I Want my New Life Now!: The Reality of Long-Lasting Change

Marta wanted to lose 100 pounds. Previously an active, fit woman, she had undergone severe medical issues for the past three years and was just now able to healthfully begin to lose weight. Marta was angry, resentful and overwhelmed looking at the scale. “Maybe I should get rid of my scale,” she says to me through tears. “Maybe I should just accept this is my body now and celebrate my size.” I waited. Although for some people getting rid of their scale and celebrating their size is absolutely the best choice, I knew both of these were a deflection for Marta. As an avid runner she needed to realize she wasn’t starting where she left off (placing in her age group at local races), but instead would be building up her strength and endurance. Additionally she couldn’t magically change her diet overnight from mac and cheese (all she could keep down when she was ill) to tofu. She needed to start small (walks in her neighborhood, adding vegetables to her mac and cheese), and plan on losing 1-2 pounds a week. For her next appointment Marta stormed into the office. “I can’t do this!!! I hate depriving myself, I have no endurance and I only lost 1 pound. I quit!” “Marta,” I said, “we discussed realistic expectations. What did you think would happen this week?” “I thought your ‘realistic expectations’ were for other people, not me. I thought I was unique.”

Mark enjoyed partying in his teens, twenties, and thirties. By his forties he was ready to settle down and have a family, but his dating life wasn’t going so well. He’d get involved with a woman but after a few dates she’d break it off, and he was left alone again. “I don’t understand. I know I’m not rich or a champion skier or anything, but I’m reasonably employed, get some laughs, and seem to be fun. What’s going on?” We took some time to explore the fact that Mark had actually never actually lived in the sober adult world before. Although he worked consistently, his social life and finances were focused on his next high, the next festival, and the girl sitting next to him in the moment. He didn’t put effort into creating consistent community, developing healthy hobbies, building credit, creating or buying a home. “I didn’t care about any of that stuff. I still don’t! I can live out of a backpack. Why do I have to buy into all that material stuff?” “You don’t,” I bluntly said. “But if you want a family, you’re going to have to create some kind of healthy foundation and stability.” Sure enough after a few months of creating a stable life—and talking about it on dates—, women started sticking around.

Change is not instant or easy! There aren’t shortcuts for “special” people, or exceptions for good reasons. Change is about committing to your goal, setting small steps, following through and working hard for as long as it takes (even on days when you just want to crawl back into bed).