- One of my biggest mistakes
- Why working toward other goals helps you lose weight
- Discover your interests
This post explains how getting involved in your interests helps you lose weight.
When I understood why dropping out of all the things I love made it harder to lose weight, it was a lot easier to take small steps back into my life.
When I was trying to lose weight, I got so busy trying to fix myself on the outside, I lost who I was on the inside. I thought giving up things I loved to do, so I could concentrate on trying to lose weight, was temporary. But it turned out to be 10 years. This lack of direction contributed to my decline.
When I got healthy again and wasn’t preoccupied by weight, I suddenly had all this time and energy to throw at something I cared about, but I had no idea what it should be or even where to start. I thought it was too late for me to ever catch up to where I was supposed to be.
I wanted to write this post to encourage you to keep pursuing your interests. Focusing on what you love to do connects you to the world and helps you lose weight. And if you’ve been watching life from the sidelines for a while I wanted to tell you not to worry. Things can get better. It’s actually a lot easier to get involved and discover your interests than you think. You can reach your potential.
I thought focusing on weight loss helps you lose weight
I’ve never wanted to win a lottery or have someone hand me things on a silver platter. Working hard at something you care about, and then achieving it, makes you believe in yourself.
Yes, I’ve been romanced by a ton of ’80’s movie montages; ones that take you through the process of reaching a goal and make gradual change seem dramatic. But I’ve also experienced that satisfying feeling of putting your whole self into something and being excited about the result.
When I wanted to lose weight, I set this goal the same as any other. Except there was more urgency. I felt foreign in my new, bigger body and I wanted to feel like me again.
My identity was built around my determination to see things through. But as time passed and all my weight-loss efforts amounted to more weight gain, I started to worry. Who was I becoming? Believing I lacked discipline made me feel like a stranger inside and out.
My failure to lose weight got me feeling anxious until I made another weight-loss plan. So I’d write down stricter food and exercise rules and quickly restart my (self-defeating) diet. But still I couldn’t lose weight!
Each attempt was more extreme. Soon I was dropping out of all the sports, clubs and after school activities I loved. Sometimes I wouldn’t even let myself study or go to class. I thought the more time I devoted to dieting, the sooner I’d reach the (random) weight I wanted to be.
I was desperate to get this job done so I could feel and look like “me” again. Then I’d be able to enter every situation with my best foot forward.
Now I know you can’t wait for everything to be perfect before you start. We’re all a work in progress. That’s how we learn and grow. It’s the beautiful, messy bit about being human. It’s important to always keep moving forward the best you can, no matter what else is going on in your life.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe, Tennis Player & Activist
Why focusing on your interests helps you lose weight
Many years later I realized that giving up the things I cared about made it harder for me to lose weight. Abandoning my extra-curricular activities freed up a lot of time to run in the wrong direction. And collect more weight-loss misinformation.
When your big focus is dieting and you build the whole day around trying to lose weight, it makes eating unnatural. You can start to worry about food all the time and over-think what you eat. Then it’s easy to get lost in the details. I used to get hung up about eating the perfect amount. I was always sure I took one bite too many. But eating isn’t so exact! You don’t need to put every choice under a microscope and examine it. The more you concentrate on eating, the more complicated it can become. You can even start to feel hungry when you’re not, just because you don’t have other goals you’re working toward.
It’s easier to lose weight when you have things to look forward to; things you get excited about! Think about how you feel when you’re doing something you love to do. Time passes quickly and you get absorbed in the activity. It can even feel like a chore to stop and eat because you want to get back to what you’re doing.
Our interests are incredible things. They get us out of our heads. And they connect us to people and ideas that spark relationships, career choices and future goals.
If you’re on a soccer team, for instance, you become part of the email banter that organizes the game. You look forward to the event and have a break from the rest of your life. Then you celebrate or commiserate together after a win or lose. It’s also a chance to catch up with your teammates after the game, have a laugh and hear different viewpoints. Being active also helps you sleep better. All of this helps you return to school or work feeling refreshed. Even days later, you can find yourself thinking about a goal that was scored, a tactic you can improve on or a funny thing somebody said. And you look forward to your upcoming game and spending time with your team.
Changing gears for a short window of time each week helps you press pause and recharge. And it gives you fresh ideas to bring to the rest of your life.
Getting involved in life around you helps you do everything better. Including reaching a healthy weight.
- caring for a family member who’s ill
- a new mom
- going through a divorce
- breaking a bad habit
- moving to another country
- mourning the loss of a loved one
- studying for exams
- falling in love
- starting a new job
… or losing weight. Focusing on your interests helps you reach goals.
Stop making eating complicated! When you over-analyze something you often aggravate the situation. Instead, stay involved with your interests, then eating is more natural.
It’s easier to make healthy choices when your interests are driving your decisions.
Staying focused on your interests helps you lose weight, or reach any goal.
How to stay involved with your interests
For more than 18 years I’ve participated in at least one extra-curricular activity each week. I see patterns in my life and know I can get lost in work; there’s no end these days, especially as everything’s instant! So when it comes to staying engaged with my interests, I always make sure the activities I do require signing up in advance. Paying ahead of time or having people rely on you, is a powerful way to get you out of the house! I always leave kicking and screaming because I have so much to do. Then I have a great experience and return home excited, having learned something new.
It’s also important to choose activities you can put right into your calendar. Then they become part of your regular routine.
Ideas for extra-curricular activities
Over time I’ve done different activities. I ran a co-ed soccer team for a few years. After retiring my boots I took a stained glass course. For the last 10 years I’ve been part of a documentary series called HotDocs; on the first Thursday of each month I watch a true story that gives me a new perspective and helps me appreciate the good things in my life. And I started a book club. Every four weeks a different person chooses a title. I love this because each book we read is one I’d never pick on my own.
Right now I’m taking an art course at Walnut Studios in Toronto. It’s called Anybody Can Create. Each week we’re introduced to a local artist. Then we experiment with their same style. Our teacher is Natalie Kauffman (she’s in this post’s first photo) Natalie’s the Education Director of Blank Canvases that’s run in Toronto schools. Their objective is to foster creativity and individuality. Check it out, especially if you’re a parent or teacher.
- Abstract painting based on work by Painters 11
- Fabric landscape art inspired by Liz Pead
- 2 and 3D collage influenced by Jennifer Murphy
- Acrylic landscape painting using similar techniques to the Group of Seven
- Up-cycled animal sculptures in the style of Tanya Hart
- Insect balloon-yarn sculptures modeled after Charmaine Lurch
Being aware of each artist’s backstory helps explain the motivation behind their work. They’ve each opened up something new in my head and helped me see everyday objects differently. It’s been fun getting stuck in something creative and meeting new people.
Staying involved helps you lose weight
There are many reasons people drop out of activities they love. By the time I was in university I was not letting myself take part in anything because I was:
- uncomfortable in my own body
- punishing myself for not sticking to my (unrealistic and unhealthy) diet
- believing the more energy I focused on losing weight the faster I’d reach my goal
But I can assure you, it was much easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight when I got back into life. Focusing on all the activities I love and people I care about, ignites passion and a sense of purpose. It pushes you over obstacles as you work toward your goals.
Whether your experience is more or less extreme, get involved! Connect with the world around you. It will take you places you couldn’t get to on your own. And it helps you lose weight or reach any goal you’re after.
I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes.
If you don’t have something you’re passionate about right now, you can discover it. You’ll find it’s easier to reconnect than you think. Start small. It doesn’t matter where you begin, you just need to get started. One choice will lead to the next and you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.
You could try:
- taking a course
- joining a club
- helping a neighbour
- signing up for a sports team
- starting a band
- checking out activities at your local library or community center
- visiting your local service club (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.)
- checking out community boards in your neighbourhood for ideas
- scroll through your local paper
- pay attention to your morning announcements to find out what’s going on at your school
Work toward healthy eating, exercise and life goals. A healthy weight will follow.
Who Is NOBODY? 3 minute overview
Do you work with kids? Who Is NOBODY? helps people discover their interests and experience using them to help others.
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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
What regular activities do you take part in?