In this month’s Change Anything column, Michael Emehiser shares the specific strategies he used to motivate weight loss.
I knew something was wrong when I woke up in the middle of the night and felt a crushing pressure in my chest. I soon found myself in an ambulance on my way to the hospital where I had a cardiogram and learned I had a mild blockage and other indicators of future heart problems.
After that rude wakeup call to get healthy, I began walking with my wife. While the time spent together was special, it didn’t make much difference on the scale. My enthusiasm soon faded and I found myself plopped in front of the TV again.
By 2005, I was 50 pounds overweight, got winded on short walks, and became increasingly depressed. Shedding the weight was even more difficult because my blood pressure and cholesterol skyrocketed and my thyroid all but stopped working. After a few years of yo-yo dieting, the only results I saw were fluctuating weight and disappointment.
In 2007, after my close friend died of a heart attack, I realized I had to change. My friend was only a few years older than I was and in great shape. While attending his funeral I thought, “This is not what I want for my life. This is not how I want it to end.” This realization was the motivation I needed to whip myself into shape.
I invested in a workout program and identified several vital behaviors I wanted to influence, including:
• Go to bed early so I can exercise and prepare healthy food in the morning
• Log on daily to a fitness Web site to record my progress and chat with friends
• Drink a lot of water—especially before meals—to help me feel full
• Eat six small meals a day—no snacks—to help me stay full while eating less calories overall
After I identified these vital behaviors, I created my plan and put the following strategies into action.
Source 1: Love What You Hate — One of the most difficult hurdles for me was my dislike of and lack of motivation for exercise. So, whenever I felt my motivation slipping, I reminded myself what was at stake: my time with my six grandkids, my self-respect, and most importantly, my health. I see my grandchildren every day, so they’re on the forefront of my mind. When I wake up in the morning and sit on the edge of my bed thinking about how I want to go back to sleep, I intentionally think about them and why I am doing this so I keep my motivation front and center. I don’t want to die early and leave my family behind. This regular ritual has helped me feel differently about exercising.
Source 2: Do What You Can’t — After failing at several weight loss plans, I didn’t know where to turn. My new workout program gave me the skills I needed to lose weight and be healthy, and the health-screening program at work helped me identify my weaknesses and gain the knowledge and skills I needed to meet my goals. I attended informational meetings about eating right and staying fit. They also helped me set appropriate goals. As I progressed through my plan I thought, “I can’t wait to go to my next screening and see the progress I’ve made.”
Sources 3 & 4: Turn Accomplices into Friends — I knew I needed to involve people in my weight loss efforts so they would hold me accountable. My wife especially helped me keep my commitments. For example, when I’d sit down in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, she would ask, “Do you really need that?”
I told many people about my goal to lose weight, and it felt so good to report that I was on track. I also built relationships with others who were trying to lose weight via an online fitness Web site. We exchanged healthy recipes and encouraged each other to keep our commitments. If I didn’t log on every morning, these new friends would follow-up, give advice, or help me solve problems. This support team had a huge impact on my success.
Source 5: Invert the Economy — I motivated myself to stay on track by remembering the investment I had made in my expensive workout program. While I didn’t want to spend that much money, I knew if I sacrificed financially, I would be more likely to follow through. When it was difficult to wake up in the morning, I reversed my thinking by focusing on the long-term investment and the satisfaction of completing the program instead of my current lack of energy and motivation.
Source 6: Control Your Space — I also knew I had to make changes at home, so I quit buying junk food and started eating fresh fruit and vegetables. I also put a chin-up bar in the kitchen doorway and posted before and after pictures on the fitness Web site. Every time I saw these reminders, I was motivated to exercise or eat right.
When I put all of these strategies into play, my life changed. In the next year, my body fat content went from 25 percent to 12 percent, I lost 57 pounds, and have since maintained that weight. I lowered my cholesterol and blood pressure, cut my thyroid medication back, and feel healthier than ever. I now know that while change is never easy, it is possible.
Editor’s Note: Similar stories of inspiring change will be featured in our upcoming book about personal change due to be released Spring 2011. If you have an inspiring story of personal change, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Change Anything Story” in the subject line of your e-mail.