes. That is a major landmark! Watching the numbers on the scale slowly drop, like a backwards odometer marking off the miles of trip, helps us know that we are indeed traveling in the right direction. Seeing the rewards that we are continuing to keep fresh in our mind, getting closer and closer to us, inspires within us even more enthusiasm for our trip.

    It is our daily task to polish and buff our positive view of our journey. By looking at the positive side of what we are doing, we can nearly always "keep the shiny side up" and hold on to that happy vacation-like atmosphere. Just like on a regular vacation trip, there are challenges to overcome. No vacation is complete without a few mishaps, but that just adds more zest to the telling of it afterwards, doesn't it? We are on a marvelous trip and we have every reason to be excited and happy about it! Who cares if there are some road construction obstacles to get by, or a flat tire we weren't counting on? We are going to reach our destination and we are going to have a great time, not only when we get there, but right now on the road to our goal weight.

  5. The final piece of the motivation puzzle for our trip is the actual guarantee. When you go on a vacation, you don't wonder if you are going to reach your destination. You know you are! You know where you are going. You know pretty much what you are going to do once you get there. You know exactly how you are going to get there, including the mode of transportation, the route, the stops, milestones, and so forth. In your mind, it has already been accomplished.

    When you have everything in place for a vacation trip, or a move to a better location, you never think, "If we make our destination, we will have fun." Instead, you think, "When we reach our destination, we will have fun." It is not a question of whether or not you will get there, but only when you will get there. In your heart it is a deed already accomplished in spirit, and performing the actual deed is not in question at all. In other words, you have given yourself a guarantee of accomplishment for your task of reaching your vacation destination. So it is with a successful weight loss journey.

Living in the Guarantee

You now know that you are going to reach your destination, because you have given your personal guarantee. You have a real destination, with real and exciting rewards awaiting your arrival. You have a complete trip plan made up, wherein you have laid out your entire route to your destination, and identified all the important milestones along the way. You have begun your journey to goal, and a lifetime of weight maintenance, and you have a bright positive attitude about the trip, eagerly looking forward to many happy times along the way. And finally, you have certified this entire package with your personal guarantee that you are going to reach your destination. Let's have a quick look at how this all is going to work.

Just like on a vacation trip, each morning when you wake up, you know what you have planned for the day. Your meals, your snacks, and your exercise goals are all set, because you preplanned your trip. Today, you have certain things that you are going to do, because you have planned your way in advance, and you have determined that these things are all going to contribute to your journey. The contribution may be in the area of enjoyment, or the area of covering the distance between where you are and where you want to be, or perhaps both.

There is going to be something new today. That is a simple fact of life. No two days are exactly alike, and it is up to us to gather in what comes to us each day and enjoy it. On a vacation we already know it, and are looking for it, but it is true everyday: today is special, and it is part of your journey to your goal. There are going to be things happening today that can bring you joy, if only you will look for them. Don't worry about whether it is half full or half empty, but be happy that there is a glass, and that there is some water in it to quench your thirst.

More than just having a positive attitude and keeping the shiny side up, living in your guarantee means confidence. Today you are doing to be on the right road to your destination, because you know you are going to reach your goal, and that is the road you will take to reach it—it's on your map!

If things get bumpy because the road you are on has not been well maintained, and has some chuckholes, you may have to slow down, or even reroute your path around the difficulty, but the one thing you will not do is give up. You are living in your personal guarantee that you are going to reach your destination and NOTHING CAN STOP YOU from doing it. A small modification of your plans is okay, but the overall plan is set in concrete and you will not allow it to change. You are going to reach your goal and that is GUARANTEED!

Confidence is critical when things get rough. I was playing racquetball one day several years ago, and I had played poorly early in the game. I was 10 points behind, and my opponent was only a point or two from winning the game. The easy thing to do would be to get that game over with and start a new one; however, something suddenly fired up inside me. I told myself, "I am not going to lose this game!" I don't know why it was suddenly so important, but my mind was made up. I would not give up another point, and I would play my hardest all along the way until I had victory in my hands.

Suddenly my focus was absolute, and I hit every ball well. My emotions were driving my game far more than my intellect. I hustled around the court and played every point like it was a life and death matter. And I won the game. I had actually won it when I was 10 points behind, because I made up my mind at that time that I was NOT going to lose the game. I made a personal guarantee to myself that I was going to pull this game out. I knew I could, and better yet, I knew I would! There was no turning me back after I set my mind to it. Without that confidence, and the goal that I had set, I would have certainly lost the game.

A racquetball game has no real long-term significance, certainly far less than a weight loss journey has. However, the principle is the same. When you have it set in your heart that you are "not going to lose this game," no matter what, it will provide to you the drive when you most need it to get past those difficult spots. When the "legs are tired" and the "feet are sore," the confidence of the finisher keeps you going right to the end.

Without the confidence, and the personal guarantee of finishing, it is far too easy to quit. However, when you are sure of victory, no hurtle is too high, and no obstacle to large. If one road is closed, you will find a detour, take that alternate route, and still arrive at your destination. That is the way things work when you are guaranteed to succeed.

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