Failure to Launch: I Just Can’t Get Started Losing Weight

A few months ago I wrote a post called I Want to Lose Weight: Where Do I Start? which focuses on the basic skills to put into action to begin losing weight.  Then it occurred to me that getting started isn’t always about basic skills, but instead, in many cases, it is about motivation.  Starting is about making the decision to move from desire to action.  A lot of people get stuck in the “I want to lose weight but now is not the time” phase, because they feel so overwhelmed by all there is to do.  The thought of keeping a diet journal, exercising and healthy food shopping every single day for the rest of life just seems like too much.  This phase can last weeks, months, and even years.  If you feel like you are experiencing a “failure to launch” with weight loss, here are a few points to ponder as you prepare for lift off.

1.  The Waiting Game – I often hear people say that they plan to do something about their weight when they have more time or when a stressor in their life has passed.  “I will try to lose weight in the summer because I’ll be less busy then and the weather will be better for exercise.”  The problem with life is that we never really are less busy or have less stress later.  The problem with the waiting game is that days turn into years in what feels like a blink of the eye.  The convenient time to make a big life change is never coming, but if that life change is necessary then the best possible time is RIGHT NOW.  By delaying your start, you delay the outcome. You deprive yourself of something that is important to you.  Even if you were to get a temporary break from a busy time, the busy times will inevitably return, just like the bad weather.  Truly changing your lifestyle means living a different life under any and all circumstances, not just when you have free time and no stress.   Dive in now because the minute you do, you are instantly closer to your destination.

2.   The One Day Experiment.  We talk so much about how losing weight requires a lifestyle change–and it does, but lifestyle change sounds soooo very overwhelming.  The overwhelming part is the commitment of changing behavior for life, so it may be necessary to remove the commitment aspect to take some of the pressure off (great news for commitment phobes!).  By removing the commitment, you will get an accurate assessment of just how challenging the behavior changes really are.  But how do you remove the “commitment” from something that seems to inherently require one?!   Try a “one-day experiment.”  This is where you commit to only one single day of change.  For that one day, toe the line:  keep a diet journal, make the healthy choices, and workout.  The next day go back to your normal routine.  If you feel like trying another healthy day, then do so, if not, try another one the following week.  Add a second day when you feel ready.  The objective is to get some momentum going by accomplishing at least one day and only progressing further as you feel comfortable.  Making a lifestyle change is not an all-or-nothing venture.  Work your way towards it and appreciate that even though the goal is to live a healthy life, it is a gradual journey that is built one day at a time.

3.  2 Minute Challenge­–  The 2 minute challenge follows along similar lines but is specifically for someone who is having trouble getting an exercise program started.  If you are having a failure to launch with exercise, commit to a single 2-minute workout.  Climb on a machine or go for a walk, pick any activity of your choice, but commit only to 2 minutes.  If you end up doing more than 2 minutes— great, but the goal is just to accomplish the 2 minutes.  Once you have accomplished it, try another a few days later.  Then begin to add a minute to the workout each week.  Even though 2 minutes may sound like nothing, you are using this tactic to overcome the biggest barrier to exercise of all—getting started.  We all have to start somewhere, so why not start easy?

4.  A-Ha Moment Fallacy – When I encounter people who have lost large amounts of weight I often ask if they had an A-Ha! moment that precipitated their change. Usually people will say yes, but interestingly these moments are rarely major things like heart attacks, being diagnosed with diabetes,  or having some other serious health problem.  In fact, serious events like these are not always effective at creating a sea change of motivation but instead can result in demoralization.  After a serious medical event I have heard people say, “It is too late to change now, the damage is done.”  More often A-Ha moments are day-to-day instances such as a belt or pair of pants no longer fitting, feeling sick after a day of overeating, or catching a glance of oneself in a mirror.  Are these really A-Ha moments?  Why is putting the belt on one day so much more meaningful than it was the day before?   Who knows, but there might be no such thing as a magical moment of readiness— where everything seems clear and all doubts and fears have vanished.  Even the Real Life Biggest Losers I have interviewed on this blog say they experienced many early doubts about whether they could do it, but they moved forward in spite of the doubts.  The only way to dissolve doubts is through action. Motivation does not stimulate action, it is created by action.  You will feel more motivated once you see the first signs of progress and that motivation will propel you to achieve a little more, and so on.  Don’t wait for motivation to arrive at your doorstep, create it with action… and next thing you know you will be flying high in the sky.



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One Comment

  1. Sherry, I love these tips because they apply not only to losing weight but also to beginning to exercise, about which I recently wrote here: Your tip #3 reminded me of the incrementalism trick that I describe in that article. And, I had to laugh when I accidentally misread the word “gradual” as the word “gratitude” in this sentence from you: “Work your way towards it and appreciate that even though the goal is to live a healthy life, it is a gradual journey that is built one day at a time.” The word “gratitude” works just as well! 🙂

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