I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately. What motivates some people and not others to complete certain tasks? I’ve especially been wondering how motivation is related to weight loss. You see, I vowed that 2010 was going to be the year that I changed my lifestyle, got healthier, and lost 60 lbs. It hasn’t happened. I just plain and simply can’t get motivated. Or I guess it’s not really that I can’t get motivated, it’s more a problem of staying motivated. What exactly is motivation? Steven Jonas, M.D., in his book Take Control of your Weight, has this to say about motivation.
“Motivation is a state of mind characterized as an emotion, feeling, desire, idea, or intellectual understanding, or a psychological, physiological, or health need mediated by a conscious or unconscious mental process that leads to the taking of one or more actions.”
I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual physical. I love my doctor. He is kind and caring and compassionate, knows his stuff, and has the best bedside manner of any doctor I know. And he listens. He has this remarkable gift of making you feel like you are his only patient for the day… his only concern. I haven’t met too many doctors who can pull that off. So when I went for my physical yesterday, I spoke to my doctor about how difficult losing weight is and how frustrated I have been with my weight loss efforts. Trying to lose weight has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. I told my doctor I rank it right up there with completing veterinary school and I never in my life thought anything would be as difficult as that. He agreed, was empathetic, etc. But my doctor is thin. And as much as I dearly love him, I have to say it is extremely difficult talking to a thin person about how hard it is to lose weight. I wonder if deep down he truly knows how difficult it really is.
I am crystal clear on the reasons I want/need to lose weight. At the top of my list is: I want to be healthier. Both my parents had colon cancer. My mother was diagnosed with it when she was 59. Fortunately, her cancer was diagnosed early. She had a cancerous polyp which happened to rupture which caused her to pass bright red blood (lots of it) and this sent her running to her doctor. She had never had a routine colonoscopy. She had an intestinal resection and anastomosis and she went on to live 21 more years, (until another type of cancer reared its ugly head). My dad was not so fortunate. He had been healthy all his life, except for being diagnosed with diabetes in his 60s. He was a pilot and a flight instructor, had annual check-ups and was still actively flying and enjoying his career when he became sick with abdominal pain. My father was a very private person when it came to his health. He didn’t like to admit when he wasn’t feeling well. But we started noticing that he was coming home from the airport during the day and going to bed (and you must understand this was highly unusual for him). He was also eating chewable antacids like candy (again unusual for someone who was known never to take medicine). He was starting to lose weight. When we questioned him about that, he said his doctor had told him to lose a little weight due to the diabetes. To make a long story short, he was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 70. He, too, had never had a screening colonoscopy. Unfortunately for my father, his colon cancer was metastatic (it had spread to the abdominal lymph nodes) and his prognosis wasn’t good. He was admitted to the hospital for a resection and anastomosis. He suffered a massive stroke on the surgery table and was never the same. The stroke took both his mind and the use of his body, and the cancer was slowly but surely wreaking havoc on his body. He started chemotherapy but wasn’t able to finish it. He had horrific side effects and the oncologist told us we probably needed to discontinue treatments . He said his goal was not to kill our father with the treatment. My father lived 2 years and died at the age of 72.
My mother’s gastroenterologist told her that her three daughters needed to start getting screened for colon cancer at the age of 35. At one point, we were told not to ask ourselves if we would get colon cancer, but when. That’s a pretty powerful statement and it sure lit a fire under my rear to go get a screening colonoscopy. I have had one every 5 years since and so far have had good reports. I can’t help but wonder, had my dad been screened, would it have prolonged his life? But I guess that’s water under the bridge.
My oldest sister is into genealogy. Looking over death certificates in our family, intestinal adenocarcinoma comes up often as a cause of death in relatives on my mother’s side of the family. There is also a history of cardiovascular disease in both sides of my family. Did I mention that besides having two parents with colon cancer, that I also had two parents who were type two diabetics? So, yep, I have some seriously hostile diseases in my future if I don’t lose some weight. I’m not saying that losing weight is going to prevent me from ever getting these diseases, but research has shown that obese people have a higher risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and of course cardiovascular disease. And after witnessing both of my beloved parents suffer horrible deaths from cancer, I want to avoid it if possible. I have a fear of getting cancer or dying prematurely with an obesity related death. That’s fear with a capital F. I want to live to see my sons graduate from college, marry and start families of their own. I want to live to see and hold my grandchildren. So wouldn’t you think this fear would motivate me to lose some weight? You would think. Apparently fear must not be a very good motivator. I don’t know.
It’s not that I don’t know what to do to lose weight. I understand that it has to be a lifestyle change and that “diets” don’t work. I get all that, I really do. I know it is hard work, takes time, and that there is no quick fix. I know having support from friends and family is important (I think I have that support). I know keeping records will increase my chance of success in losing weight and I’m trying to do that too by keeping a food and exercise diary. Back in 2002, I reached a point of disgust with my weight and decided to seek out the help of a nutritionist. I wasn’t having any success trying to do it on my own. I was also facing an impending major surgery that year and knew that if I lost weight my risks in surgery would be lowered and my recovery would be easier. I buried myself in nutrition books before my first appointment to educate myself. I saw the nutritionist weekly and together we worked through a program called LEARN- an acronym for the five essential components of the program : Lifestyles, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, and Nutrition. It was a wonderful program, I learned a lot, and the nutritionist motivated me like there was no tomorrow. I lost 35 lbs. I still had about 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal, but slowly, I reverted back to my old ways. I lost my motivation somewhere along the way. In reality it all sounds so easy…. that is, knowing exactly what I need to do. I need to decrease my calorie load and increase my exercise, I need to increase my fiber, drink more water (lots more water in my case), watch portion sizes, choose more healthy snacks, eat more whole grains and a variety of fruit and vegetables, eat a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, avoid sweets, etc., etc., etc. Sounds so easy…. if only I could just do it!
I don’t think I have any answers on the motivation mystery. I guess this post has been just a vent session. But I guess bloggers have the right to do that occasionally, don’t we? Again, I find myself facing surgery in the near future and the surgeon told me just losing half my goal would be beneficial. That was in March and I thought losing 30 lbs. would be very doable. I would lose the 30 lbs., and have my surgery in the early fall. But I have found that losing weight in my 50s is not as easy as it was in my 40s and the weight is just not coming off very easily (blasted thrifty metabolism). My doctor has confidence in me and I wish I could too. He told me at my visit yesterday that I would lose the weight I needed to lose. I wish I could believe that. I need to believe that. Right now, I feel as if I am taking 2 steps forward and 3 back. I feel as if I am in the running for the Guinness Book of World Records in the category of slowest weight loss ever. But I won’t give up. I will keep trying. I’ll work on my attitude. And I’ll keep pondering the motivation thing.