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How to lose weight when you don’t know where to start

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The other day I posted this on Facebook:

It’s only possible to transform your body when the reason you want to change is more compelling than the excuses you use to stay the same.

The comments and emails I got called me out: “Okay, smarty-pants, what do you do when you know you need to change but can’t seem to find that internally motivating reason?”

(True confession: I added the “smarty-pants” line; nobody actually said that.)

When most of us embark on an attempt at weight loss, we dive in to the meal plans, recipes and cookbooks of a structured diet. We read up on all the diet’s rules, arm ourselves with a shopping list and head to the grocery store. Maybe we clean out our pantry, fridge and freezer, purging all the unhealthy food and resolve to “be good” this time and really stick to the plan.

I have done this more times than your grandmother has liver spots.

Maybe some people can lose weight this way, but I never could. Nor can millions of other people who attempt weight loss every year, including some of those friends who expressed their frustration on Facebook that day.

Why does the traditional diet structure fail us over and over again?

Because we’re doing it entirely backwards.

The meal plans, recipes and pantry purges need to be done, to be sure. But that’s not where you start.

The starting line for weight loss isn’t a line at all; it’s a question.

Here’s the question:

“What do you know about yourself, for sure?”

Tell me what you know at your deepest core about yourself. Tell me who you are.

When I had my “rock bottom” experience in March 2007 (weighing 265 pounds, stressed out, miserable) it seemed as if my entire world crumbled all around me. I was humbled to the core. When I was in that very vulnerable state, I asked myself that question: “What do I know about myself, for sure?”

The answer that came to me was very simple, but it changed me and set the wheels in motion to transform my body and my life.

The answer was just this: I am worth the time, money and considerable effort it will take to get better. What I knew about myself then, what I live by now, is that I may be broken, but I am worth fixing. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be fulfilled. I don’t have to earn it; it’s my birthright.

That powerful thought was a seismic shift in my life and has completely changed how I think about food, fitness, my work, my family, my priorities, my money, my time.


The reason traditional diets don’t work is that they don’t even begin to touch on this stuff.

As I said, I’d failed at weight loss probably hundreds of times, but after I answered that question, nobody had to tell me what to do. I became a fierce agent for change in my own life.

Something else I know for sure is that it’s not enough to hate the way you feel in your clothes. It’s not enough to be embarrassed when you must ask for a seatbelt extension on an airplane. It’s often not even enough when your doctor admonishes you to clean up your act or your high blood pressure will kill you.

Oh, those are all compelling reasons, but they’re negative reasons borne of desperation and fear, notoriously poor motivators. As soon as the immediate fear subsides, you forget about it and order the double bacon cheeseburger. And it’s not enough to want it for somebody else either. I’m sorry, but “I want to be around to enjoy my grandkids,” is not gonna cut it. After all, you’ve always loved them – and you ordered the double bacon cheeseburger anyway, right? It’s not enough.

The reason must be about you, and you alone.

Answering that question: “What do I know about myself, for sure?” is humbling and uplifting at the same time. When I had my answer I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, and I couldn’t wait to start creating my new life.

This is why I say, when you can answer that question for yourself, you will have found a very compelling reason to chase your own dreams.

Now, tell me your reason.


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