“That is depressing!” said a newer patient in one of our weight management classes the other night. She was responding to something that had just been said by another classmate, “This [healthy eating/living] is for the rest of my life, and there is no finish line!” This past week, each patient was asked to share their biggest “take-away” from their experience in the program thus far. I knew it would prove to be a healthy exercise for a couple of reasons because this particular class has a 20 years combined experience participating in the program and because I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change in each person there. The patients’ takeaways included:
“I don’t have to eat that!”
“You don’t have to be hungry to lose weight”
“I’ve been on insulin for 30 years[, but not any more], and I don’t want to go back!”
Since I get the privilege of working with the same weight management patients for months and sometimes years on end, I get to observe something very encouraging: A slow but genuine restructuring of their thoughts toward food and what it means to take care of their health. During this particular meeting, it was refreshing to see the like-mindedness of the group on healthy lifestyles. The one note that was consistently struck was how permanent these behaviors have to be for the weight to stay off.
There was also a lot of talk about “discipline,” “confidence” and finally feeling in control of their health. Special attention was drawn to the bigger picture of one’s long-term health, not merely watching one’s weight on the scale. Narrowly focusing on the scale number is a classic example of missing the forest for the trees, and not seeing that so much more happens to our bodies when we gain or lose weight.
Don’t let the message of “This is for the rest of my life, there is no finish line” psyche yourself out.
It’s not meant to be depressing. By going to this mindset you are telling yourself that a lifestyle change is just too hard, too unattainable or too undesirable for some (flimsy) reason. Give yourself a chance! Due to the bombardment of ineffective quick-fix/weight-loss claims we face, we must hear the following message over and over again to be effective: We don’t need another diet, we need to change the way we live our lives. Accomplishing anything great rarely comes without a cost. Depressing or not, if you want to take care of yourself, there is no finish line – you’re never done. These are the facts, and everyone who succeeds at their health/weight knows it. For those of us working in weight management, we are committed not merely to put a patient on another diet, but to help patients take their lives back!
I’m grateful for the combined wisdom (20+ years!) among that class, and their willingness to share it. Keep it up!