What we can learn from My 600 lb Life.

For a lot of people, their fitness goals revolve around improving body composition.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’ve been sitting on my couch overeating and watching bad television.  However, its not all bad. 

After binging on a few episodes of “Hoarders”, I was inspired by my next TV binge of  “My 600 lb Life”.  The struggles to commit to life-changing, and often life-saving behavior serves as a good metaphor for the rest of us who are trying to make drastic changes whether its diet, physical ability, or getting over an addiction.

This show reminds me of a “chose your own adventure” book.  There are a few different outcomes that are relatively predictable based on what happens at different points during the show.  And its an incredibly clear illustration of what is possible when people follow directions and stop making excuses.
It always starts the same way.   You meet a person who desperately needs help losing an excessive amount of weight.  They talk about all the reasons they need to do this and it seems to be a life and death matter.  They drive to Houston to meet the good doctor and he gives them a very strict diet to follow for 3 months and instructs them that they can only be approved for surgery if they lose the amount of weight he prescribes.
Now, a lot of the patients are shocked when he tells them how much weight he wants them to lose, usually 50 pounds or more.  However, this is very smart on the doctor’s part as this serves two purposes: 
  1. It gets them to a healthier weight for surgery. 
  2. It serves as a test as to whether or not they are actually committed to the lifestyle changes they need to make. 

That second part is very important.   Those of us who act as facilitators for people wanting to make lifestyle changes can only do so much.  We can show them how, but if the individual cannot take the responsibility to follow directions and accept the burden of the hard work they need to do, they will ultimately fail no matter how much we try and intervene.
So, after the visit to the good doctor, we see these patients back home.  A couple of different scenarios can happen here:
  1. The patient starts following the diet with the support of their family and manages to stick it out.
  2. The patient talks about how they are kind of following the diet, but aren’t really paying attention to portion sizes and may still be drinking soda and eating junk.
  3. The patient justifies not following the diet because of stress and an inability to cope.
  4. The patient’s enablers continue to offer and feed them junk because it makes the enabler feel better. 

Obviously, the first scenario is the best and usually results in the patient being approved for surgery.  A lot of these patients continue to be successful and lose hundreds of pounds of weight while continuing to try and be more active.
The other three scenarios obviously do not result in success.  A lot of them are brought into the hospital to control their access to food whether its themselves and/or their enablers who are to blame.  In the hospital, they lose the weight (which clearly demonstrates it can be done) and are then sent home to continue to try and lose weight on their own.  A good number of these people accept the wake-up call and are eventually approved for surgery and are successful.  A good number of these people go home and go back to their old ways, their old justifications, and ultimately fail. 

For the ones who fail, the pattern is pretty consistent.  We watch them lie about how much they eat.  We watch them get angry when the doctor or their family members call them out.  We watch them come up with all kinds of excuses.  And then they get angry and frustrated again.  And then we begin to see the manipulative behaviors of both the patient and the caregivers.  There is a whole lot of bullshit that goes on at this point of the show.  Most of the patients are literally enabled by their husbands/wives/children/parents to continue their incredibly unhealthy lifestyles either due to some need in the caretaker to continue to overfeed them and/or the manipulation tactics of the patient.  Ultimately, no one gets to live a life that doesn’t revolve around feeding the monster.
And there are always a ton of excuses that always start the same way.
“I can’t.”
“I need.”
“I have to have.”
“I just don’t think that’s true for me.”
Its not that any of these excuses are true.  Its just a perception problem.  If change is to happen, it has to come from the individual actually wanting the change.  Its not necessarily that they don’t believe they can change, it is often that they simply don’t want to.  Partly because as hard as their lifestyle is, its comfortable, they are used to it, and change is hard.
I have nothing inspirational to share here other than this:  If you have already decided you can’t do something, success will continue to elude you.  Change your mindset and change your path.  There are people out there who can provide you with the guidance you need to change, but ultimately, you have to be the one to drive that train.  Decide to be successful and figure out what you need to change about yourself to get there.
We are all capable of change, but ability without desire robs you of your potential.  We all have ability.  Make the desire happen and you can achieve what you may have perceived to be impossible.

“Why it’s simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!” 

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