What motivates us to do things is different for everyone, but I’ve found what works for me. They’re simple ideas that might work for you too.
A lack of motivation to do things that are not long-term commitments, like writing a paper, cleaning the house, or doing a dreaded errand is usually caused by a feeling of being overwhelmed. Making a commitment to start is half of the battle. If I am having a problem getting started, then I will make a list of what needs to be done, then start crossing off items or I’ll work for 30 minutes, then do something that I want for 30 minutes.
Long-term commitments like weight loss are different because you must hand yourself over to it every day. You have to fight for it. Making the jump from a general concept of what you want to an action that is repeated every day hinges on good planning. Once you’ve defined your SMART goals, you have to choose how to incorporate what is necessary to put them into action in your life. This is why my weight loss took years. There was so much trial-and-error, but eventually I found what worked for me. I didn’t get discouraged if something didn’t work. I just tried something else. The persistence made me stronger mentally, which led to more confidence. I gave up thoughts like “Why do I even try because nothing works? I’m not losing weight!” This time, I believed that something could work, so I’d keep going until I found it.
Finding the right combination for me was exploring what I enjoyed. I suffer from severe anxiety and sometimes go through deep depressions. I have always vibrated on a slightly different frequency than the rest of the world, so communication is not my strong suit. That meant that I needed to find something solitary that I could do. I began by walking, then eventually started running. That sentence doesn’t do justice to what I went through to get here, so let me tell you.
Even before I started working out, every joint hurt. I had terrible, chronic pain in my right hip just doing normal activities. I went to a couple of doctors who recommended physical therapy, but that meant exercising, so I blew off the suggestions. I took massive amounts of ibuprofen daily to try to combat the pain, but it didn’t help.
An unexpected chain of events led me on this path. My husband and I went to an event where the state lottery was giving away little yellow plastic bracelets with the words “Anything’s Possible,” written on them. I slipped it on my wrist not knowing how it would change my life forever.
A few days later, I was taking a hot Epsom salt bath trying to ease the pain in my hip when I looked at that bracelet. I’d just caught a glimpse of myself naked in the mirror and really wished that I didn’t look like that. I got this crazy idea that I could walk to the grocery store that was 1.5 miles away from my house. What if I did? What would happen? Would I die? Could I really do it?
I got myself ready and walked to the store. When I arrived there, I had to sit on the sidewalk for a few minutes to have the energy to do my shopping. I dreaded the return trip more than I’ve ever dreaded anything in my life. I was sweating, tired, and carrying an extra few pounds of groceries. I was sore for three days afterward.
It registered how out of shape and miserable I was, but instead of beating myself up I decided to go to a gym down the street. My first day there was terrifying and intimidating. I felt so weird and out of my element. I felt like everyone was staring at me or judging me for being so fat. My anxiety was through the roof, but the treadmills faced the window away from everyone, so I plugged in my headphones, watched TV, and gave it a shot.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but no one thought anything about me. That anxiety was completely unnecessary. Now I’m the person at the gym who looks like they know what they’re doing. I’m usually paying more attention to myself than the people around me, but when I do see someone overweight, I am cheering for them silently and certainly not judging them! Most people at gyms have the same mindset, so never let that stop you.
On my first trip to the gym, I walked at a 3 mile an hour pace for 20 minutes. I was exhausted when I finished, but I realized that pushing myself to that point of exhaustion made the intrusive thoughts stop and my anxiety went away. I felt so proud of myself for doing it! My husband was still in recovery from his aneurysm, so at the time, I was his caretaker. This gave me the chance to get out of the house and clear my mind. This seemed like it could be something positive for me during a very dark time in my life.
I went back daily. By daily, I mean that I might have taken a day off once every two or three weeks. I eventually built myself up to walking for an hour, then slowly increased the speed. When I was dropping weight, I walked for two hours a day; sometimes three. It was a very slow process, but I could see real, measurable improvement in my endurance.
I walked and walked and walked despite the pain in my body. I learned to distinguish between a good hurt (sore muscles), and a bad hurt (injury). I didn’t know about the importance of good shoes and wore cotton socks, so I got blisters on top of blisters. I bandaged them up and walked anyway. This was going to be my thing. I was going to do it no matter what kind of excuses my mind wanted to give me to skip out on my daily workout.
Eventually, I bought a bracelet that allowed me to slip letters onto it. I was still so heavy that I had to buy two bracelets and hook them together to go around my wrist. I chose to wear “Did you do all you could?” on my wrist as a reminder every day. I didn’t do all that I could every day, but I did most days.
I heard an interview on the radio with a hypnotist named Dr. Rick Collingwood. The things that he said made sense and I thought that the relaxation might help with my chronic insomnia. I downloaded his recording for about $10 on iTunes. I don’t know if it helped or not, but I did it anyway.
I now have a library of his recordings because I enjoy them. To be honest, I have no idea what is said even though I’ve listened to them literally hundreds of times. There is a sequence of commands like deep breaths and visualizing a warming, relaxing light focusing on different areas of the body.
I know that in the weight loss recording he tells me to imagine walking to a set of elevators and being drawn to one, then pressing buttons. I do not know what is said after that. There have been times that I didn’t actually fall asleep, but I still have no recollection of what he says. The curiosity about hypnosis led me to another obsession in life that I will write about later.
This combination of actions is how I gained control of my attitude and built enough confidence to delve into finding out how to eat healthfully.
Anything’s possible. It’s possible for you too.