Motivation Problems


Some people really want to lose weight, yet they struggle with motivation. Whether that is motivation to start, motivation to avoid foods that are bad for them, motivation to stick with a diet, or motivation to get up and move a little here and there. Lack of motivation is something we all struggle with from time to time, and I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years. While running last night, I had a thought: when people lack motivation to do something, it’s because they are unable to visualize the goal they are working toward.

I was running at a good clip and I was on my second to last lap. As I thought of the fact that I was almost done, I had an overwhelming desire to stop running. I could have stopped, really. I had run 2 and 3/4 miles at that point, but I have a goal of 3 miles minimum. As soon as I pictured me finishing the 3 miles, the desire to stop went away. My legs became more energized, and I felt an inner-strength well up inside me to get it done. As I neared my goal, the energy was enough to propel me past my goal and into another 1/10th of a mile. I could have gone on further, but I didn’t want to keep Sherry waiting too much longer for us to have dinner, so I stopped. But I learned something: visualizing my success gave me motivation and energy to finish.

When people can’t find the motivation to start a healthy diet, it’s likely because they can’t visualize themselves being happy on the diet. They can’t see themselves being successful. The more diets overweight people try to lose weight and fail, the harder it is to adopt successive diets. I get that; I have lived it. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals and to set phases, or checkpoints. That’s what I did, and it’s how I became successful. I had monthly goals that were loose enough for me to be able to succeed even if I didn’t quite meet a certain number. 

That brings me to another point about goals; don’t make goals scale-based. Weighing yourself on a scale is an easy measure of weight loss (duh!) but it’s not the only measure of your success in attaining good health. How your clothes fit, results from blood tests and physicals, mobility, flexibility, and improved ability to perform physical tasks are all things that are greatly improved once you start a healthy lifestyle with a clean diet and some exercise.

Exercise: the hardest of all things to be motivated about. In my experience, it’s hardest to get motivated about exercise because we have all been in programs where you work out, run, or ride a bike, and the next day, you feel tired, worn out, and sore. Sometimes, so sore, that just doing normal, every day things are difficult. Nobody likes that (well, some people thrive on that feeling; I’ve never been one of them). I have found that taking things easy and slow makes attaining fitness far easier and it requires even less motivation. My plan is simple: walk for 30 minutes. Then have a rest day. Then, walk for 30 minutes followed by another rest day. See the pattern? Walk every other day. After about two or three weeks of walking, my legs felt like they just weren’t getting enough, so I began to jog. It was a ridiculously slow jog, but I did it for 20 minutes straight without quitting and I walked the last 10 minutes. I increased my jog time to 30 minutes and then worked on increasing pace once I could run 30 minutes straight without walking.

I added push ups to my routine early on, and started with 10. That’s all I could do, but I didn’t care. I could do 10 comfortably, and I stopped when my arms started feeling struggle. I did my push ups every other day, and if I felt I could do 2 or 3 more, I would do them. If I felt I could do less, I would. I never pushed myself past my comfort. Now, I am up to 100+ push ups every other day and I run 3+ miles every other day at an 8:30/mile average or faster. It took me 8 months to get there, but I wasn’t in any hurry to reach those numbers, and I just do what I can. My goal each and every time I did push ups was to have an increase each week and not every day. If I did 10 for three days and then was able to do 15 the following week, that was a win. It allowed me to stay motivated as I was seeing progress which mean I was achieving success.

Motivation to avoid foods that aren’t clean, whole, or good for us is tricky because it’s hard to measure success against failure. Coupled with the fact that each temptation is a test of one’s fortitude, failing and succumbing to temptation hits us harder than missing a push up or run time goal. It feels like a personal failure. Going into a new diet, it’s important to know that you will not be perfect. It’s impossible. But what is well within your power is to keep trying. The difference between a successful person and a failure is that the successful person didn’t let failure stop them. That’s all it is; literally, just getting back on the horse. Now, it’s important to eat clean, and to do that for as often as you can, but if you are defeated by a temptation to eat a donut when there is a stack of them in the office, don’t beat yourself up. Dust yourself off, and make sure the rest of your meals that day are good for you. It literally is that easy.

Motivation is an energy to harness, and it’s something you have done before. Apply it to your health, visualize your attainable goals, and for a final goal, visualize yourself as the healthy, thinner, and fit person you want to be. Don’t let anything get in your way of being the best you that you can possibly be. In this race, you are your own worst enemy, and the only person who can defeat you.

A Five Paragraph Order for Weight Loss

The Five Paragraph Order is a style of organizing information about a military situation for a unit in the field. It is an element of United States Army, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy Seabees of small unit tactics, and similar order styles are used by military groups around the world. An order specifies the instruction to a unit in a structured format that makes it easy to find each specific requirement.


Situation

You are overweight. Fat, even. You are out of shape. Fit is no longer something you can be described as. If you continue down this road, you will live an uncomfortable life and possibly die from weight-related complications.

Mission

To reverse the unhealthy lifestyle and regain rudimentary fitness

Execution

  1. Research Whole30 and the Paleo Diet.
  2. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator of all non-compliant ingredients
  3. Purchase whole foods: meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
  4. Set a start date and do it.
  5. Complete Whole30 and transition to Paleo

Administration and Logistics

Keep a log or diary. Do not weigh yourself daily on the Whole30. Ensure you have the appropriate Whole30 compliant ingredients which are available on the outsides of every grocery store; meat, fruit, and vegetables. More difficult to find ingredients for Paleo may be found online.

Foods to avoid
  • Processed sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Alcohol
Acceptable foods
  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit (within reason)
  • Nuts

Command and Signal

Continue reading about health and fitness. Continue reading about Whole30 and the Paleo Diet. Reach out to others who have adopted the same lifestyle. Online communities are welcoming and a good place to start. Reach out locally to others and encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle by showing them your successes.


I can’t lay it out any easier than this. I have set forth the mission; it is on you to carry it out. If you need more information, let me know and I will get it for you.

Advice to Service Members Getting Out

This article is intended for service members who are separating from the military, but contains information that is useful for everyone. -EJ


So, you’ve decided to get out. To leave the Big Green Gun Club behind. To seek out greener pastures, or to just leave on your own terms. Good for you! There are some things you are leaving behind that may, at first glance, seem like a blessing, but actually turn out to be a curse. The one I’m going to talk about is exercise.

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When I graduated USMC boot camp, I weighed 138 lbs.

Now hear me out. I know how you feel; I stood in those boots many years ago, looking out toward civilian life and looking forward to never having to run again. I feel you! But here’s the problem; staying fit and healthy are super-important, and one area I’ve seen so many of us veterans fail ourselves is our health and fitness. Look at the VFW or American Legion and you’ll find a rather rotund bunch. The majority of veterans I know gained a lot of weight, and I’m watching them fall one by one in large part due to health issues brought about by poor health and fitness.

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This was me when I ate whatever I wanted to in whatever quantity. Exercise? What’s that?

There are many things we can do nothing about when it comes to our health like genetic disorders and diseases, but staying fit and giving ourselves the best chance to stay healthy by eating right and getting off our tails three times a week is something well within our power.

I’m not saying stay in PFT shape (although I do now!). I’m saying that maybe a short run every other day, three times a week, is not a bad thing. Watch what you eat. Learn about how bad sugar is in our diet, and change. You can still enjoy some really delicious and tasty foods while eating right.

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You’re getting out of the military. Give yourself the best chance at a long, happy life by being healthy and fit. Your family depends on you. Don’t give the grim reaper any excuse to come and take you sooner than necessary. Eat right and get off your tail and move.

Making the unconscious conscious and cravings

Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Your life circumstances largely result from your unconscious thinking patterns and behaviors. If you want change, stop running the same old script and decide to write a new one. That’s what I did when I decided to do my first Whole30 and then adopt a Paleo lifestyle and the Paleo Diet.

In the past, I allowed my cravings and nutritional ignorance guide my life. I ate whatever I was hungry for with no regard to its nutritional value or any detrimental effects on my body. I was eating myself to death. After taking a long, hard look at the state of my health and contemplating my impending mortality, I decided to tackle my ignorance and take charge of my health. No longer was I reacting to cravings and calling them subconscious messages for what my body is hungry for. I no longer answered cravings blindly by stuffing my face. I began to think about where these cravings were coming from, what they were the result of, and what they could be telling me.

First, they were the result of a sugar addiction. The cravings came as a result of my body wanting me to put more sugar into it. And not just foods with carbs, but foods with easily soluble sugar: sodas, candies, and anything with refined sugar. The bad part is that this is the worst kind of sugar, and is very quickly turned into fat by the liver and pancreas.

Second, they only perpetuated the cycle of sugar addiction. Until I got free of it, it was going to continue to run my life through my stomach (and ultimately end it).

Third, they were sometimes the result of boredom. When I was bored, I often heard the “Call” of a craving and answered it by eating even if I wasn’t hungry. This was like stoking a fire that was already burning; it just made the cravings stronger next time.

Many people feel like cravings are natural. They are not. Hunger is natural, and should only happen when your body needs nutrients, not for specific foods. Ask yourself the next time you get a craving: When is the last time I ate? Is what I’m craving food, or something specific? Am I hungry, or just bored?

I do a few things if I feel hungry to make sure it’s a real signal and not my brain playing tricks on me. I drink some tea, water, or coffee. I find something to do, whether it’s a task at work or a project at home. If I’m still hungry afterward, chances are that I had a light meal previously, or it’s getting close to meal time.

Cravings are a lot like fate: not real. Consider why you make the decisions you do in your eating, and really think about where those decisions are coming from. You might be shocked to find that sugar is in the driver’s seat in many of the decisions you make.

Being Better Than I Was Yesterday

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I’ve come a long way within two years.

I came upon a realization recently that is probably as close to an epiphany as I’ve had in recent years. I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday; every day. I want to be healthier, run faster, put in more effort, be a better husband, be a better dad, be a better friend, a better member of my community. Life gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves, to live better, healthier, more fulfilling lives. It takes effort to be better than yesterday, but with baby steps, it’s doable. I know: I’m living proof.

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Me on the left and me on the right with a difference of two years.

Sure, I lost a lot of weight. That doesn’t make me a philosopher with all the answers to life’s questions. But I’ve done more. I went from living a sedentary lifestyle to one of fitness. I’m back in the military. I believe that I’m a more organized and harder working employee. I do everything I can to be a better husband, father, and friend. I continue trying to learn as much as I can about the people and the world around me. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge that grows every day.

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My daughter and I with the band The Naked and Famous.

I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to lead a life where I’m looking behind me, recounting the glory days. That’s why I wear new clothes, listen to new music, watch new movies, and try to experience new things. I’m making memories through these experiences, but now is not the time for me to look back. Now is the time for me to live! To make memories! To do as much as I can while I have the ability!

These things drive me to eat right, to get my exercise, to put my nose to the grindstone, and to be gracious to those who mean a lot to me.

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Sherry and I at the Habitat for Humanity Gala last weekend.

The Paleo Diet, Whole30, and running have led me to where I am today: a better version of myself. Every day, when I wake up, I wonder what I can improve on. At the end of the day, I reflect on my interactions, the things I read, the things I experienced, and I find opportunities to improve. It’s also a nice way to look back at how far I’ve come from that guy who weighed 312 lbs, sat in a chair all day, and had to hold his breath to tie his own shoes. The guy who barely went out because it was so much effort. I’ve come a long way, and yet, I still have a long way to go. It’s been a great journey; I’m looking forward to the rest, and being better than I am today.

Let’s flip things up a bit: what you can eat on Paleo

IMG_2666People always ask what you can’t eat when you’ve adopted the Paleo Diet, and I can see them get troubled when I mention grains, sugar, legumes, and dairy. However, let’s try this: instead of answering what you can’t have, lead off with what you can eat! It’s a much bigger list, frankly, and contains foods that nearly everyone already enjoys! Foods like:

  • Steak
  • Fajitas
  • Sausage*
  • Bacon*
  • Ribs*
  • Brisket
  • Chicken
  • Lobster
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Fruits

*With no sugar added

That’s a pretty awesome list and doesn’t go into the Paleo versions of food that you can have like:

  • Paleo bread
  • Paleo pancakes
  • Paleo pizza
  • Paleo tortillas
  • Paleo cake
  • Paleo torte
  • Paleo cookies
  • Paleo brownies
  • …and many more!

Sure, some of these alternatives may take a lot of extra preparation, but many of them taste either exactly like or very similar to their full-sugar and grain counterparts (and some of them, like chocolate chip cookies, are even better than the real thing!).

Focus on the positives and not the negatives. Focus on what you can eat and not on what you can’t. You will find yourself much happier, and adopting the Paleo lifestyle will become much easier.

How do I stay motivated when all I want to do is snack?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times. When I did my first Whole30, it was tough. The first three days were the worst, and I was constantly wanting to eat snacks. I got through it by finding things to keep my mind busy and by the occasional handful of almonds. Coffee and tea also helped me a lot, but in the end, it was willpower that got me through. I was through with just “Trying” anymore. I was “Doing,” and I was going to make it this time. I wasn’t going to allow the sugar cravings to win.

I wanted to succeed more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. I set my mind to it, and I did everything I could to follow the rules and to do it right. The only thing I cheated on was weighing myself; I did that daily. But I’m the kind of person who needed that type of feedback to fuel my desire to stick with it. I know many people can get demotivated when they don’t see movement on the scale; it only made my resolve stronger.

I don’t believe in cheat days, cheat meals, or even cheat snacks. Cheating is defined as gaining an unfair advantage on an opponent. Cheat meals are actually sabotage, as they ruin your progress, can derail your mental state, and make future sabotages easier. It’s a slippery slope that is best avoided completely.

Some things to ask yourself when trying to decide whether you should eat a snack or not:

  • How badly do you want to change your life?
  • How important is it to you to lose weight?
  • How dire is your health situation?
  • Is the sabotage to your progress worth the short-term gratification?
  • Are you really hungry, or just bored?
  • Are you thirsty instead? Drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes.

We all have it in us to succeed with cutting out sugar from our diets. It’s not easy. Hell, it’s probably the toughest thing you will ever do, but the rewards are substantial and you will feel so much better afterward, you won’t ever want to go back to your pre-Whole30 lifestyle again. Keep your head in the game and reach out if you need help, pointers, or tips.