Weight Loss and Maintenance by Al Coon

"With the slow loss, at the end of 2 years you would be 100 pounds lighter and very happy to be there, instead of being 5 pounds heavier than you were 2 years ago, with a sad tale to tell."


Soap Box Derby

The boys are positioned at the top of the hill, sitting at the controls of their lovingly crafted homemade vehicles, and they are eager to test both their cars and their driving ability in this race.

The signal is given, and there they go-coasting along as gravity accelerates their cars, faster and faster down the hill.

Does this sound familiar? It should, because this is just how most people approach weight loss. In fact with the "Who's the Biggest Loser" crowd you even get to have the race. They gear themselves up at the top of an emotional hill, often at the beginning of a new year-but it can happen anytime-and they let the high emotional passion of the moment drive them on. It is great for a while, but what happens when a soapbox car hits the bottom of the hill?

If you are going to be successful, you are going to need more than a gravity-powered car, because life is never consistently downhill.

A Storybook Life

A weight loss journey is far more like a quest than a race. Stories about quests have been around for a very long time. Many novels written today are in the form of a quest. The Da Vinci Code being one of the most popular recent ones.

Have you ever wondered to yourself why novels are so wildly popular with people? The settings are often exotic, and we love to pretend that we can share them with the hero of the story. The problems are life shattering, and we get to vicariously live through them without bearing the real suffering that would normally accompany them.

As the stories progress, it seems impossible that a solution to each new problem we meet can be found. The hero is overwhelmed by events and is horribly discouraged. He may even want to give up; he sees no real hope but an ambiguous little glimmer off in the distance; he might even be denied that! Yet, he keeps trying right to the end.

Why do we love fictional stories? Because in our hearts we admire that never-say-die attitude greatly; we root for the hero to keep trying. We want him to succeed! If he can succeed, maybe we can too.

How the Hero Wins

In storybook lives the hero who succeeds does it with both luck and by tapping into inner resources that he never knew he had. In fact if he had been given the end of the story up front, he would never have seen a clear path to reach it. It appears to be a lost cause at first, but he moves forward anyway. He doesn't quit, even though his hope is merely faith that burns within his chest. Our hero also always acts. He moves and strives to overcome whatever obstacles come his way. Things that appear to be impossible to defeat, he somehow gets past. Along the way he falls many times, and appears to fail over and over again. With every success he has, another problem immediately presents itself. But each time that he finds himself flat on his face, he gets back up and starts in again.

Another important quality of a hero is not too proud to take help when he finds it, and he would never make it to the successful ending unless he gets help along the way.

Most importantly, he knows his goal, and he keeps it in his focus constantly. He makes the goal his center, and he somehow finds a way to move closer to that goal throughout the story, even when he has to take detours to get there.

You Are Better Than That!

Life is like a story in many ways, or if you will: You are the protagonist of your own life. However, you are far more interesting than any storybook character, whether you realize it or not. No author could hope to include all the interesting facets that you possess into a fictional character. You are far deeper and more complex than pen and ink can describe. So, you are far better than a storybook hero.

We sometimes face challenges in our own lives that are even more overwhelming than the fictional protagonist has to deal with, and no one else can fully appreciate what any challenge might be to us personally. (In the area of weight loss this is truer than any other. How many times have you heard some thin individual pompously, cruelly, and ignorantly denigrating overweight people, as if he had a clue what a challenge this really is?)

We all face challenges. Many people forget that even those who are most talented have to work hard to succeed. The great athlete and the great musician have to practice far more than the weekend ball player or a member of a church choir. Here are truly gifted people, who are far more talented than the average person, and yet still obligated to work hard to overcome the challenge of mediocrity creeping in. If they do not do the work, they will never succeed in reaching their potential. They are human, just like you and I, even though they do things that make our jaws drop in wonder and awe.

It Is Still Useful

In spite of its limitations, we can still learn from the novel. Its ability to cut away the complexities of real life, and then to focus upon the relatively simple characters and their problems, we can vicariously pare down our own lives into manageable pieces, and we just might learn how to tackle a knotty problem or two that we face.

In our weight loss journeys, we also have to overcome roadblocks, and they pop up over and over again; we also feel discouraged, and we fall on our faces. But we can also succeed, even when things seem hopeless!

It is the fact that we can actually do it ourselves that makes us love the stories we read. No story is really enjoyable unless we can connect to it emotionally, and believe that in some way it could really happen. (This is also true of science fiction and even fantasy stories.) We draw courage from seeing others be courageous in stories; if they can overcome those complex and powerful obstacles, we can defeat the ones in our path.

The courage and single-purposed determination to reach the goal he has set makes the hero our model in miniature of what we need for our own successes. We can succeed if we will aim our compass at our goal and then refuse to ever quit pursuing that course. You don't have to be a storybook hero, or gifted beyond the normal to succeed. You just have to be determined to succeed. It is your COMMITMENT to your journey that will carry you through. It is ALL you need.

Success and the Honeymoon

The word honeymoon comes from the words "honey," for sweetness, and "moon," for the amount of time it takes for our native satellite to orbit this planet once: about a month. Usually, when a man and woman get married, they are passionately in love, and that first month is spent in wonderful bliss, where neither partner can do anything wrong in the other's eyes. Travel, and lots of time alone together are the key ingredients of a honeymoon. It is almost magical how passion and love make everything wonderful.

If all of marriage were entirely like the honeymoon, divorce would be nearly unheard of. But sadly, this is not the case. There is an old Johnny Cash song called "Jackson" that puts that in a nutshell, when it starts out like this:

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We've been talking about Jackson, ever since the fire went out...

It is a tale about a couple that lost their passion for each other and had nothing to replace it with. Their marriage was on the rocks, and all they had left were angry words to beat each other with.

When you think about it, this is exactly how a diet works. It relies upon passion alone, the driving force of desire for speedy weight loss moving the dieter to do whatever it takes to lose weight quickly. As long as the passion continues all is well. No matter how crazy the diet is, no matter how many favorite foods become forbidden, no matter which food groups have to be given up, or how limited your choices become, when you are on a diet in the honeymoon phase everything is wonderful; there's lots of passion and plenty of fun. The pounds just fall off and everything is easy. But then the fire goes out...

In the Real Life Phase of a journey, as in a marriage, you come face to face with the level of your own commitment. What you do starts to feel less like an act of love, and more like a stack of obligations. Now what?

Dropping Like Flies

When the journey leaves the honeymoon stage, and enters the real life stage, we lose far too many of our once passionate people. Passion is great, but true success demands something more, it demands commitment.

Commitment is at the heart of every successful marriage, and it drives every successful weight loss journey as well. While it is not the flash in the pan, intensely hot passion of the honeymoon: building upon your commitment and furthering the goals of that commitment day after day creates a joy and contentment that is a worthy replacement for that flashy beginning. This is what builds long term happiness and yes, even passion.

Committing For Better or For Worse

A commitment, a real commitment, is not merely just grabbing on and holding on with all of your might. When you take on a commitment for better or for worse, it is more like handcuffing yourself to the object of your commitment, so that you cannot let go, even when you get too tired to hold on by yourself. Your commitment holds you on course when everything else tries to push you off course. Your commitment says, "This is going to work. Period." No other option is available, because your commitment is real, and your resolve to hold to it is unbending. You are going to do this for the rest of your life!

Once you have established your commitment, "for better or for worse" it then only makes perfect sense, just like in a marriage, to make it "for better." You have that power in your hands, and if you want to enjoy your walk to the "goal weight promised land" you will need to take that power and use it.

There is no question in your mind that you are going to do this. What is left is only working out the details. Once again, marriage makes a good example for the process.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's assume that you have committed to spending the rest of your life with your spouse, no matter what. That is set in your mind, but the particulars are very flexible at this point. Day by day you must work out the details of your marriage. Who is going to do what, and even what is going to be done, all has to be worked out. While the fine points are flexible, the commitment is not. The goal is set in concrete, while the methods used to accomplish it are living and actively honed and changed as necessary.

At first you really don't have a clue as to how it will all proceed. You have your commitment to your goal, but the details are in flux. You don't only need to work out the details for today, but over the years the details will change often as your needs change; but like the fixed foundation upon which sits a house that you may remodel, and change the furniture within many times over the decades, the commitment is firm and unchanging.

Your commitment is the driving force behind finding workable solutions to all problems. No matter how tough it gets, you refuse to consider bailing out. You will make it work.

Passion Flows From Commitment

When your life is centered on your commitment, you do what it takes to make it work. As a result you receive back more than you put in. The energy that this creates builds its own form of passion, the long-term kind that can burn for life.

There will be tough times and easy times. There will be tears and there will be laughter. Heartaches will come but so will joy. When you start with an unswerving commitment to your journey for life, you cannot be stopped unless you abandon your commitment. In your mind you are always on a journey—at all times—even when you overeat or fail to exercise.

Just because you have an argument doesn't mean your commitment to your marriage has in any way changed, or is any less strong. The commitment is forever and it is the center of your focus. You will make it work, even when it isn't easy.

Trudging Through the Mud

When things get tough, the committed start trudging. If you are not burning with passion for your journey, you need to go into "trudge mode." Dotti describes this so well in her concise statement: One day at a time, no guilt and move on.

You don't have to be perfect; no one is! But you can be committed to your journey, and you can put that next foot forward.

As we place one foot in front of the other, and slowly trudgingly walk, we surely move towards our goal of a lifetime of thinness. No racing, no magic, no fantastic pills or diets, just plain old common sense eating and exercise, and doing it for the rest of our lives.

Okay, we have to admit that trudging along isn't very sexy, and it doesn't make people's eyes shine with delight—at least until they have done this mundane thing for a few years, and they find that they have been at goal for a long while!

At some point along the way the light goes on in the eyes, and then trudging seems like a pretty good way to go. No fuss, no muss, no hurry, no marching bands and cheerleaders, just long term results.

The old saying, "Fake it until you make it," is hinting at this, but it is wrong. If you plod forward with one foot in front of the other, you may not be feeling inspired, but you are still doing it. You are not faking it!

Unfortunately, there is no magic solution for getting that internal fire going, the one that makes it all easy to focus and drive forward, any more than there is a way to make a marriage be a mad passionate honeymoon forever. But you can put one foot forward, even when you are tired and not excited about it. Today you are on a journey. You are going to get up and do what you have to do, because you are committed to your journey. Trudge mode works, despite how you feel about it at the time.

Think of it as a job that you need very much. Instead of your livelihood depending upon it, your health depends upon it. Your freedom to move easily depends upon it. Everything that your goal means to you depends upon it. So, what do you do? Just like your job where you get up and go to work, even if you feel like you would rather do just about anything else that day—because it's your job—you get up and do what needs to be done. That is the way trudging works. You do what you have to do because you are committed to not giving up, even on those days when you hate it.

Remember this: you still get your paycheck from your job, even if you hated going in and working for it! AND you still get to goal by trudging, with or without the excitement of being fired up!

Travel Light

When you are committed to your journey, you cease to look for reasons to bail out. Instead you start looking for ways to make it easier. You don't look for excuses, but instead you search for the right path to take. When you are committed to your journey, you know you are going to reach your goal, and you only need to find a solution to the problem you are dealing with this moment.

When something trips you up, don't fear it; study it! Search out easier ways to work around it. Don't complain, and wallow in self-pity. It is okay to vent from time to time, but the only way to conqueror a problem is to understand it and find a solution to it. When you are truly committed to your journey that is what you will do.

Some things have to be done that you won't like. Okay, we must accept that. But we don't have to accept the way we are doing it right now. Perhaps there is a better way. You will never know unless you revisit the problem and your solution to it, perhaps you will have to come back to it again and again before you find the right answer. Be proactive, it works!

When you are truly committed to your journey you will believe that there is an answer to every problem, and that you will find it. An example of this is journaling your food. For some people this is a problem. They just don't like doing it. Of course you can go into "trudge mode" and just do it, and that will work. But you can do more.

You can create a method of journaling that fits your personality. Create your own blank journal book, or buy one off the shelf that you like. Choose the time of day that feels right for you to write things down. You can do it before you eat anything, or afterwards. If you are sure not to miss anything you do it at the end of the day, but that can be risky if you tend to miss items because you have forgotten about them. (And we do tend to forget the things we don't wish to remember.) So, you must use care.

You can have a large main journal that you fill out at home and a second small portable notebook to keep notes in during the day to be transferred over to the larger one at night. You can do it electronically on your desktop or palmtop computer. Because you are committed to your journey, you will keep looking until you find a solution that you feel comfortable with.

Remember Your Commitment

You begin a successful journey with commitment. Enjoy your honeymoon phase for as long as it lasts, but do not rely on that to carry you through to the end, because the raging passionate fire will go out. You will then be left with your commitment; but that is okay, because it is enough!

As a committed person you will:

  • Never quit.

  • Fall repeatedly, but will get back up each time.

  • Hammer away at each problem until it is solved.

  • Make your own luck by increasing the odds in your favor with hard work.

  • Constantly shape the journey to make it more enjoyable and easier

  • You know that you will never quit, and that you will have success in the end, so you will know in your heart that no amount of effort will ever be wasted in achieving it, and that any work you do now to ease your journey will reward you for the rest of your life!

  • Put one foot in front of the other whenever passion is absent.

  • Build Passion through commitment rather than only being committed when passion strong.

  • View today as a new day in the same journey. What must be done will be done, because you are committed.

Commit to Success Today, Never Wait

  • Start with Commitment.

  • Renew the commitment each day.

  • And Commitment will bring you not only thinness and better health, but a long term passion for what you are doing.

  • You are worth this!
Take the key in your hand, turn the lock and open the door to a wonderful world of success. What are you waiting for? Do it now!

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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.