Weight loss journeys often bring up feelings of dread, torture, and punishment, but what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if finding joy could actually help you lose weight?
I get it.
Losing weight is hard.
I’ve lost 100 pounds myself and I understand the struggle of wanting things so badly (Netflix binges and Nutty Bars) but knowing I needed to trade those things in for running shoes and carrot sticks if I ever wanted to lose weight.
Honestly? So often, it was miserable.
I would just sit there, munching on my carrot sticks, pining for all of the things I couldn’t have. I would dream of greasy pizza and 7-layer chocolate cakes and it made that carrot stick taste worse with every thought.
Pause right there. Did you catch that?
My thoughts made that carrot stick taste worse. Nothing about the carrot stick changed, but it changed the whole experience for me.
So, I figured if my thoughts could make a carrot stick taste worse, I could use that power for good too, right?
I could use that power to find joy, even in the areas (like losing weight) where it didn’t come naturally.
How to Use Joy in Your Weight Loss Journey
It’s no mystery that when we want to do things, we are more likely to do them, right?
Obviously, you want to lose weight, but how do you want to exercise and eat right when you’ve been enjoying unhealthy habits for so long?
Take Responsibility For Your Choices
This is where it all begins. For years, I felt like a healthy lifestyle was being forced on me.
By who? I have no idea.
But those ideas sure weren’t coming from me!
If I was eating vegetables, it was because I “had” to. If I was exercising it was because something was “forcing” me to.
When I ate a box of Nutty Bars in 10 minutes, it was my craving’s fault (even though I certainly felt the guilt and shame to follow).
When I followed diets, I (unwillingly) ate the foods they told me to, but it was never what I wanted for myself.
Sure, I wanted to lose the weight, but I didn’t want to trade my Cheetos for kale chips.
The point is, I never felt like my choices were mine.
That all changed for me when I decided to come up with a diet plan of my own.
I was done following everybody else’s rules, but because I had been on so many weight loss programs, I had learned a lot about all of the things I needed to know – proper portion sizes, drinking water, eating vegetables, exercising properly.
It’s not like everything changed overnight, but one small change at a time, I changed my “I can’t eat chocolate tonight” to “I actually feel satisfied, so I don’t need any chocolate tonight.”
And now I willingly choose to eat vegetables because I genuinely enjoy them (weird, but true!).
Now, mind you, in my new self-made diet, no foods were off limits. When I ate treats, I wasn’t eating them as a “cheat” on my diet. They were an intentional part of it!
I didn’t need to eat the whole box of fruit snacks at one time because I knew I could have more whenever I decided to. When I knew I could eat another package tomorrow afternoon, I didn’t feel the need to binge on them today.
Binging feels good in the moment, but it feels terrible afterward. Remembering that helps me to choose the option that will bring more joy.
Find What Motivates You
I used to scoff when people would say, “Just find an exercise that you enjoy!”
Umm…no. That’s not the way it worked for me.
There were exercises I could tolerate (I played both volleyball and tennis growing up and they were okay), but if you had given me the option of volleyball or watching TV, I would have chosen TV every single time.
The exercise itself was not what motivated me.
But then I started thinking outside of the box. What motivated me to make hard decisions in other areas of my life? What made mundane, difficult things enjoyable for me?
I value relationships over almost everything, so I figured out how to use that motivation to inspire me to exercise.
I joined an online group of food bloggers to follow a couch to 5k running program, not because I wanted to run a 5k but because I wanted to connect with people. We all hashtagged our running pictures and formed a supportive community to keep us accountable and I ended up meeting a great friend who also loved running with her dog.
Then a friend asked me to go to a cardio kickboxing class with her. I would never have gone on my own, but I actually looked forward to meeting her every week for the workout.
Years later, I now run three mornings a week with my mom (and of course, my border collie, Boots). I need to clarify that she wasn’t a regular runner before.
When I moved back to Colorado, I was running by myself, but when she saw me doing that, one day she asked if she could join me and now our running mornings are also built-in mother-daughter dates. Never think, “Nobody in my life will do this with me…” because you just never know.
When I’m with people, I focus on them, not the exercise.
I look forward to those sessions instead of dreading them. Also, I still don’t enjoy the feeling of running while I do it, but afterward? I love that feeling!
Your main motivator in life might not be people like it is for me, but there is something. Look for it!
Have An Attitude of Gratitude
Joy isn’t always our default emotion, especially when it comes to weight loss.
Shame? Guilt? Embarrassment? Now, those tend to come pretty easily.
But you have to be intentional about choosing joy.
There are things that will not be ideal in your weight loss journey.
- You will be busy and won’t have “enough” time.
- You will have distractions like kids or husbands that will refuse to eat healthy food.
- Life will get in the way like when you are going through a divorce or someone close to you passes away.
- You won’t know how to buy healthy foods on a tight budget when you first start shifting away from the cheap boxed foods and value fast food options.
You will never have enough time, energy, money, or support to make these huge life changes…unless you change your attitude.
Gratitude makes what you have enough.
It took years of practice, but I don’t let roadblocks stop me anymore. Instead, I figure out how to get around them. I problem-solve until I find a solution that works that fits my life, my schedule, my preferences, and my relationships.
It’s not always easy and I usually don’t get it right the first time, but that’s why you can’t let failure stop you.
Failing is not the end of the road, it’s just a bump along the way.
The weight loss journey you are on is not a punishment.
Healthy eating, exercising, and treating your body well is a privilege.
I have one body and I want it to work well for many years to come. I want to use these arms to hold future children. I want these legs to chase future grandchildren. I want this body to have the energy to wake up in the morning and put my love into action – feeding, clothing, guiding, and serving people.
Don’t beat yourself up for what your body can’t do right now or the mistakes you’ve made in the past. That only keeps you stuck (and, honestly, just sets you up for making unhealthy choices). Instead, celebrate what your body can do. Look for your victories (even the small ones).
A heart overflowing with thankfulness will help you to make healthy choices that you actually enjoy.
In all of these things,