Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to fit into your skinny jeans or because you want to feel lighter?
Why are you trying to quit eating French fries? Is it to cut carbs or because fried food makes you feel like crap?
Why are you doing cardio three times a week? To burn calories or to get the amazing endorphin high that stays with you all day?
Why are you doing any of this? Is it to look good or to feel good?
Look, I know you want to lose weight so you can look better. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I get it. But your why has to go beyond what you look like, or you’ll stay stuck. The wrong why makes it almost impossible to achieve your goal, but the right why will get you there . . . and then some.
That’s because the wrong why — trying to lose weight to look good — pushes you to diet. Dieting prevents you from losing weight, and here’s why.
1. You get close and pull back. If your goal is a number, you’ll never cross the finish line. Dieting is miserable, so as soon as you start to see results, you say “Now I can quit and go back to what I was doing.” You’ll start overeating again and eating the unhealthy food you (currently) prefer. You’ll get close, stop working so hard, “fail,” and find another diet to go on.
2. You have to use willpower. Dieting requires willpower, and willpower runs out. Being desperate to lose weight pushes you to extreme behaviors that require massive amounts of willpower, and when it runs out you give up and binge.
Plus, it’s always easier to do something than to try not to do something. Working toward being healthy and feeling good is easy. Dieting to lose weight because you hate what you’re looking at all day is not.
3. You never change your habits. You don’t learn anything when you diet. You only address the surface of the problem rather than get to the root of it. You force yourself not to do things you usually do without getting to the reasons you do them in the first place.
When you stop focusing on what you look like and start focusing on what you feel like, you’re nicer to yourself. And this allows you to understand why you have the habits you do — instead of hating yourself for having them. That’s the only way you can change them.
The easiest way to upgrade your why to a better one is to switch from gaining a short-term benefit (losing weight) to avoiding a long-term painful outcome (feeling like a failure).
In other words, your current why is to magically get short-term weight loss by dieting. However, you know from experience that crash dieting only results in failure — and you feeling like one. So changing your why to wanting to stop feeling like a failure makes it easy to avoid buying into the diet lie. And, counterintuitively, it helps you get what you want.
A good way to look at it is to consider the painful long-term consequences of a short-term pleasurable gain.
Think of something you would never do because you know the outcome isn’t worth it. For example, binge watching Netflix all day is for sure more appealing than doing laundry, cleaning your house, and going to the grocery store. But you wouldn’t do that because it’s not worth it when your kids get home from school and you have to do all that and deal with them, too.
And here’s where the change in why gets you the results you want: the relaxation time you get to enjoy after choosing to do the hard work is way more pleasurable than the high you get from a Netflix binge while you skip all the work that needs to get done.
You have to have a bigger and better why, because that’s the key to breaking through.
Wanting to be skinny means hating your body and dieting to beat it into submission. Wanting to feel better and be healthy means changing your habits, making real progress, and having an exciting and fulfilling life.
And when this is your why, losing weight will be yours automatically.