Motivate Me! Part One

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Starting on the Path to a Healthy Body Weight

Human beings are lazy. Within the next 20 years, it will be rare to see someone who is not overweight. Adults will pass on inactive lifestyles and poor eating habits to children. Fast food franchises will stop at nothing to get children hooked on high fat products. Computers and TV will continue to monopolize every spare second of the day. The desire to be fit and lean will not exist. Since everyone is fat, it will seem more acceptable to be fat.

Historically, storing body fat and resting was vital just in case the next meal was a long time away. Our prehistoric ancestors spent most of the day trying to survive by hunting or gathering food, building shelter to stay warm, and avoiding attack from wild animals.

In the 21st century, we still conserve fat stores like our ancestors, but avoiding movement is not a matter of survival; it’s laziness. Food is only a phone call away, we have gas furnaces, and the only wild animal we worry about is the occasional cougar attack from a lonely, divorced, forty-year old looking for action.

No wonder people have a hard time starting and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. There is no motivation to do anything because everything is too easy to get.

Is it impossible to overcome environmental obstacles to a lean body? Can people discover the motivation to start working out, maintaining healthy eating habits, and consistently training for life?

Of course they can- it just takes finding the right motivation... and a great personal trainer doesn’t hurt, either.

The Light Bulb Moment

Motivation comes to each person in different ways. Everyone has that “light bulb moment” when something just clicks inside and it becomes time to get serious and stop making excuses. Some “light bulb moments” which have been the catalyst to change are:

1. Naked in the Mirror: Your perception of what you look like.

People can go a long time not being happy with their body. Wearing certain clothing like black colors and vertical lines can disguise your body to look smaller than it actually is, but what happens when the clothes come off? Taking a glance in the mirror before you shower forces you to look at the real thing.

In an episode of X-Weighted, the participant, Angela, mentioned her husband had never seen her naked. She walked around the house with loose clothing and large T-shirts covering her body. When they were intimate, which was rare, it was always with the lights out.

It took ten years of Angela hiding her body before she finally had enough. It was too tiring to feel ashamed and embarrassed all the time, especially when the problem was something that could be fixed with a little planning and determination. It became easier to workout and eat healthy than to feel the way she did.

2. Physics For Fitness: Fat + Gravity = Loss of function

Newton’s second law tells us that the force required to move something equals the object’s mass multiplied by gravity. In other words, heavier individuals have a much more difficult time moving than lighter people, whether it's climbing stairs, having sex, getting out of the car, or even tying their shoelaces. If we lived on the moon, weight wouldn’t matter. We could just bounce and float around without a care in the world. What Newton really meant is that gravity is the nemesis of overweight people.

For overweight people, one flight of stairs can cause burning leg muscles, heavy breathing, and an increase in body temperature. Rather than feel uncomfortable, the obese person avoids the obstacle and learns to accept this decrease in ability and function. They adapt how they exist in their environment because of their weight, lack of fitness and laziness.

For example, in Las Vegas, where an astounding number of obese people exist at one time, people cross the street via pedways accessible by a flight of 30 stairs or adjacent escalators. People avoid the stairs the same way the pope avoids a heavy metal concert, choosing to wait in line for the escalators rather than go up an empty staircase.

In my experience on X-Weighted, most overweight couples go without sex for many years. Sex is tough, sex is hard, and sex is exhausting. Add in bulging pockets of fat that get in the way, and it’s easy to see why sex is not a priority for heavy couples. They get used to not having sex and eventually it is not a part of their lives. Sadly, the function of sex is lost over time.

If you break down the act of getting in and out of your car, it is basically a one-leg squat with external rotation of the hip — a tough movement even for people of normal weight. Anyone who has ever had lower back or hip pain would understand how difficult this simple daily activity can be. For obese people, it becomes even harder, especially if they own a smaller vehicle. Compensations are made in a variety of ways: falling backwards, hopefully not banging the head on the way down; holding onto the door for support thus easing tension in weak legs; and lifting the legs one at a time into the car with the arms to assist weak core muscles and hip flexors.

Most people learn to tie their shoes by four or five years of age and can perform this task for an entire lifetime. Obese people can lose this function because of the size of their belly and thighs. The extra mass prevents the person’s arms from being able to reach to the foot. Compensations are made by trying to tie the laces on the side of the shoe. They attempt to rotate their thigh away from the belly fat to allow a couple more inches of reach. Eventually, they just buy lace free shoes.

The question is: where do you draw the line? Personally, I can live with taking the escalator the rest of my life. The lack of sex would be depressing, but playing lots of sports, eating great food and a good, cold shower will keep my mind and body occupied. I can even buy an SUV with big doors and a step up bar. But I have to draw the line when I can’t even tie my own shoes.

How much loss of function are you willing to accept before you say enough is enough? I believe that everyone has that imaginary line somewhere in the back of his or her mind. Unfortunately, for some people it may become too late to draw that line; they would choose to lose function and even years of their lives, rather than give up a sedentary lifestyle.

3. What you see is what you get: Being a good role model

Children need to be given the chance to have a healthy body-weight in their lives. Research continually shows obese parents that eat poorly and perform no physical activity will pass these habits to their children. These kids are doomed with virtually no chance at health.

Many of the participants on X-Weighted mentioned that one of the reasons to finally lose weight was for their children. They see their kids developing bodies that start to resemble those of the parents. Knowing the difficulty, depression and anxiety that come with being overweight, parents are desperate not to allow that to happen to their kids.

One of the biggest rewards parents can experience in their lifetime is for their children to think of them as a hero. Being a good role model by controlling obsessions with food and being disciplined towards fitness can motivate children to pursue their own goals, including a healthy, active lifestyle — and that makes you the hero.

Some other factors that may motivate some people to start towards a healthy weight journey which are worth mentioning:

  • opposite sex does not find you attractive
  • your weight affects getting a job or your career
  • you decide that you would like to train for something
  • someone bets you can’t lose weight
  • a health scare like a heart attack

The first step to a healthy body weight is finding what motivates you. Set some fitness and dietary goals that tie in with this motivation, and then put a plan in place that is doable long term. If you aren’t sure what should be included in your plan, make it in consultation with a fitness and/or dietary expert.

Watch for the next article in this series: Staying on the Path to A Healthy Bodyweight

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