Who's Goal Is It Anyway?
I've been obsessed with losing weight since I was about 8 years old. There was pressure from everywhere - the media, my doctors, and my family all threatened an unhappy existence if I didn't lose weight and I wanted nothing more than to live the life they were insisting I'd be missing out on.
They told me I had to. They told me I was at risk for diabetes and heart problems. They told me I should be bullied, that I wouldn't have friends, and that men wouldn't want to date me if I was heavy (sidetone: this was absolutely untrue). They flaunted the idea of bikini's and short shorts and skimpy outfits that I didn't really care about fitting into in the first place. They told me all of this, but the only thing I wanted was to prove to them that I was worth being loved and accepted and being called attractive but I knew that until I lost weight, I wouldn't get that validation.
Over the years, as my weight continued to increase, despite my efforts, I became frustrated. I was trying so hard to get the weight loss part over with so I could finally live my life. I was mostly happy. I had great friends and family, a boyfriend, and was going to college in Boston but I felt like my life was on pause because I needed to accomplish the weight loss goal before investing time into a new goal. Instead of traveling or exploring the life I wanted to live, I was putting all my mental energy and stress into the number on the scale and I hated every minute of it.
Now, after losing 140+ lbs, I can look back and see what I was doing wrong and why my efforts weren't producing results. I was chasing a goal, not because I wanted it, but because everyone else told me I had to want it. I wanted validation, not weight loss, and because of that, I never resonated with their reasoning.
It took designing a plan aligned with my own desires to finally have success in my weight loss journey and it all started with finding the goal behind the goal.
How I Figured Out My Real Goal
When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (and googled it because I didn't know what the heck it was), I was devastated. Being 20 years old and thinking about being in a wheelchair filled my brain with panic and as I stressed over the idea of physical paralysis, I didn't realize I was putting my mindset into a state of mental and emotional paralysis.
In 2014, just shy of 5 years post diagnosis, I had an MS flare that left me unable to walk more than a short hobble to the bathroom and back. I had no choice but to slow down and think. I didn't want this life. I didn't want to be obese, I didn't want to have MS, I didn't want any of it! It was a low moment, but it was that exact moment when everything changed.
I knew, I wanted to feel healthy and strong. I wanted to travel and be able to dance, run, jump, walk, all without assistance. I wanted to live my life where I wasn't constantly fearing my future, but instead, being excited and inspired by the opportunity to create it.
That was the moment I realized that I'd been so caught up in trying to change who I was for everyone else that I wasn't thinking about the person that I wanted to be.
Where To Begin
If you're in a similar boat as I was, trying to accomplish goals that someone else set up for you, don't get overwhelmed. I know it feels daunting, but this is the beginning of the fun part. This is creating your happiness based on what YOU want, and what could be better than that?
Step 1: Create a Health/Wellness Bucket List:
Writing down a list of things you want to do instead of focusing on a goal you're told you need to do makes putting in the work much more meaningful. Take a few days and start jotting things down. The more you think about it, the easier it will be to think about what you want to do.
If you've always wanted to be able to salsa dance or run a marathon or hike a mountain, pick one of those as your 2018 goal and then use a mind map (see step 2) to find the most effective path to achieving it!
Step 2: Create a Mind Map
There's a reason you were taught how to make a brainstorm map in elementary school. The adult version seems to be called a mind map, but real talk, it's the same thing (which is cool, because that means you already know how to do this!)
Just put your goal in the center of a piece of paper and put a circle around it. Then extend 3-4 lines from that circle and write what you need to do to get there. After that, break it down into even smaller details (and you can continue that process for as long as you need). Once you do that, you can set up small actionable steps (see step 3) based on what you need to hit your goal in 2018!
Need more information? Here is a website dedicated to mind mapping and how to use them effectively.
Step 3: Take Action
Once you've got everything in front of you, it makes it a lot easier to see the steps you need to take to get to your goal. Remember, this is about you doing something that you want to do, so let it be fun and exciting! Just because you're growing doesn't mean it has to be a miserable journey.
If your goal is to learn to salsa dance, maybe your extensions were:
1. Increase flexibility.
2. Take a salsa class each week.
3. Practice 3x a week.
Based on your mind map, you can look at what you need to do and then create 1-3 realistic steps you can start taking to hit your goal each week. Perhaps start with a goal to stretch (or better yet, foam roll) for 15 minutes each morning and simply sign up for your first class. These steps seem small, but they are just the beginning and you can always grow from here.
Let your health and happiness be side effects to healthy living. Just because you aren't focusing directly on weight loss doesn't mean that you won't lose weight if you shift your goal, it just means that you won't be driving yourself crazy in the interim.