Email from a Reader: Building the Motivation to Lose Weight

by Andie Mitchell on January 15, 2012

Read the rest of this series: Email from a Reader: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

“Hi Andie,

I absolutely cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I love your style, I love your honesty, I love your story. I have been dealing with overeating for about 10 years but didn’t realize that is the problem I had until about 2 years ago.

My question is …. how did you continue day in and day out on the right track to let yourself lose that 135lbs? I really feel like losing weight you have to be consistent. You can work hard for days / weeks but easily undo all of that work in just a short amount of time and end up nowhere. I guess that is my issue, I keep ending up nowhere.

How did 9 out of 10 times you choose the healthy option while losing? How did you not make drive through runs at Wendy’s, eat a whole pizza and so on? How did you STICK TO IT? I feel like I KNOW what to do. I KNOW how to eat, what to etc. There is NO lack of knowledge or accessibility to the right foods. It’s just doing it.

Whether it is praying, reading, writing, meditating, exercising…all of the above, I need to find something that helps get me through. I feel like I am a strong person I can do just about anything I set my mind to but not this. It’s still got a tight hold on me. For now least.

Thank you!

Sincerely,
J”

………………………………….

Hi J!
Thank you so much for emailing me, for being so kind. I’m sorry it has taken this long for me to get back to you. I receive about 100 personal, blog-related emails everyday, so I sometimes get behind.
This is a great question and I guess it’s the most important one, huh?
Motivation
Where to start….

Define Your Deepest Desires- ON PAPER.
It’s not about a specific diet, not a plan, not quitting everything that tastes delightful cold turkey. It’s just listening to your body and your heart. Doing all the things you know you should be doing- like moving it for thirty minutes a day or eating vegetables with dinner- and letting that momentum drive you onward and downward to your goal. There are small changes that make a world of difference. But the real work starts upstairs in your mind. Put pen to paper, get unbearably honest with yourself, and write down two lists: what you want out of your life and yourself and what obstacles are in your way to living that life. Spend time with those lists; look them over; analyze the columns. Use adjectives for how you want to feel- energetic, positive, and productive. Think about the things you could add to your life, or the things you could do, to make those adjectives the way you feel everyday. I did this.

I made lists and wrote a letter to myself. I exposed every nook and cranny of doubt and fear and anger and resistance and hope. And then I made one final list. But this one contained the small steps and additions that would allow me to move into those optimistic adjectives I’d written. The list stated things like, ‘walk for 10 minutes in the morning before starting the day, walk for 10 minutes after dinner, take the stairs, make half of my dinner plate filled with vegetables, add an apple everyday, drink 5 glasses of water, ask Kate if she wants to meet for a walk in the afternoon, take a pause each night before bed when I’m really craving not one, but four packs of Ring Dings and ask myself why I’m dying for them, switch to whole grains.’ They were manageable. I could do these things.

Think about it, we make ‘To Do’ lists all the time of things we need to accomplish outside of ourselves. Why not make one for your mind and body? I can’t tell you how much this helped me. Because even if you think you know all about your goals, your obstacles, your wishes and desires for your life, you really see more when it’s inked on paper. Lots of times we have big ideas floating around in our heads and we think they’re formulated and supported without question, but when you really force yourself to articulate those things- to assemble them into coherent facts and figures- you see so much more. Some of them aren’t true and you realize you’ve been toting around a duffle bag of false information for the last five years. Some of them allow you to read more deeply into who you are and how you’re hurting.

Whatever you want this year- to lose weight, to find a more fulfilling job, financial stability, stronger friendships- know that they’re not unattainable. Having a big, beautiful picture of the future in the clouds of your head is unbelievably helpful.

Make a Vision Board.
For real. Get out your photo albums, your magazines, and your glue stick. Get a poster board. (They’ve really gone up in price, somewhat surprisingly).
Cut out and slap on that board all of the following: pictures that inspire you- beaches, gorgeous scenery that makes you want to be out and doing and exploring, people laughing, folks dressed all dolled up in a way you wish you were, photos of you smiling with friends, quotes that make you feel something, clothing, water, words.
This board is not only therapeutic in the making, but it also serves as a reminder of all that you dream. All that you want to feel and be and do in the next year. Make it goal-oriented. Make it something that gets you going, just upon first glance.
Note: I do not care if you feel too old to do this. I do not care if you haven’t a glue stick. CVS does. The reason we buy magazines, most often, is for inspiration and ideas. This vision/dream board is your own magazine. It’s full of pictures and language that inspires you- specifically you. Maybe put it in your closet so that you don’t feel like a high schooler taping it to your wall. Maybe look at it every morning, and every night, and remember your dreamy future.

Stay present.
Take each day, each minute as its own individual moment. Do not think too far back, do not think too far ahead. This is incredibly strange at first. Most of us are planners, we’re multitaskers, we’re thinking about what happened that time with that thing at that place, we’re not in the moment. Years ago, when I first lost the weight, I felt gravely depressed. I realized that I had been sad for much of my life but had eaten away the sadness. At that time, my first experience not having food to numb me, I had to sit with emotions I’d rather not face without Ring Dings. I missed food as a support system and friend.
That year, 2007, maybe? I read every self help book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. And by every book, I mean:
eve-ry: (adj): Constituting each and all members of a group without exception.
I’m specific.
I read books on trusting myself, on listening to my body, on eating disorders, memoirs on being overweight, diet books with prescriptive advice sections, and trust me: the very best were by author Geneen Roth. Her writing, “When Food is Love,” “Feeding the Hungry Heart,” “Appetites,” etc…those books have changed my life.
But one book, not specifically related to weight loss, really helped me to become more mindful: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. This book showed me how crucial it is to stay in the present moment at all times. So many of the pains we feel, the discomfort of being, is related to thinking of the past or planning for the future. We feel overwhelmed by all we have to do, all we have to deal with in life, and we spend lots of energy rehashing the past and thinking about ways to be better. The key is to just stop that. Understandably, not easy to do. But it’s possible. You’ll find yourself less overwhelmed by the big picture- all the weight we have to lose, all the exercise we have to do today and tomorrow and the next day and the next after that. By just focusing on the minute by minute (with a gentle mind to the future and an acknowledgment of our history), we just deal with ‘what is.’
I learned to move through my day by trying to stay in the moment. Yes, I kept a big dreamy vision above me of all I hoped to be someday, but I only kept the positive parts. I hung on to the helpful, hopeful dream of a future healthy me- content and confident- and tossed the negativity- the dread and daunting 135lbs I had to lose- away like last week’s trash. I asked myself, every single day, every single moment, “Can you get through this moment right now without bingeing? Can you make the healthy choice just for today?”
And, almost all of the time, I could. I put little stock into tomorrow. I tried to not let the idea that I’d have to exercise daily overwhelm me enough that I wanted to quit exercising altogether. Dreading the future would only stop me from acting now. If you’re on the treadmill, being active and kind to your heart, and you’re already telling yourself you can’t continue to do this for the rest of the week, you’re just placing a huge burden on the here and now. Tomorrow maybe you’ll find something else, some other way to move. Tomorrow maybe you won’t be so tired. Tomorrow you might feel inspired after reading a magazine article, or seeing a picture of a sequined dress on Facebook (not me!).
Hard as it may seem, I just tried to be present and take each day as it came. Everyday, I journaled- two things: what I ate and what I felt. I did this at the very end of the day, when I typically wanted to eat a dozen cupcakes. The checking in and recounting of my day usually made me feel accomplished and proud. It made me not want to undo all of the progress I’d made that day. I smiled into that notebook.
And then, the next day, I started it anew. Everyday asking myself, “Can you do it today, Andie? Just today?”
Because even if I blew the whole previous day with a double-drive-thru binge, no matter. Today is not yesterday or the day before.

Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

K January 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I love the idea of a dream board, but I travel a lot for work. My twist on a dream board combined the dream board and writing things down: I use a journal. I carry it with me everywhere. I write when I need to, I can re-read what I wrote previously, and I put all my inspiring photos, phrases, etc. in there. The best part is it is small and it is portable. Whenever I feel like I need some motivation, I simply pull my journal out of my purse.

Also, in addition to magazines, check out http://www.pinterest.com for some “pinspiration!” That is where I discovered Andie’s blog!

Thank you, Andie, for all that you do! I love your blog, and you are truly part of my inspiration. 140 pounds left to go!

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Caryn January 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Thank you. I didn’t write this question, but I could have. You said so many things that I needed to hear tonight. To remind myself that weight loss is possible. That I just have to ask myself to do this just for today. To make the best choices I can today. Because today is all I have. This post is going to be printed and hung on my wall. Because I needed it. And I think it will serve as a reminder that it’s all about today.

Thank you, Andie. You truly spoke to my soul tonight.

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Jamie Simpson January 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Hi Andie,
You. Are. My. Hero. I mean it. I hate to say it, but I’m a cliche… I start and then stop, say I will, then don’t. And I love how simply stated what you are sharing is. Thank you for giving me (and all your readers) an honest, lovely look into what your experience was and is, and also for all these amazing looking recipes! Tonight was my first experience with your blog, but I am looking forward to spending much more time on here. You GO girl! You ROCK! ~ hugs, jamie.

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Michelle January 16, 2012 at 12:23 am

Thank you so much Andie, I could have easily asked this question and I do to myself on daily basis and I think that’s my problem!! I am thinking too much into the future, what will I eat tomorrow or the next day so I don’t blow my diet, when will I fit in exercise to shed these pounds etc… But I think you have it right girl! I think I just need to worry about today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

You are truly inspirational thank you again!

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Mish January 16, 2012 at 1:42 am

Adore.love.adore.love.

I love this post.

“I asked myself, every single day, every single moment, “Can you get through this moment right now without bingeing? Can you make the healthy choice just for today?””

I’m using this. Thank you so much.

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johnny January 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

I’m going to sound like a major broken record but THIS IS WHY YOUR BOOK(S) WILL SELL!!! I have read a lot of advice columns, small books, web sites, etc. that tell you how to loose weight and some even attempt at why you should loose weight. None of them reach into the heart and make you FEEL like you want to loose weight like you do!!! Love you Andie :)

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MomNom January 16, 2012 at 5:12 am

This was fantastic. I’d love to see some progress photos – did you take any as you lost the weight? Not just before and afters?

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admin January 16, 2012 at 5:22 am

Thank you, my friend! Gosh, you know what- I barely took any progress photos. Let me go through my albums and see what I can dig up because I agree, it would be interesting to watch the changes!

andie

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The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh January 16, 2012 at 6:38 am

We came across our vision boards from 2008 and I’ll tell ya, it’s amazing to see how your goals change in a few years. I think it’s time to make a new one for the Mr and I!

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Jessica F January 16, 2012 at 9:17 am

This post really resonated with me. I love how all of your advice applies so well to ANYTHING that you want/need to work on. I especially was struck by the comment about staying present. It’s something that I’ve been working on lately (boy is it tough!) and have felt my happiness increase with it. Yesterday, I started thinking/planning my coming two years and potential transition to grad school. Holy buckets! Overwhelming. Planning and reflecting on goals and future plans is important, but we aren’t suppose to figure it out in one go!

I’m going to take a deep breath, remind myself to stay present, and write down that list and letter to myself. I love that advice and it is a way to easily combine the many facets of life into one reflective location. Getting in-touch with your inner self is half the battle. That, and remembering that life is unpredictable and all you really can do, is appreciate and work with the moment you are currently in.

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T January 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

Your posts are a constant source of inspiration and positivity. I cannot wait until you publish your book! So many special thoughts all in one tangible place. Thank you so much for giving me little moments of happiness each day.

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Elizabeth January 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

The amazing thing about your post, your story, is that even though I have about 20-25 pounds to lose- I still feel as stuck, and huge and miserable as I would be if you slapped another 100 lbs on that. I have yet to really live my life, feel free in my body and allow myself to be truly happy. I’ve lost 7 lbs so far, and God willing I’m on my way. You have given voice to my experience and I so appreciate it.
Thank you.

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Allison January 16, 2012 at 1:22 pm

This was a great post! Thank you so much for writing it! I’m defiantely going to read The Power Of Now. I would love to live in the moment like you do. It sounds amazing. Thank you for all your stories and advice!

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Trisha January 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm

You are so inspirational I love your blog! Congratulations on your soon-to-be book, you deserve it! I can’t wait for it to be released.. I will definitely be pre-ordering it :)

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Maggie @ I'm not a clever robot January 16, 2012 at 9:56 pm

How can I capture some Andie in a bottle to take with me everywhere I go?

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Liz January 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Is it weird I copied and pasted this onto my “journal blog” to help me follow through with the assignments!
This SO resonated with me and I KNOW most all of this, but haven’t seen it written out so clearly yet.
I’m doing the things you have mentioned and even today it’s made a world of difference.
Not looking to LOSE weight, just get my eating/moderation/obsession with food under control…:)
I agree that I need “Andie in a bottle”! Seriously, though.
OH and funny thing that “Power of Now” nearly changed my life. Love that book. SO something I need to KEEP reading.
XO

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Alex January 17, 2012 at 9:07 am

hi again!!
this is such a great post and since i last wrote you in october i have lost 15 pounds using many of the techniques and life changing tips that you have given so, thank you! I know that you saw a nutritionist while you were on your journey to lose weight and i’m really considering it to work out my warped relationship with food. do you feel like it really helped and did you go to one in seattle because that’s where i am and if you have someone you would recommend that would be awesome!
keep doing what you are doing and thanks again!

xo

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admin January 17, 2012 at 9:17 am

GREAT job Alex! Thanks for checking back in- I’m so happy to hear how well you’re doing.
I saw a nutritionist in Massachusetts and yes, it was very helpful. Not sure of any in Seattle!
Best best of luck. Keep going, friend!
Andie

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LMF January 17, 2012 at 9:19 am

Thanks! Great post! ~L

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Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic January 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Oh wow, I totally could have written that letter. I especially relate to the part about how you can work so hard for so long and it takes so a short time, so few mistakes to really undo it all. It’s hard to stay on your game all the time. But I think I do worry too much about how I’m going to manage to say “no” to chocolate 99% of the time that I want it. I need to focus more on the here and now. Also, I’ve recently discovered “The Beck Diet Solution” and found it to do a great job addressing the heart/attitude issues of weight loss.

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Tamara January 19, 2012 at 7:29 am

If you’re like me, and need constant motivation, a really wonderful, wonderful site is Sparkpeople.com. I always said that I would never be the one to count calories. “Silly. A waste of time. That’s obsession gone too far.” Well, here I am, a few weeks after joining, several pounds lighter, and still happily counting my calories, thinking– “If I eat this for breakfast, this for lunch, this for snack, will I be full and satisfied? Yes? Good, then I can fit in my homemade bread (several slices) and ice cream and chocolate later.” I love it- it’s a game to me. Make the best possible choices all day so I can make a few naughty ones at night.
There are communities, groups, blogs, articles, points, and just all sorts of motivation, in about every form. Best of all, it’s completely free!

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