Awhile back I had talked about the simplicity of losing weight as part of a 7×7 approach to a balanced lifestyle. Of course what I failed to mention is how much easier that is to say than to do.

In February 2012, when I wrote that article, I weighted in at a whopping 310 lbs. Over the course of the next ten months my weight ballooned up to as high as 350 lbs at one point. Clearly knowing the path and walking the path are two different things. So in February of this year I decided to make a change and had started working with a personal trainer one day a week.

Now I can probably hear you saying “one day a week? Are you nuts? you should be going to the gym 3-5 times a week!”. Before we go there I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anyone can buy a gym membership. You can sign up to weight watchers, Herbal Magic, or hire a personal trainer for 3, 4 or 5 days a week. There are many different ways that you can deny accountability for how you feel about yourself but it all comes down to whether you personally are willing to make the necessary changes to create a better you.

That isn’t easy. It is the reason why the weight-loss industry accounts for $20 billion of US GDP every year. In fact the hardest thing you can do in life is to break the psychological barriers that develop when a poor pattern of behavior becomes a root belief of your psyche. To break those bonds means willing to be able to confront the fear, the withdrawal, the pain, and the horror that we place between those root beliefs and how we behave. The body responds to these challenges the way it responds to breaking any cycle of addiction – it fights back despite our best efforts to consciously convince ourselves otherwise.

Forcing change by using brute force methods doesn’t change the pattern of behavior. It only masks our true tendencies. To break these cycles we need to find within ourselves a healthier pattern of behavior that has a stronger attraction than the pattern we are trying to break. The risk / reward payoff has to be perceived to be larger than the risk / reward we are giving up. Sub-consciously, we need to believe that as we put greater importance on those things which benefit us, that we can confront the horror in giving up those things which hold us back.

Every addiction, positive or negative, has a trigger. The trick is to find that trigger for yourself and then hold on for dear life because the depths of hell to which you are about to descend into will require a rock to help keep you steady.

That is not to say that you need to do this alone. But the reason why I’ve chosen to work with someone on a limited basis is because I knew that in order to change, there needed to be a catalyst. The rest was up to me. No one else is going to face, or understand, my personal horror in giving up specific behaviors which have resulted in a consistent 8-10 lbs per year weight gain for the past 15 years. If I can’t sustain the change without undue external influence, then I really haven’t changed at all. I’m merely wearing a mask  to fool myself.

So – I am not just trying to lose weight but making a commitment to myself to face the horror within that has been driving these self-destructive patterns of behaviors. I found my rock – and now I’m holding on for dear life. That change is going to take years to accomplish though. You can’t break a psychological root belief in a day, or a week, or a month. But as the neurons in my brain start forming new connections that reinforce the new and abandon the old, the struggle will turn more and more in my favor. The old synapses will never completely go away but by strengthening new connections that have a greater risk / reward payout, the ability of those old patterns to control my behavior will become less likely.

How do I know I found my rock? I don’t. I trust and have faith in the fact that I now understand myself better and the reasons why I associate certain thoughts, feelings, and experiences the way I do. I have a better understanding of what motivates me and what defines me as a person. This is part of growing old – we find aspects of ourselves we never knew but were always there throughout our lives – even onto death. Sometimes we do things because we don’t know that we are associating different risk / rewards as part of the same shared experience. Once we have that “ah-ha” moment where we can understand the separation between the two, it becomes easier to reinforce the positive patterns and mitigate the negative ones.

Once you can understand that separation, you can build on it.  Challenges that once were an insurmountable mountain to climb, now become an adventure to be thrown into. I won’t lie to anyone though. There is a big dark scary forest that has to be crossed as part of that adventure. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.

So how do I know I found my rock? I’m currently weighing in at 290 lbs after 6 months at war with my personal demons. I’m nowhere close to having slayed all those demons that haunt my desire to repeat old patterns of behavior. But after six months months of shakes, and withdrawal, and depressive episodes, and manic elation, and sweats in the night – I’ve come to appreciate that those monsters lurking under my bed are not so scary as they once were.

What is my rock? Sorry, that one I save just for me.

— Kevin Feenan

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