Holiday down here in Melbourne today. Something to do with some type of sporting event. Footy grand final they call it, and of course the Victorians get a day off.
Not to worry, it’s only costing the local economy about a Billion dollars.
…But I am still hard at it and there’s no rest for the No B.S.
Let’s get into it
Ok, I want to tell you a tragic story. There’s no happy ending here, but I promise there’s some interesting lessons.
It’s about an American woman I met one time – a personal trainer. This is about her journey from riches to rags… and then more rags I guess. I lost track of her, but it seemed like her fate was sealed.
In her twenties and thirties she had it all. She was young and hot. She had a successful personal training business, a hot boyfriend, and a stylish inner-city apartment. This was the late 90s, but if there had been Instagram she would have had quite a following.
She also had an entrepreneurial streak, and she came up with a weight loss system that she was getting some good results with.
She wanted to take it global. Be the next Jenny Craig or whatever.
But she realised that if she was going to get that kind of reach, her brand needed to be more relatable. Women weren’t going to take weight-loss advice from a woman who had never been bigger than a size 8.
So she decided to be her own proof of concept. The idea was simple. She’d put on a tonne of weight, and then use her own method to shed it all.
In one swoop it would have been both the proof of the pudding and the inspirational back-story she needed – it would have sent her relate-ability factor through the roof.
And so she engaged a film crew to document the whole process for her. She raised investment funding from some rich friends, and gave her self eighteen months – 15 months to do the journey up and down the scales, 3 months in post-production, and then bam. Launch time.
It was all a great idea. Genius in fact. In theory…
Only it didn’t work out that way.
Putting on weight was easy. This was New York in the 90s. There was no shortage of unhealthy eating options available to her. She also had a body-type that was amenable to weight gain.
She piled on the pounds.
But there is healthy weight gain and there is unhealthy weight gain. There’s being a Viking and eating whole sheep for dinner every day of your life. And then there’s suddenly stuffing yourself with deep fried chicken and ice-cream sundae’s every day of every week.
Her body really wasn’t ready for it. In the end it triggered a hereditary liver condition, and she even ended in in hospital for observation for a week.
No worries, she thought. This is perfect. This is where I hit rock bottom. We’ll get some awesome footage of me in a hospital bed with a drip in my arm.
Now it’s time to bounce back.
Only bouncing back wasn’t so easy. Her system had been designed for women looking to lose a few kilos – not obese people with ongoing liver conditions. She found she just wasn’t up for the regime she had prescribed her self.
Partly it was just beyond where she was at, but partly it was about motivation. She wasn’t a perky fitness instructor with energy to burn anymore. She was now someone who broke a sweat getting up off the couch. Sometimes she just couldn’t do it – couldn’t get off the couch at all.
A big part of her work as a fitness instructor was giving people the motivation they needed. But who was going to do that for her now? She was too proud to let anyone help – that would have undermined the hero narrative she was building – but she wasn’t winning every battle with her will either.
And so the tight schedule she had set for herself and her production team – it started to look iffy. She tried to project confidence, but her team was starting to doubt her.
And her personal confidence was taking a hit too. She didn’t love the way she looked – not at all. And the world responds in a particular way when you’re a perky fitness model, and in another way when you have fried chicken stains on your singlet.
Her boyfriend was a case in point. Seems he realised that a large part of his attraction to her was physical, and she somehow found out that he had started banging another one of the gym bunnies down at the club.
It was a pretty crushing blow. When he moved out, she took it pretty hard, though she tried to put on a brave face for the cameras.
Ok, new rock bottom.
But then nothing comforts depression like food, and in her sorry state, she found herself making excuses. Maybe fried foods could be part of her diet. Maybe her regime could allow space for special treats – at 3 a.m, staring into the freezer.
Maybe if you have the right affirmations and beliefs, chocolate wouldn’t actually translate into weight gain.
Long-story short, she was no longer the same person. She was no longer a fitness model trying to lose a few kilos.
She was someone with depression, self-doubt, eating disorders and an ongoing liver condition, trying to lose what was now quite a few kilos.
It had become a monumentally bigger challenge.
And this now triggered a crisis of purpose. Do I really want to be the next Jenny Craig? What’s so great about being thin anyway? Why can’t we just love each other for who we are? Why is everybody so superficial? Why is the world just so horrible and nasty?
Maybe I don’t want to be a fitness guru. Maybe I want to be a love guru.
At this point, the camera crew just stopped showing up. It was clear that there was no way they were going to come close to meeting their schedule, and the funding had dried up anyway.
She also had to move out of her apartment. She had no income coming in and she had burnt all her financial backers – though they were very understanding and sent their well-wishes.
She also needed to find an entirely new line of work. She didn’t look the part of fitness instructor any more. Her old clients had all moved on. New clients weren’t interested.
And so she left New York. Moved back home to the small country town she came from. Got on to disability benefits with her liver condition, and started working some part time gigs cleaning houses or down at the convenience store.
And that, as far as I know, is where her story ends.
She rolled the dice. She lost.
Poor love. It’s a sorry tale. The least we can do is try and learn something from it.
What I find interesting about this story is what it says about our ability to make decisions and create meaningful changes in our life.
In theory and in isolation, it’s easy. Lose weight. Give up cigarettes. Quit your job and do a Cert IV in Interior Design.
But these things are never in isolation. There are always multiple currents pulling your life in one direction or another. A liver condition. A bad break up.
But it’s not only that. Our capacity to make decisions and execute them is also in flux. They swing with our mood and energy levels.
And this is the crucial mistake I think this woman made. It was easy to envision herself doing the hard yards involved in losing weight when she was in peak form – when she was energised, motivated and full of self-confidence.
But these things aren’t incidental. They are key ingredients in success. If depression hits and your motivation goes, you’re not in a position to tackle anything, no matter what task you’ve set yourself.
But having always enjoyed good health, having always enjoyed strong drive and self-confidence, this woman just failed to realise how important these things actually were…
… until they were gone.
I saw a really interesting TED talk the other day. In it, a guy name Rutger Bregman argues against the idea that poor people are poor because they make bad life choices.
Rather he argues that causality runs the other way. Poor people make bad life choices because they have no money.
When you don’t have a job or job prospects, when you have no stable social network, when you have no self-esteem or respect, hey, why not do meth?
… or any of the lesser evils like smoking or fast food?
It is much easier to make good financial decisions, and good life decisions, when you’re standing on stable financial ground already.
Anyway, I think this has two important implications for us.
The first, is remember to be compassionate. Someone might be making some life choices that you strongly disagree with – that you would never do yourself.
But maybe they’re making those choices because they’ve never enjoyed the privileges that you’ve enjoyed in life.
Decisions don’t exist in isolation. Our entire personal histories come to bear on each and every one.
The second is be careful not to think of the success journey in purely technical terms. Yes, strategies and techniques are important. But mindset, energy levels, motivation and commitment – all these things are crucially important.
I mean hey, that’s the whole reason I do these No BS blogs. It’s not for my benefit.
(Ok, it’s partially for my benefit, but this is about you, ok?)
If you are trying to turn your life around, be prepared to think holistically. Be prepared to look at our relationships, your fitness, even your diet! – as well as your finances.
I can’t promise you a happy ending. Fate has a role to play as well.
But this is will maximise the chances of success.
And that’s as much as any of us can hope for.