Why do some people succeed in losing weight while others fail? Why do some people pick themselves up when they fall down while others remain immobilized? Why do some people, like Oprah, achieve fitness and then find themselves backsliding?
The answer resides in a quality that I call innergy. Innergy is the place inside us that provides the motivation and will to change our habits. As Oprah’s situation reveals, others can inspire us, others can educate us, others can train us and others can cook for us. But to succeed, we have to self-manage our way through a maze of daily decisions. And only inside our hearts do we find the innergy to guide our decision making and make our visions a reality.
Dr. Ian Smith, founder of the 50 Million Pound Challenge and author of the The 4 Day Diet, affirms that neither he nor anyone else can motivate you to adopt a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. “This,” he says, “is a decision that only one person can make—the person seeking health and fitness. Each of us must find our core motivation. Whether the desire to change is triggered by health or vanity doesn’t matter. What matters is that the person connects with this core motivation and consistently reconnects with these values over time.”
I discovered my own innergy before it was too late—before my body was irreversibly damaged by surplus pounds and a sedentary lifestyle and before I suffered chronic or fatal medical problems. Armed with this newfound strength, I moved steadily toward fitness and weight loss. Since then, I’ve used my time and talent to help others make similar decisions—before it’s too late.
In the course of this work, I’ve had conversations with dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals who are struggling to lose weight and become fit. I commonly hear despair in the stories from individuals who have tried and failed to make changes, just as I had tried and failed for over 40 years.
Like me, they mistakenly feel that the problem of excess weight arises from overeating. If they could just stick with a diet, they reason, they could lose weight. Moreover, these individuals believe I succeeded because I have willpower.
They are mistaken. I am not blessed with surplus willpower; however, once I tapped into my innergy, I became a good student. As I discovered, overeating was not the problem. Rather, overeating was my overused solution to the stress and discomfort of everyday life. I learned more healthful ways of coping that reinforced my commitment to living more healthfully.
Dr. Martin Binks, Director of Behavioral Health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center and co-author of The Duke Diet, says that “any unhealthy coping solution we overuse (shopping, eating, smoking or drinking alcohol, for example) to the exclusion of other more helpful ones (talking it out with friends, exercising to reduce stress, for example) creates new problems.” Dr. Binks assures us that “successful lifestyle changes are determined less by the strength of our willpower than by our willingness to learn new skills and different ways of coping.”
Here are three ways to tap your own innergy to help you lose weight and get fit (FIT):
F: Figure out and list the different ways you can comfort yourself—from a hot shower to a walk outdoors to an escape into a good book. Create a personalized buffet of coping options from which to choose when you feel discouraged, fatigued or out of sorts.
I: Invent yourself anew. Learn new ways to cook that are healthy and less fattening. Learn fun new ways to exercise that you thoroughly enjoy. Experiment with tennis, dancing, Pilates, swimming, walking, bodybuilding, yoga or other forms of exercise until you find one or two that make you feel like a kid again.
T: Tell everyone about your heartfelt dream to nourish and care for your body and the gift of life it represents. Enroll your friends and family to support you and to tackle their own fitness goals. You can inspire others just as they can inspire you. Fortunately, for all of us, our bodies are wonderfully forgiving. If it isn’t too late, our bodies respond magnificently and quickly when we adopt healthful habits.
In contrast to the approximately $39 billion a year Americans spend on diet products—from diet books to unregulated supplements promising magical weight loss based on a medical breakthrough—these three tips are practical and inexpensive to implement.
Also in contrast, these tips require action and accountability on your part—unlike the typical diet products that promise quick and effortless weight loss, encourage your dependency on the product, require up-front payment and may be harmful to your health. (Given that most of us continue to be overweight, it’s understandable that some authorities consider these diet products a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the American public.)
The irony is that innergy—the essential element needed for fitness and weight loss—is free. No one can sell it to you, nor can anyone take it away from you. The very quality that allows you to set your lifestyle change in motion resides with you and is connected to your deepest values. If Oprah succeeds as she continues her weight-loss journey, her ability to make this connection will be the source of her transformation.
same holds true for you. You can adopt a new mind set today. Once you
do, you cannot go back. You can fall down. You can stumble. And you
can veer off track. But you can’t go back. Tapping into your
innergy will trigger an authentic commitment to well-being that will
inform your daily decision making and allow you to realize fitness
and weight loss beyond your wildest dreams. And it’s yours for the
"The undertaking of new action brings new strength." Evenius