Do you remember that Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show? It was about a man whose whole life was a television show, created by a company that supplies actors who conspire to keep the fabricated existence going and keep him oblivious to reality.
The poor guy has no idea what’s happening, because everyone’s in on it. Gradually, however, he starts to see signs that something’s not right, and he ultimately figures out that he’s been living in a false world that he can actually escape from.
Now, change the main character from male to female, and multiply that character by hundreds of thousands of women. You are one of those women. And so was I — until I figured out what was happening and escaped.
The society we live in has been constructed in such a way that women everywhere believe that our ultimate goal is to lose weight, that there’s nothing abnormal about spending all our time doing it, and that it’s really hard to do.
It’s insane, and the fact that we don’t question it is even more so.
Losing weight has become this unattainable, hard-to-reach goal that we never actually will achieve, even though we practically kill ourselves trying to.
And just like The Truman Show, our whole culture is in on it. The fashion industry, food manufacturers, the media, and obviously the diet industry all reinforce this cultural obsession with losing weight. And we’re so used to hearing about it, reading about it, and having it advertised to us that we don’t question how crazy it all is.
But seriously. What’s the big deal?
There’s really no mystery to weight loss. It’s a mathematical certainty that if you consume less energy than you expend, you will lose weight. I’m overstating here to make a point, and I’m obviously not referring to scenarios that involve serious medical issues. But in general, if you eat less and you move more, you will lose weight.
However, we all buy into this concept that losing weight requires some sort of superhuman effort and that it’s extremely complicated to do — you have to eliminate carbs, you have to avoid inflammatory foods, you have to do X number of days of intermittent fasting, and you have to eat clean or none of it counts.
The problem, of course, is a mental one. When you believe subconsciously that a goal is unattainable, you will keep yourself from ever achieving it. You will keep yourself in a narrow range: you lose some weight, pull back your efforts, gain it back, and do it again. Don’t you notice how you’re never more than five pounds over or under your usual weight?
Plus if losing weight is your only goal, and you don’t have another one, what will you do with yourself if you actually achieve it? You probably don’t have an answer for that since you expect to be battling your weight for the rest of your life.
Losing weight isn’t impossible — it’s completely achievable. But you have to pull yourself out of this cultural trance and radically change your perspective. You have to think way, way bigger. Here are three ways to do that:
1. Focus on health, not weight loss. I know . . . blah, blah, blah. I’m not telling you to focus on your health and just get used to the weight, not at all. If you really do want to lose it, though, focus on health first. The easiest way to do this is to be aware of how what you eat makes you feel instead of whether it’s going to make you gain or lose weight.
How does what you’re eating make you feel? Does eating the rest of your kids’ fries from Chik-fil-A make you feel fresh and energized or bloated and tired? Does what you’re eating make your skin look clear or blotchy? Does it make you feel alert or sluggish? Does it calm you down or jack you up?
When you think about food this way, you keep going on your journey instead of cutting carbs for two weeks and then bingeing on them after you lose a few pounds. Focusing on health makes it a life-long road that you consistently travel . . . rather than a short-term weight-loss path that always circles back to the same place.
2. Change your motivation. The way we all incessantly talk about losing weight makes me wonder: Why are we trying to lose it in the first place?
You’ll probably say because you want to look good in your bathing suit or that you want to fit into your skinny jeans. There’s nothing wrong with these reasons; I want those things, too. But making these kinds of shallow things your sole focus — without having other, better motivations — will keep you stuck. That’s because there’s no urgency or real consequence for not achieving them.
Think about actors. They have to be lean, fit, and toned or they won’t have a job. There’s a different motivation for them, and the consequences are real if they don’t follow through. Waking up every day, meandering around the house trying not to eat cookies isn’t an option. They’re too busy working toward their goal of winning the Academy Award.
I’m obviously not saying that you need to stop eating and lose ten pounds in two weeks. But when you change your motivation from achieving something meaningless to something dynamic with real power behind it, you’ll get there a lot faster — and then move on with your life.
And by the way, the consequence of not living an exciting, compelling life is very real: because if you don’t, you’ll get to the end of it knowing that you wasted it trying to fit into a pair of jeans.
3. Be an observer, not a participant. It’s truly crazy that no one sees the absurdity of doing the same thing over and over again, never getting anywhere. Wake up to the craziness of it all. Stand back from it as an observer rather than being a participant.
Pay attention to how many messages you get daily about losing weight. And most importantly, be aware of the way these messages are packaged. You are being sold something . . . and it’s the same thing, just dressed differently.
If you look closely, underneath the surface, the marketing message of all diets is this: you’re powerless to make your own changes. They’re selling you the idea that you need a magic pill and that if you buy theirs, you’ll achieve your elusive weight-loss goal. It’s like buying a lottery ticket every week, believing that this one will be the winner.
But you don’t buy lottery tickets, because you’re smart enough to know that getting up and going to work — and doing the work, every single day — is the only way to get paid. You also know that the real reward is working hard for something and achieving it on your own.
You don’t have to be a part of the cultural brainwashing. But in order to reject it, you have to be aware that it’s happening. Take yourself out of the mayhem, and do the real work of marching toward the life you deserve to live, which involves eating healthy food, moving your body . . . and doing something other than incessantly commiserating about how hard it is to lose weight.
Believing that you actually can achieve your weight-loss goal is the first step in achieving it. It’s not as hard as we all make it, it’s definitely not impossible, and, seriously . . . it’s no big deal.