A New Way to Think About Weight Loss

The other day I had a funny little backyard conversation with my girlfriend that prompted me to question the way we think about weight loss.

Michelle and I have been working on landscaping my back yard for about six months now. Or, I should say, Michelle has been working on landscaping my back yard while my job has been pretty much to watch and admire its transformation. (FYI the area in the photo below was previously dirt.)

But as time went on, we’d continue to find little imperfections. The special complicated lighting that comes on at night would blow a fuse. Or the dogs would trample one of the delicate succulents in the rock garden. Or a plant would die.

So a couple of days ago, Michelle and I were walking around in the garden, and in a classic “Men are From Mars” type conversation, I bemoaned the fact that the project still wasn’t done because things kept needing replacement or replanting or rewiring. “When the heck is this going to be done?” I asked.

To which Michelle replied: “Who cares? I like doing it”.

Now women reading this won’t probably “get” how spectacularly novel such a statement seems to men, but men will get it immediately. We (men) are almost hard wired to see goals, actions and solutions. (Doubt me? What’s a male’s natural impulse when told of a problem?—he wants to solve it! And one of the great complaints women have in marriages is that sometimes they just want to be listened to, not given an action plan!) So in typical male fashion, I’m looking at the garden as something to be done, solved, finished. And whenever some new challenge popped up I saw it as an annoyance and an encumbrance to the goal of having a finished garden!

But what if the garden is never really “finished”?

What if the whole point isn’t to have a finished garden, but to enjoy the making of the garden?

What if the point weren’t the result, but the process?

Virtually everyone I know who’s ever attempted to lose weight looks at the process as something with a specific goal. Your dream body. Your ideal weight. That singular achievement when you will have lost the weight and be…. Done!

But what if that weren’t the only way to look at it?

See the thing about a garden, I have learned by watching Michelle, is that it’s never really “done”. It’s always evolving. Things die, they grow, seasons change, tastes change, old things get discarded, new things get planted. But for Michelle, that was the point. It wasn’t about necessarily having the perfect garden, it was about making the perfect garden.

What if it were the same with our bodies?

What if—instead of looking at the scale every day and saying “I’m not there yet”—we looked at each decision about what to eat and what not to eat as part of a process which was enjoyable in its own right? I know, I know—it’s radical, but go with me for a moment. What if every meal was an opportunity to affirm life, to consciously choose health, to enjoy the process of choosing wisely? What if it weren’t all about the “final result” but about the process of living in a healthy, life-affirming way?

What if healthy living were it’s own reward?

Look, there’s no real “moral” to this story, other than sometimes it’s a good thing to stop looking at a goal in terms of a “result” and begin to look at the process of working towards that goal. Maybe being in that process is the real reward, one we’re not even paying attention to because we put all our attention on achieving the final product.

When I give seminars I often ask the audience to ask themselves the “Miracle Question”: What if I could wake up tomorrow in the body of my dreams, something realistically attainable, a body I could be proud of and happy with?

What would you do then? I ask.

The answer: You’d have to maintain it. Just like a garden.

You’d have to make—on a daily, even hourly—basis, decisions about what to eat and what to do to keep that new “magic body of your dreams” exactly the way it is. It wouldn’t happen by itself. You’d wind up doing the exact same things that would get you that healthy body in the first place. You certainly couldn’t wake up with the “body of your dreams” and still be able to eat the same way that got you the “body of your nightmares”. Maintaining that healthy body would require you to eat in the exact same way as you would have to eat in order to get the body of your dreams in the first place.

You’d have to do maintenance.

Every single day of your life, forever (or for as long as you cared more about being healthy and vital and alive than you did about being fat, sick, tired and depressed).

So why not make that the point of the whole enterprise?  Starting right now »

Just sayin’.