Who knows where inspiration and motivation come from? I certainly don’t because oddly when I’ve looked for it (and by this I mean the true change inspiring kind that lasts) I’ve rarely found it.
I remain convinced that (like the chicken and egg paradox) you can’t have inspiration without some element of forcing yourself into the mindset to begin with.
Once you’re on the cusp of belief, and the ball starts rolling then it becomes a self generating phenomenon, and quite out of the blue you start to look in the mirror, feel upbeat, have a spring in your step and realise that you’re making progress.
Since Saturday this is what I’ve been doing – and it might be because there’s a phrase that’s been ringing in my ears. It was something (almost throwaway) that my consultant Angie said to me in Slimming World that’s been playing over and over in my head.
I popped into another meeting yesterday, not to weigh in but to keep my head in the game.
Angie said to me in passing that I’m in a new phase of my life now, I’m happy and I’m settled, but that I haven’t yet found out what my new motivation is to stay at target – and that I just need to find something that works for me.
After the session ended I found myself walking and thinking about what she’d said.
My initial motivation to give up drinking in January 2016 (way before I joined Slimming World) was to be as unlike my mother as it was humanly possible to be. If I managed that then then the next thing on my list was to be was to still be alive afterwards.
The fact is I realised both objectives and more. I’m still here and I’m healthy (an emphatic tick in one box) and I’m also not a bitter, vindictive, manipulative or an isolated man (a tick in the other.)
The truth is though that whilst we may all arrive somewhere the journey is really only part of the experience. Settlers in a new land (after plonking down the contents of their wagons and pitching their tents) know instinctively that the process of remaining alive starts once they get to where they were going.
I would argue that it’s maybe the ability to survive upon reaching a destination that defines success rather than the difficulty of travelling from A to B – nomatter how epic the voyage was along the way.
Although I’ve always felt uneasy about the use of the ‘I’ word in the past to describe my path toward my target weight (link) I’ve also been very uneasy about people mentioning how incredible it was to lose 21st.
To be honest while I was doing it the numbers really didn’t mean much after a while. All I really cared about was that they were going in the right direction.
Although I visualised them at the start by comparing them to physical objects in the real world (my favourite at the 7 stone mark was a fridge freezer – link) the truth was that although it was initially helpful to visualise my losses as time went on it became more and more nonsensical.
I tried to use things like a boat trailer and a huge gold ring that weighed 10 stone for their shock value (link) but objects I found online to provide these material representations of my milestone losses became so far removed from my everyday reality that (impressive as they were) they quickly ceased to be much of a personal motivator.
By February 2018 I’d lost the weight of three fridge freezers or (rather mind bogglingly) two cement mixers (link) – but even now when I look at it knowing that it’s true such a thing doesn’t seem to be possible.
After a while it’s all just numbers, and nothing more.
Then all of a sudden (around the time of the cement mixer) the unexpected happened. For the very first time in my life I had people telling me that I looked too thin and making me promise not to lose any more weight.
Instead of people being worried I’d eat myself to death they actually appeared to be voicing concern that I may diet myself to an early grave instead.
What does someone who’s struggled with weight all his life do with being told he should relax and that he needs to put weight on?
Well – obviously he relaxes and takes his foot off the gas – which brings me back to my original point.
How do make sense of all this mental spaghetti, deal with a weight gain and find the inspiration to turn it around so that you are motivated again?
Where do the inspirational go when they need to be inspired?
Many many people have asked me (and I think this often comes from the perspective of someone that’s never been seriously obese) ‘what was the moment that you decided to change?’ or ‘what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?’
Whilst I can understand the reason people ask things like this (they want a simple answer about to how to kick start their own route to success most of the time – or they simply want to have a concise and easy to understand soundbite to help grasp the enormity of it all) the simple truth is that almost none of the physical issues I suffered prompted me to change.
It was not wanting to be like my mother that started the ball rolling.
This for me has always been an issue – because I began a very positive journey from a place of emotional pain, and instead of moving toward the light I was instead moving away from the darkness.
This is an important distinction – because I didn’t start out in 2016 with the positive ‘can do’ worldview I have (more often than not) these days. I wasn’t someone that could. I was someone that hated the alternative so much he slowly began to change.
If you want to see how bad my life got without me doing anything to reverse course then have a look at my nonscale victories (link) and you’ll see how much I was capable of putting up with at 35 stone.
The fact is that when people ask why I didn’t do anything sooner (and as MOTY they did – a lot) they imagine themselves, already well and mobile. Then in their mind’s eye overnight they become the moribund lump that I was and they can’t conceive of how they (I) wouldn’t suddenly say ‘that’s enough – no more – I’m changing!’
Often people who ask me this question fail to recognise that cumulatively we can bear a lot and soldier on because ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back‘ often never breaks it.
The camel (in this case me) just got slower and slower and suffered more and more each day, never truly realising how bad things had become. It just accepted that is its life was normal because its memories didn’t stretch back far enough to remember a time of comfort or happiness. Pain has become all it knew.
It couldn’t believe things were ever otherwise and because of this change seemed impossible and the status quo inevitable.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve always been worried that my motivation wasn’t ‘to be the best me I could ever be’ or to ‘awaken my giant within’ (I hate Anthony Robbins and his square jawed face that so readily invites a rapidly moving clenched fist).
I’ve always moved at light speed away from people like him.
The inspirational ones.
Maybe I’ve hit on another approach though – because in the absence of a stocky American in businesslike braces I think that the paradox of the chicken and egg is an important one for me to keep at the forefront of my mind.
Maybe there doesn’t have to be an answer or a motivator.
Maybe you just have to learn and accept that there are cycles.
Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you’re sad and at others you’re happy. Occasionally you’re rich and at other times you’re poor.
The trick is to remember that to recover from all such phases it takes is a starting point and a recognition that such periods are temporary. If you don’t start trying to be better or positive it’s highly likely that nothing on earth will make you that way. Even if people offer to help ultimately you have to be the one that wants it and chooses to accept it. In order for there to be happiness you have to create it or the conditions for it to arrive and then thrive.
Who knows where the first smile came from? They only seem to arrive when others smile at you first or do something to amuse you. I make a point of smiling at people to generate smiles in return because it makes me feel good – but I learned that behaviour from other people who did the same.
The first smile had to be created by someone somewhere – but where and how?
We’ll never know – and I will never know truly where inspiration (if there is such a thing rather then just a bunch of abstract moments and reactions) comes from – but I know that when I hit the swimming pool this morning I turned into a man on a mission.
Currently as I type (it’s almost 9pm) my Apple Watch reports that I’ve also walked 11.16 miles and burned almost 3800 active calories today. Crazily that puts my overall expendature for the day at almost 6000!!!
Honestly the last time I did something like that was when I climbed Mt Snowdon (link).
You might be worried that I’ve decided to go into austerity mode and starve or exercise myself to death in order to eradicate a gain – but nothing could be further from the truth. I really did’t intend to swim as far as I did until… well… I did.
I’m also cooking large, hearty meals that are full of speed and free foods for me and my other half. I’m just making sure that they’re all on plan and that they stop us craving the wrong things.
Success is something else entirely and I just have to trust that this will eventually come if I keep working at it.
I can sense the self sustaining positivity starting to build and it’s a familiar and warm feeling that doesn’t involve me condemning myself or my inner monologue berating me for being a failure.
It’s almost positive enough to tell me that I look just fine in this photo taken before the ball last week with Alan Carr and Margaret Miles-Bramwell (which arrived today).
It doesn’t really matter that in the photo I’m above my target weight – or that I felt awful and had a burst blood vessel in my eye. Weight is all just a number really. As long as I’m healthy who cares what it is – and I’m also not stupid enough to think that anyone could tell any of that just by looking at this picture.
They just think it looks like a great photo.
I suppose I do too.
So – here’s to not tying myself in knots, trying hard to be better and getting a respectable loss to start the ball rolling in group next Saturday.