We each have our own reasons and motives for doing everything in our lives. There are the typical ones like money, power, and sex, and then the more lofty ones like honour and idealism. However, no matter which of these groups you fall into, psychologists have found that two motivations rune true for all humans-autonomy and self-empowerment.
That’s right, we want to feel empowered and do things for ourselves. Why, then, does every major mainstream weight loss program preach the exact opposite. Rather than empower people to take control of their own life and their own weight they offer them the simple solution of handing that power over to them instead. The logic is so convoluted that most advertisements end up telling us that in order to ‘take control of our lives’ we need to hand it over to someone else. How is that motivation?
Now, if you are like most people, this information is jarring. And, if I understand neuroscience properly (which I think I do) your brain is about to go into a hyper drive of activity whereby a bunch of neurons will fire off and create a feeling of distress. To combat this distress our minds will begin to ‘reason’ away why my logic makes no sense (making no sense themselves in the process) and reaching a conclusion that supports your prior assumptions and moves you on with your life.
But that doesn’t sound healthy, now does it? The problem with this way of thinking is that it traps us within the confines of our comfort zone and blinds us to any new way of thinking or doing something that could possibly help us in the long term. Like the proverbial ostrich with his head in the sand, we refuse to see what’s in front of us in favour of the familiar even if the familiar is unpleasant.
But here’s the reality: in Australia we have something called the National Weight Control Registry. Here, people who have successfully lost a significant portion of their body weight and kept it off for a long period of time enter their data. On this site, more than 50% of the successful individuals succeeded precisely because they didn’t follow some program or plan, but merely became autonomous and figured out a system that worked for them.
Here’s the real scoop: if these so-called ‘weight loss’ plans really worked, and worked well they would go out of business. If the goal is to lose weight and keep it off, you should only use the program once and then call it a day. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. These plans work in the short term, but the minute you ‘go off course’ you re-gain the weight. Then, desperate for your life back, you go back to that same program because it ‘worked’ the last time.
Except it didn’t. If it worked, you wouldn’t need it again. Ever.
The only way to lose weight successfully is to do it slowly. Yes, the results will take longer to show in the short term, but if you do it right, you won’t have to do it again. Taking the long-term view of things it then becomes obvious that the fastest way to lose weight is to only do it once.
Remember, it is not about the number of calories you burn in 12 weeks, it is about the number of calories you burn over the course of your life. The only way to succeed in your weight loss journey is to take control of it yourself and keep that autonomous motivation in the forefront of your mind forever.