Most of us are willing to admit we need to shape up. But are we ready to tackle the business of losing weight? Or would we rather just watch the tackles on Monday Night Football? Or better yet, go out to dinner with girlfriends when fall football fever takes over?
I was lucky in that multiple factors converged to steer me into a re-invention of myself losing my unwanted 62 pounds: medical problems appeared on the horizon. More compellingly, though, I hated my appearance—183 pounds spread over a 5-foot 1-inch frame. And as the last straw, the bathroom scale broke when I stood on it.
The decision to get fit was my own, but when it came to carrying it out, I recruited support—my husband, a fitness trainer, a physician and a nurse at the local hospital’s wellness center. Even with considerable help, though, I struggled to maintain equilibrium. My daughter’s near fatal cardiac arrest, the September 11 attack, my own life-threatening medical crisis and a trip to France for my son’s wedding conspired to derail my efforts.
Belatedly, I discovered Dr. Kelly Brownell’s test for readiness in his book, The Learn Program for Weight Management, an authoritative resource written for professionals and laypersons alike. Drawing on his extensive clinical experience at Yale University, Dr. Brownell gives us questions to ask ourselves so we can realistically assess our readiness to tackle losing weight. Let’s look at some of those questions:
committed am I, not just FOR today, but for the months ahead? Can I
handle the stress of making changes in eating and exercising and
still manage other responsibilities? None of us can stop living, get
fit and then return to living. We must achieve fitness while life
Will I feel deprived or upset when making different food choices? Or will I feel challenged? Am I willing to make lifelong changes? To give up forever the yo-yo cycle of overeating followed by strict dieting? Since I can never get enough of what I don’t really need, am I willing to replace flawed choices with mindful decisions that are in my best interests?
I stumble, can I recover my balance? Instead of eating over them, am
I willing to face and deal with difficult emotions like anxiety and
loneliness? Can I find ways to celebrate other than eating? Can I
comfort myself after a difficult day without resorting to food?
Do I have realistic goals?
Am I willing to exercise regularly? For the rest of my life? With whatever disabilities, handicaps, financial or time limitations I encounter? Can I find exercise that entertains me? Helps me make new friends? That relaxes me and lifts my mood? One that creates more energy for me?
Taking control and facing life head-on are essential commitments. Complete ownership of eating and exercise choices is also necessary. Excuses—be they related to genetics, medical problems, lack of time or support—must be abandoned.
of these questions can be mathematically scored to give a clear “yes”
or “no” sign. Answering them honestly can, however, help you
assess your readiness.
you decide to proceed, I can tell you that you won’t just lose
weight. You’ll also lose the baggage surrounding the issue. You’ll
find yourself more cheerful and positive. You’ll have more energy,
think more clearly and have a stronger sense of well-being. Going
forward, the quality of your life will be better. You’ll have more
fun and experience more joy.
I can’t even begin to place a value on what I’ve gained from losing weight. It’s the best gift by far I’ve ever given myself. And everyone I’ve talked to who’s undergone this transformation is unabashedly enthusiastic about it.
when neighbors and friends approach me seeking help with their
fitness efforts, I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, I’m excited to
share the transformation I experienced and want everyone to enjoy the
same wonderful benefits it brought me. On the other hand, if the
person isn’t ready, expectations may be dashed by reality a few
weeks from now.
my typical response is to neither promote my own example nor
emphasize the difficulty and thereby potentially discourage the
person. Aware that when it comes to knowing ourselves, each of us is
the expert, I simply pose Dr. Brownell’s questions.
Are you ready for some weight loss? Only you know the answer.