"Jean, I want to try an experiment," I said. My client turned around slowly, looking slightly frightened. She had been through several other of my "experiments," and knew that something exciting yet challenging was coming. "What kind of experiment?" she asked. "Well, I've been training you for about two years. You’ve lost 85 pounds so far, and I’m very proud of you. But for the last couple of months, you’ve been stuck at about 180. We both know you have at least 40 more pounds to lose, but that’s never going to happen unless you stay on the healthy eating program we designed for you. We both also know that you are eating too much junk late at night." Jean nodded. "Let's set a short term goal of losing 15 pounds. Just so you can feel what it would be like to drop 15 pounds, I want you to wear a 15 pound weight vest for a whole day. I want to make those 15 pounds real to you, and I want you to see how wonderful it feels when you take the vest off at night. Do you want to try it?" "Sure" she said. "I have Thursday off. All I have planned is just a little housework, and then I’m going to a basketball game. I can just wear a big T shirt over the vest, and no one will even know. It’s only 15 pounds. How hard can it be? Maybe we should try 20." "Let’s stick with 15 for now," I said. "And I want you to keep a little diary. Just keep a small notebook with you, and write down any comments you have, along with the time of day." I adjusted the weight vest to 15 pounds, and gave it to Jean. We agreed to meet again on Friday, the day after she wore the vest. When I saw Jean on Friday, I asked her "Well, how was it?" "I hate you so much!" she said (I think she was joking...) "I really wanted to dance in here and tell you that it didn’t bother me at all, but it did, on SO many levels. By the end of the day, the only way I could keep going was to keep telling myself it was only a one day experiment. If you asked me to try it for two days, I would have just quit." I asked Jean to show me her diary. Here I’ve included my favorite excerpts: 7:30 am I put the vest on. The weight is evenly distributed, and the Velcro straps are easy to adjust. It does not pinch or anything. It is as comfortable as it can be. This is no big deal. It will be easy. 9:00 am Doing some housework. Normally, I go up and down the stairs without thinking about it. Now, I’m starting to resent the stairs. I’m making sure I do everything I can on one floor before I go to another level. Before I go up or down, I stop and think twice. I make sure I don’t forget anything so I won’t have to go back for it. 11:30 am I’m at the store. Normally I park at the far end of the lot, so I’ll get more exercise in walking to the store. Today, I drove around for ten minutes until a space close to the front doors opened up. 2:00 pm I just drove 3 miles out of my way to go to a coffee shop with a drive through window, so I would not have to make the extra effort of getting out of my car. 3:00 pm I am aware of every ounce in that damn vest, and this is really not so much fun anymore. I’m getting tired and crabby. I’m going home to take a nap. 4:00 pm Taking a nap. My cat keeps trying to crawl on me like he usually does. I keep pushing him away. I don’t want any more weight on me. 6:00 pm A friend just arrived to accompany me to a college basketball game. I live only two blocks from the stadium, but considered asking him to drive me there. We walked, but I felt every step. It was an exciting game, and often everyone jumped up and yelled. Everyone but me. I usually drink a lot of water at the games, but not this time. I don’t want to have to get up and walk to the restroom. I normally go to the party after the game, but this time I just went home. 10:00 pm I have never been so happy to see my bed. The relief when I took the vest off was so great, all I could do was to crawl into bed and go to sleep."It looks like it was a little harder than we thought it would be," I said. Jean nodded. "The difference between how it felt at 7:30 and how it felt at 3:00 was absolutely stunning." Proud that my "experiment" seemed to have had its desired effect, I summed up my main point. "You know, Jean, you are carrying those extra 15 pounds and more around with you right now. You do it every day of your life. Imagine how it would feel to lose 15 more pounds. Imagine how much better you would feel all day, every day." "Wow," she said. "I never thought of that." I was completely taken aback. How could she have missed the whole point of the experiment?! "All I could think about," she said, "is that I used to weigh that much. In fact, only a few months ago, I weighed even more than that. And I am never going back there again," she said defiantly. My experiment ended up teaching me something. We are all constantly at a crossroad where we face many alternate futures. I was trying to get Jean to look ahead to a future in which she was lighter, healthier and happier. Instead, she looked ahead and saw a possible future in which she returned to her heavier self, and it terrified her. Looking at alternate futures can be a very powerful motivation tool. Ask yourself questions like "If I keep exercising and eating right, how will I look and feel in three months? In a year? In ten years?" Visualize that healthy picture. Then ask yourself "If I stop exercising and start having pizza and beer every night, how will I be in three months? In a year? In ten years?" Think about it for a few moments, then ask "Which future would I rather have?" If you can keep those pictures in front of your eyes, you’ll steer away from the future you fear, and toward the future you really want.
Chicago Personal Training