Many of us want to lose weight. This is an important goal. Currently, 30% of the country is obese and another 30% is overweight; this means the vast majority should want to drop some pounds. However, many people don’t cover much ground. Even after a heart attack or stroke the percentage of people that make significant lifestyle changes is only 4.3%. Why is this? There are many answers, but the core reasons I’ve seen in my patients (and in myself) are the following:

1.    It’s too hard.
2.    I don’t want to change.
3.    I can’t live with all these rules, the “don’ts”.

However, I believe the biggest reason is that our motivation is just not strong enough. The goal of “just losing weight” is too weak of a motivator (and also too vague) to put real effort into unless you are a narcissist. Take a heart attack patient as an example.

Years ago, if you suffered from a myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack) you would spend the next 2 weeks in the hospital. After that, you’d be put on bed rest for 6 months and most likely be treated like a physical cripple after that. Today, the process is much quicker. You’ll be sent home within 24 hours after an uncomplicated myocardial infarction and then sent directly to cardiac rehab where you are made to exercise. The result? The several hours of chest pain and fear you had during the heart attack are quickly forgotten. Also, why change your diet when you could take a statin (cholesterol-lowering drug) instead?

So why should you lose weight? Personally, I believe the motivation has to be part of a bigger, more meaningful goal such as wanting to live longer. I want to be able to play with my kids (or better yet grandkids), I want to be healthier, I want to get off of all these medications with their side effects and cost (I’m not saying that medications are bad, but the less you need the better). This is the WHY.

You also need a WHAT. What is my concrete goal? Lose 20, 50, 100 pounds? Run in a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or a full marathon? Climb Half Dome in Yosemite without stopping? Your goal doesn’t have to be extreme; being able to walk in the park with your family is also a great goal. However, a goal needs to be specific; ‘just wanting to lose some weight’ is too vague.

Even after figuring out the WHY and WHAT you still need the HOW in order to succeed. In upcoming articles, we will be talking about the specific ways you can succeed in your intermediate goal of losing weight. In turn, this will help you on your way to reaching your ultimate goal (whatever that may be). Step one: take the DIE out of Dieting


About the Author

Harvey Hahn, MD, FACC

Dr. Hahn graduated from Loma Linda University in 1994. He is currently the director of the Cardiovascular Fellowship Training Program at the Kettering Medical Center in Kettering Ohio.

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