Weight Loss and Maintenance by Al Coon

"The first words out of my mouth (well almost the first) were, "Now I will have to go to medical!" "

"Time is everything to us. Nothing happens without time."

" For hundreds of years we had Newton's laws of motion to work with. We understood gravity well enough to figure out exactly what it would take to go to the moon. But that was not enough to create "Tranquility Base." "

Al Coon Doing What Must Be Done


I was playing shortstop on the Midway Island NAVFAC (Naval Facilities) slow pitch softball team, and we were warming up before a game. I was standing in my position and our pitcher lobbed a ball into one of our guys taking batting practice. He got a really good piece of the ball and sent it screaming my way on a hot line drive. It was well hit, but no more so than hundreds of other shots that I had easily fielded during my 25 years of life. I grew up loving baseball, and I had played a lot of it. Later that year I would end up flying into Honolulu to play on the Midway All Star softball team. So, a hard line drive hit right to me was an easy play, normally.

Today, my reaction was just a bit off; it doesn't take much when you are dealing with an object that is moving at around one hundred miles-per-hour. I brought my glove up to be directly in line with the ball's flight path. No problem there. All that was left was to open the glove, and make the catch. The thumb of the glove was in place and I was just lifting the fingers, in order to expose the pocket of the glove to the hissing projectile heading at me, when the ball arrived, a fraction of a second earlier than I had planned for. Instead of hitting the open pocket of my glove, and making that satisfying pop, the ball crashed into the backside of the fingers of the glove.

My first reaction was surprise that I had muffed such an easy play, followed by happiness that it had happened during practice, and not in a game, when it would have done some harm. However, these feelings were quickly replaced by a sharp pain that I was feeling in my hand. I yanked off my glove to have a look, and there it was: my ring finger was wrong. The tip of the finger was pointed over towards my middle finger, while the rest of the finger was still aimed on a more or less parallel path with it. This was a new experience for me; but I knew at once that it was not good.

The first words out of my mouth (well almost the first) were, "Now I will have to go to medical!" On Midway Island our medical facilities were not top notch, and I enthusiastically avoided contact with them. But sometimes you just have to do what must be done. So, in spite of my normal tendencies to the contrary, my mind was quickly set to head on down to visit the doc.

In the meantime, I studied the finger, and I decided to see how badly it would hurt to move it. I carefully grabbed the misbehaving fingertip and rotated it counterclockwise, back towards the position in which I was more accustomed to seeing it. It didn't hurt much to move it, and the next thing you know I had it all the way back in line with the rest of the finger, and then serendipity! The fingertip popped back into place all by itself. I breathed a happy sigh of relief and said, "Now I won't have to go to medical!"

Sadly, not all of life has been so fortunate for me. Sometimes, what must be done will not so easily be avoided.

This Very Day

Today is 24 hours long. That is 1,440 minutes of time, or 86,400 seconds that you have been allocated to use as you see fit.

Using this gift is a challenge. The time will pass, but you must perceive it passing as it goes. You have to face things that last a certain amount of time, like hunger, stress, joy, and anger. It is like a strong wind blowing things at you, and then carrying them away. Sometimes it is all that you can do just to hang on, and hope the bad stuff doesn't stick around too long.

The difference between happiness and unhappiness is found in the way that we perceive this passage of time. If we are comfortable with what we perceive, we are tranquil, and happy. If we are uncomfortable with it, we will be the opposite.

If you are going to a party, you might perceive that as a wonderful opportunity to intermingle with friends, and to meet some exciting new people. You might be eager to share in the fun of the event. Or, you might perceive it as an oppressive situation, where you have to make stilted conversation with thoughtless and mean people, checking your watch and wishing it was over. In reality, the difference is not so much in the parties themselves, but rather in how you perceive them.

Your perception of reality is self contained, and only you can change it for the long term. Today, you will be forced to face up to the real possibility of failure in your life, your relationships, your work, and your eating.

Not only is today a challenge, but it is an opportunity! Time is everything to us. Nothing happens without time. So, today you are given an allocation of time to use. All good things take time to accomplish, and to be enjoyed. Today is your opportunity to do that.

Today, you can make things better. You have 86,400 seconds to use in constructive ways, and they are handed to you, one at a time, all day long. Today you can take at least one step in the right direction, because you have the time to do it, and you know what must be done.

You may not know all of the details just yet, but you do know the general direction that you want to move in. When you don't know the details, you at least know that you need to get them. If you do already know the details of what you need to do, you hold the answer to the question, "What must I do to accomplish my goal?" Other essays in this series will be dealing with this question in more detail. What we are focusing on today is doing what must be done.

Knowing is not Doing.

If knowledge were all that we needed to succeed, there would be no need for more than one informative book on weight loss, but clearly that is not the case. Recently, when Dotti and I were eating at Sweet Tomatoes, I removed the lid of my Diet Snapple, and I turned it over to read what was written on the inside, as I normally do. Here is what it said:

Real Fact #104
There are more than 30,000 diets on public record.

You would think with all of these attempts at describing how to lose weight that at least one of them would have the answer. But knowledge is not enough, even for the nutritionally sound eating plans, which most diets are not.

We must also apply our knowledge. For hundreds of years we had Newton's laws of motion to work with. We understood gravity well enough to figure out exactly what it would take to go to the moon. But that was not enough to create "Tranquility Base." We had to build and test the rockets, and make the effort to get us there.

Similarly, knowing how to eat right, in order to control our weight, is not enough. We also have to apply that knowledge. We need to both know how many calories we should eat, and then actually eat them, and only them, in order to have the results that we want.

As with any treasure, your time today will be fought over. The battle lines will be drawn up and the forces will be arrayed for battle. Who or what will be participating?

The Laws of Physics form the neutral field of battle. These laws will make you gain weight or lose weight based solely upon your actions. They don't care which it is. They don't take sides in your battle.

The beauty of this is that the deck is not stacked against you. If you eat right, you will lose weight, and you will reach your goal. If you continue to eat right, you will remain at your goal weight for the rest of your life. The laws of physics will insure this.

On the other hand, if you eat wrong, the laws of physics will unmercifully continue on their way, adding fat weight to your body. The laws of physics cannot be bargained with, nor will they listen to reason; they only control cause and effect transactions. They will referee the battle that you will be fighting each day.

Who is fighting against you?

In the final analysis, it is only you. It is often said that we are our own worst enemy, and in the area of weight control it is very true.

How do you react to stress? How do you react to anger? How do you react to boredom, loneliness, fear, or sadness? We all have these things churning around inside ourselves. But we do not all react the same way to them. One of our primary goals in our struggle to remain thin for life is to find constructive ways to deal with these situations and emotions.

If you have a method for handling unpleasant things—that does not include overeating—then you are well on the way towards reaching your goal. If not, you have to set the goal of establishing this method as one of your very top priorities. Whether you search out a yoga class, or a martial arts dojo, find a great book on reaching inner peace in stressful situations, or visit a professional counselor, it is critical that you be able to face these challenges and come out the other side without having overeaten.

In your fight for success, how you view yourself is very important. When you view yourself as being a valuable person, and worthy of great effort to save, you feel much better when you take the time out of your day to make your journey a success. When you view yourself as a winner, you expect to succeed, whereas, if you view yourself as a loser, you will find ways to fail.

The Urgent Cat

Waking up in the morning and thinking that this is going to be a great day will give you energy and motivation to succeed throughout your day. If you wake up thinking negative thoughts you will be far more likely to give in to wrong habits and activities.

Are you determined to succeed no matter what? Or are you hoping that maybe you might be successful this time, but you are pretty sure that you won't be?

When I was 12 years old, I had a beautiful black cat named Kit. She was a Manx, with the typical short tail, and rabbit like hind legs. I loved that cat, and I hated having to put her into her travel box when we had to take her somewhere. We didn't have a fancy carrying case like you can get today for your pet; we had to use a cardboard box with air holes cut into it.

I found that when a cat is faced with being forced into a place it doesn't want to go, it shows what real determination is. Clawing, hissing, biting, searching, and pushing its way towards even the smallest opening, it will find any possible path to freedom. If you get it into the box, the instant that the box is later opened, that cat is out of the box before you would think the opening could possibly be large enough for it to fit through.

When we want something as badly as that determined cat wants to be free, then we almost always can have it.

The Procrastination Club

A friend of mine used to say that he would have joined the Procrastination Club, but he kept putting off sending in the application form.

We know that we need to plan what we will be doing today, but we don't want to "waste" the time that it requires to put down our blueprint of success. Even more often, we are afraid that if we make a plan, we will have to stick to it. We don't want to be controlled by a set plan, even though we know that we will sabotage our own journey if we are not.

In our battle for today, there really are no other opponents to our success. Sure, we may have a boss that is a pain, or there may be others that cause stress in our lives, but we are the only ones who control what goes into our mouths.

Remember that thin people live in the same world that we do. They face the same stresses, and upsets that we do. Most of them do not have "power metabolisms" that allow them to eat any more than we can without gaining weight. They just don't overeat. They have other ways of dealing with stress. We have to learn to do that as well.

Life forms an obstacle course for us all. With an obstacle course in the physical world, the course always remains constant, but our personal physical conditioning determines whether the course is easy, difficult, or impossible to get through. So it is with life in general. If we are prepared to deal with the stresses of life, we will walk through our days with confidence and success. If we are overwhelmed with stress, we will stumble and fall with our daily challenges.

The Forces Allied in your Favor

There is literally a cast of thousands who are in support of your success. Nearly everyone is rooting for an overweight person to succeed. Just think about the last time you were in a group of parents and friends where a child was giving a speech or singing a song, while standing in front of an audience for the first time in his young life.

When I was going through Instructor Training school in the Navy, it was pointed out to us that the number one fear people have is the fear of standing up in front of a group. It rates higher than a fear of flying, or other fears that many people share.

And there was that poor child facing that fear, with his voice locked tight with the terror he was feeling. What were you feeling as you sat in your chair? Didn't you wish you could tell him that it was all okay? Didn't you want to take him out of that situation and for it to be all over? Didn't you want him to succeed? You were trapped in your chair just wishing that you could help.

That is exactly how most people feel when they see people struggling with their weight. They feel unable to help, but they wish very badly to help anyway. Sure there are the jerks that are rude and hateful, but most people aren't that way. Most people are on your side (it is a very clear indication that this is true when you see how many people smilingly congratulate you after you lose a large amount of weight—they were watching you all along and secretly hoping that you would succeed), and I think that it is helpful to remember that.

Those that love you are often the most frustrated by your situation. They would love to be able to make it easy for you, but they can't. But they are on your side in your battle.

You—Your Greatest Ally

When you learn to deal well with stress, anger, boredom, loneliness, fear, and sadness, you are in a position of power in your life. You will react in positive ways, dealing with situations rather than covering up your feelings with food. The freedom to choose your path rather than having it dictated to you by negative emotional knee-jerk reactions to outside influences will help you walk a far more peaceful and enjoyable path to goal.

Do not accept the situation as it is, if you are unhappy with it. While you cannot control life, and make it all go the way you want it to, you can learn to control your reaction to it. When faced with a challenge, you then have the power to set aside the emotional whirlwind that disrupts your thinking process; and with a clear mind you can walk through your options and pick the best one for you.

By learning to cope successfully with your challenges, rather than running from them to the food that will only add to your unhappiness, you will have taken a major step towards being victorious this day, and all future days, when your battle is fought.

Self-Esteem: It's Not Just For Others Anymore

As mentioned above, when you have low self esteem, you aid the forces that are attacking your success. You don't feel that you are worthy of success. You don't think that the time you need to take to make things better is properly spent on you, because you don't deserve it.

It is time to throw that attitude away forever. You are worth it. You are special, and there has never been anyone like you before, and there never will be anyone just like you in the future. You are as valuable as anyone else who has ever lived, and you are worth whatever it takes to make your life dreams come true. No one is perfect, and so it is wrong to beat yourself up for your own imperfections. No one deserves respect any more than you do. No one is more deserving of happiness than you are. No one on earth deserves to succeed any more than you do. If you do not believe that, you must learn to because it is true, and truth demands to be accepted.

When you view yourself as a valuable being, you will then feel happy about investing your resources into your journey. Your time is well spent when it is used to help you along. Your money, your energy, and your internal focus all are well directed and well managed when you use them to make your life better. That is what high self-esteem will do, and you are worthy of that, as much as anyone who has ever lived.

Who's a Winner? You!

Another weapon in your arsenal is seeing yourself as a winner. Winners expect to succeed. They don't look for ways to fail. No matter what comes along, they expect to land on their feet. They expect to find solutions to problems that they encounter, and they nearly always find them.

By viewing yourself as a winner, you create a true self-fulfilling prophesy. You then shift your entire perspective into a worldview where it makes perfect sense to invest any or all of your resources, as it becomes necessary, into your success. When you are certain of the outcome, you are willing to do anything required to make it to that happy ending.

Backing a winner in our society is so commonplace that it is cliché. People love to bet on a sure thing; and confidence in the final result will allow you to do important positive things that you would otherwise rationalize yourself out of doing. When you think you are a winner, you will make the effort required to win that you know will be rewarded.

Many books have been written on the power of positive thinking, and it all boils down to viewing yourself as a winner, and believing that your success is assured. You can succeed, and you will succeed. I believe that, and when you believe it in your heart, you will find that you will be right.

Failure does not come from having challenges! We all have challenges, successful and unsuccessful alike. Challenges abound in this world. Winners look at a challenge as something that not only needs to be overcome, but that can be overcome. Those who fail look at a challenge as being something that is overwhelming and impossible to overcome; challenges are something that lie outside our ability to do anything about.

For Winners and Losers the challenges are often the same, but the way that they are perceived is very different. As a winner, you are going to face up to your challenges and take them on, one at a time, and overcome them. You can do it, if you believe you can. Trust me: YOU CAN DO IT!

Tenacity: Giving up is NOT an Option

By looking at the road that lies before you, far out near the horizon, you will realize that a single misstep doesn't mean a lot on a lifetime journey. Okay, you dropped the ball today. Perhaps you have been off course for a few days, or even years, but you are not going to give up.

Dotti and I have a very special memory of our very first date. We drove out into the Columbia Gorge, because Dotti said there was a really nice waterfall I needed to see. That was in September of 1974, and it seems like just yesterday. There were the Multnomah Falls, tumbling from a cliff top over 600 feet above us. We climbed to the top of those falls that day, and falling in love could never have been easier.

It has been nearly 32 years since that first visit, and just a few days ago we visited those falls once more, and they are as beautiful today as they were that very first time; and Dotti is even lovelier today in my eyes.

What does this have to do with tenacity? Aside from the fact that Dotti has more tenacity in tackling difficult jobs than anyone else that I have ever met, the falls themselves have a story of tenacity to tell.

Water is a very soft thing. You can splash it off your hands and face and it doesn't hurt a bit. You can dive into water, and swim for fun. Rock, on the other hand, is a very hard thing. Even a small piece of it will break your windshield, and you will be seriously injured if you try to dive into a slab of it. Yet, water is tenacious.

The water of Multnomah Falls has worn the rock back for hundreds of feet from the original gorge wall, creating a semicircular rock cathedral where people can come and pay homage to a natural wonder. Water wears down mountains and tears away the rocks along the seashore. Water is relentless, as it drops onto, flows across, and waves against rock. The tenacity of water is enough, even with its soft nature, to allow it to destroy the hard unyielding stone.

You don't have to be a powerhouse of will. You don't have to be a dynamic warrior in the emotional battles of your days. You just have to keep trying, just like the drop of rain falling from the sky. You will beat your challenges into total surrender when you refuse to give up. Nothing can defeat tenacity any more than rock can perpetually withstand flowing water.

The Treasure Chest of Physical Laws

We are living in a world of miracles today. With the flip of a switch, we make light appear in a dark room. With a larger set of switches, we can even light up a sports stadium that is large enough to seat thousands of people, and even provide enough illumination for a man on the field to see well enough to hit a baseball that is thrown fast enough to get a ticket on the freeway, and from only 60 feet away. Metal planes, weighing many tons, are lifted into the sky, and caused to fly several miles above the ground. Conversations are carried on by people who are on opposite sides of the planet as if they were in the same room with language, rather than distance, being the biggest hurdle to overcome. All of these miracles are relying on the "magic genie" known as the laws of physics.

Because of these laws, when you make the right choices you will have success. The same laws that relentlessly put weight on when we overeat will just as unyieldingly remove excess weight when we eat right. You don't have to rub a lamp, and you don't have to work around any trick clauses in the genie's rule book.

This means that results are tied directly to your own actions. You have control, and the "genie" will follow your commands exactly. The only difference is that your genie takes his commands from your actions only, not your words. Your wishes have to be expressed by your conduct.

When you build a strong and supportive attitude, you then can take the appropriate actions. When you do, you will succeed. The laws of physics do not have a mind of their own; they only follow your directions, stated in your actions.

Fear or Exhilaration

Today has arrived. The field of battle lies before you. The daily challenges are set to engage your attention, and your life brings you into the center of action. You can't push it away, and you can't delay it. "Time waits for no man," says the Danish Proverb, and today is, at its essence, time. Today is here and we are in it.

At the same time, we are thinking creatures who can direct certain aspects of our reality. Isn't that exciting? You have the tools, either in your hands already, or within your reach, with which to dispatch the challenges that stand in opposition to your goals. You can be victorious today! It is exhilarating to contemplate your victory.

At the same time, failure is a possibility, and that is scary. We have proven in the past that we can fail, and that knowledge can breed fear. What can we do about it?

The Only True Failure

Some might say that Thomas Edison was a failure. Though he tried over and over again; he produced one failed light bulb after another.

An incandescent electric light bulb produces light through heat. Astronomers use light to measure the heat produced by stars that are much too far away to actually warm us up enough to be detectable. As with a heating element on an electric stove, enough heat will take a dark object and cause it to glow with visible light. As more and more heat is applied, at first it is just a dull, barely visible red glow. Then the red becomes brighter. Soon it starts to turn more yellow, and it will finally become "white hot," when it really starts to warm up. An electric stove never gets that hot, but stars get far hotter. The surface of our sun is 6000°C! The light that the Sun throws out appears to be white to us. Stars in general appear more reddish when they are cooler and more bluish when they are hotter.

One thing that we know about suns is that they are made up of gases. If you apply enough heat, anything will become a gas, as its molecules become so energetic that they break their bonds and fly apart. Inside of an incandescent light bulb there is a strip of conductive material called a filament. That filament is what produces the light, because it gets so hot that it glows brightly. Edison's problem was that he couldn't find a material that could stand the heat and still hold together.

After a lot of trial and error, Edison found that a platinum filament would work pretty well, but there was no way that making light bulbs with platinum would work financially. Edison tried hundreds of different light bulb designs, and time after time he failed, and his bulb went on the junk heap.

But then he figured it out. He found a carbonized strip of material that would hold together, as long as he put it inside of a vacuum. (Oxygen will react very caustically with most materials if you apply that kind of heat to them in air).

Today everyone remembers the success, and very few remember the failures, and even those who remember don't think badly of Edison because of them. Edison was a success, not because he did it right the first time, or even the first 100 times. Edison was a success because he never gave up.

If Thomas Edison had given up after trying 99 times, he would have been a true failure, as far as the light bulb was concerned. That was a lot of failure to put up with, but Edison was tenacious. He wouldn't give up. He never focused upon the failures of the past but just kept looking for a new approach in tackling the problem. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and he dived into the battle again, and again, and again. Edison was a winner, because he never gave up.

In fact, if you look into the history of most very successful people, you will find that they went through some very tough failures along the way. Failure is just the school where you learn ways that do not work, so that you can find the one that does. As long as you never give up, you will run out of ways that do not work and you will find the success that you are searching for!

Ready, Set, Go!

Your eyes have just opened after a good night's sleep. The room is dark, and you clear the cobwebs that your dreamland visitors left behind as they made their exit. This is it, and you are ready to live your day, your way.

You are here today. The sun is going to be shining today. (Remember that even on a cloudy rainy day, the sun is shining down onto the tops of the clouds, and some of that light is reaching you, in spite of the best that the clouds can do to stop it!) This day is going to play itself out, from start to finish, one way or another.

As the day goes by, you will impact the world with your actions, and it will impact you with the events that go on around you.

This day was made for you. No one else on earth will be living exactly the same day as you will be. You will be seeing unique sights that only your eyes will take in. You will be hearing sounds, and enjoying smells that no one else will enjoy. You are living your life, and it is unique.

You are an individual and there is no one in the entire universe that is just like you. You have a unique contribution to make to this world. Only you can make that contribution.

This life is a struggle, but you are worth the struggle! You are "the general" today, and you control the forces that will fight out your battles you will face. You control your destiny and that makes you more powerful than you probably realize. You can shape your day with your own beautiful and unique mind. You are up to it!

Accept No Defeat!

Today, you are going to refuse to accept defeat. No matter what the outcome, you will continue to fight until you have success in your hands. If you encounter a moment of failure, you will follow Thomas Edison's example and reengage the problem with the additional knowledge that you gained from your unsuccessful attempt.

In school one of the things that I found to be true was that I learned more from questions on tests that I missed than I did from the ones I got right. The correct answers were not reinforced the way the answers were on the questions that I had blown. The act of missing the question made that question become more important to me, and when I found out what the right answer was, it stayed with me longer because of the increased perceived importance.

Today, it is still the same. When I attempt something that doesn't go well, I am far more focused upon that task than I am on the ones that went smoothly. I bring more energy to that task so that I will do it better in the future. It is a learning experience.

Each new thing that you learn from each failure, as you are tackling a tough problem, is something that makes your eventual success more likely. If you stay at it long enough, the accumulated knowledge will make success INEVITABLE.

The struggle never ends. We must continue to breathe, to drink, and to eat. We must continue to walk the path of our weight control journey. But victory can be ours, as we join our personal battle with confidence and ever increasing skill at marshalling our forces for victory. Each failure only increases the chances for our eventual success, because we learn something each time. We are better educated, and we have honed our skills that much more. We know that we may fail again next time, but we also know that we will not fail every time. We will ultimately succeed, because we will never give up.

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Disclaimer - - This essay is not meant to be a substitute for any professional advice, guidance, or counseling. We are not doctors. Any information contained hearin reflects our own opinions and experiences. It is not intended in any way to serve as or take the place of medical advice from a physician.