As body, mind and spirit, how we take care of our bodies is of no less importance than how we think and how we love. After all, we received only one ‘vehicle’ for our life journey here on earth and that is the body that we feel, and later see in the mirror, when we wake up in the morning. All our great mind and spiritual potential depends to some degree on the good condition of our health. We know it is true that good feelings about our bodies transfer to positive thinking and more healthy attitudes. We are also aware of the fact that as life presents challenges to our mind and spirit, so it does to our bodies. If we want to make improvements in our lives and try to do so by focusing on one area of our being, our thinking, emotional/spiritual or physical ability, we discover that it is not sustainable. So, for instance, if we want to think better, sharper and clearer, and we want to feel more inspired by life, but we have indulged too much in last night’s food and drink and ignored the signals of poor health for months, then all our good intentions can die an early death. Similarly, to live a healthy life goes far beyond having a healthy body.

After a wonderful holiday (in spite of a gout attack) in Thailand and Singapore in December last year with my wife, my second son and his family and my last of four sons, I decided to face the brutal truth and got onto our bath scale. I was nine kilograms overweight. (I didn’t pick up all nine over the holiday period, but enough to feel it’s time to re-evaluate what I want to do with the extra kilograms – carry them and add to them or get rid of them.) I am now within a kilogram’s reach of my target weight. In my experience losing weight was nothing else than an exercise in personal mastery. As with all goals in life, I believe the first step, thought or principle towards reaching the goal is the full appreciation of personal mastery as the key to success. Weight-loss, as we know, is portrayed in advertisements as a simple matter of buying the right product or diet prescription to obtain quick results and a sexy body. In truth, it is to mislead people and only to ensure that the consumption cycle will remain intact for more profit. Personal mastery can be described as the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening a vision, focusing energies, developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively. For me, the three things that stand out as principles in my thinking, the things I always remind myself of on the road to achieving my goals, are simplicity, balance and persistence. They are all part of personal mastery.

Let me share with you how it practically worked for me with the goal of losing nine kilograms.

I have discovered that simplicity in four aspects on the road to success is as important as balance and persistence. The four are: one motive, one goal, one theory and one discipline.

One motive or driver

It is common knowledge that most of us pick up weight as we get older and there are all sorts of reasons for it. The point is that we don’t pick up nine kilograms overnight but by our eating habits over a lengthy period of time. It is foolish to tell ourselves, or believe others, that we will quickly put things right without much effort or determination. To reverse the pattern is difficult and we therefore need to have a good and strong motive … one motive. There could be a number of reasons why you would like to lose weight. You don’t fit your clothes anymore and want new clothes but don’t want to admit to yourself that you are now a bigger size. Your friend, partner or colleague made a remark about your extra weight. You are in a new relationship and you want to feel better about your body etc., etc.

It is easy to think of many reasons why you would want to lose weight. But the many reasons weaken the message. What is needed is to identify the one biggest reason. You want to send your brain one powerful message for as long as it takes to change what you want to change. It is the ‘push’- factor. It is the one thing that gives you the most pain when facing it, where your level of dissatisfaction and discomfort is at its highest. In my case it was the gout. The pain was a physical one as sufferers would know but also more than that: I hated the idea that my condition could potentially be linked to being overweight. I found I had the motivation I needed – if I have to suffer from gout it will not be for being overweight! That was my motive and driver.

So, know why you would want to lose weight; what is your biggest motivation?

One goal

Once we know why and how hard we want to change we can cast our eyes to the future and fix it on a goal. It is the ‘pull factor’. In the case of losing weight it is quite obvious that we can measure progress by getting on a scale and reading the number of kilograms. The one goal we choose has to be measurable. Again, simplicity should be the rule. The more thoughts or visions we have the less effective we become. If we think we want to get into this particular pair of jeans and one day, surprisingly, it fits, we inevitably relax our concentration on the number of kilograms we set as a goal. If we think it would be fantastic to receive a compliment from a particular person and we visualise it as a goal, the same would happen: we get distracted when we get the compliment and tend to relativise the initial goal – a goal we have not yet reached and know will require some more discipline and sacrifice.

In my case I used the body/mass indicator to set my goal. I did not add a ‘by when’-date to my goal. Change-goals are different to task-goals. Change involves un-learning and growing of new habits. It is a dynamic process that can be different from person to person and situation to situation. Patience is important for change of behaviour or habits. A ‘by when’-date would not add to my motivation and could in fact be de-motivating. We don’t want anything to deter us from the one discipline we commit to and need to focus on. We have to trust that results will follow in good time.

One theory

We live in times of information overload. The moment we have an idea of change or a vision of something new in our lives, we can count on many voices telling us how to go about it – probably nowhere as many as in the case of weight-loss or how to improve our bodies. Self-mastery requires ownership and conviction and in our day and age it means that we need to do the homework ourselves, or else gamble with the many quick-fixes on offer. I believe we are most convinced of the right or best way when intuition and science meet – we then feel we can commit ourselves to a process. We don’t need an expert to tell us the more we eat the fatter we become. We intuitively know it is not good for our bodies to eat until we feel physically uncomfortable. We know then that we have eaten more than what our bodies required. But our intuition alone is not enough – especially if we have to lose weight. The accessibility of scientific theory allows us to understand more and understand better why certain ways would be better than others in pursuit of our goals. With our intuition still switched on, we can do a bit of research and determine and ‘own’, or internalise, the one theory that will guide us on the way forward. Again, the principle is simplicity in the message we repeatedly give ourselves for as long as it takes to create new behaviours and habits. When we are convinced and understand the theory we need to pursue our goal, we can ‘put it away’ to retrieve as intuitive knowledge about what to do in different situations, such as standing before a buffet at the year-end function.

In my case, between me and my wife, we learned enough to understand Tim Noakes’ science-based eating plan to follow it as a guide and as the one theory for my weight-loss goal. Balance requires that we remain aware of general health and the important role the medical profession plays to help us obtain or maintain it.

One discipline  

Once we know what the one motive, one goal and one theory is for our goal, what would be the one most effective discipline to adhere to? Simplicity in discipline is the most crucial of all. What is the one thing we should do repeatedly to build the rhythm and momentum for the change(s) needed to ensure the results we want? If you think about it, you will realise that it has to be a feedback- or measurement-discipline. In my case I have decided to weigh myself first thing each morning at least until the 1st of October (making sure that I don’t fall back in the winter-months when I have put on the most weight in the past). What we need is a daily (for weight-loss goals I’m sure it has to be daily) moment of truth; a moment that brings everything into perspective again; a moment that reinforces the one motive, one goal and one theory – messages; a moment that automatically triggers learning and corrective messages (o yes, I let my guard down yesterday when I ate that piece of cake more out of frustration than anything else); a moment to find balance (life is more than a matter of body-weight, I can forgive myself and refocus on how I want to proceed today); a moment to celebrate success, etc.

When we have mastered ourselves to master the process towards our goals with the principles I have described, we have learned how we can re-author any storyline we feel we want to change – even collectively in organisations. The extra good news is that, as we look back, we recognise many other positive learnings and outcomes: the enjoyment of savouring the moment as we slow down our eating and drinking, taste the food, smell the wine, appreciate the gift and privilege of having good food, loved ones and good friends to share it with, consciously choosing quality over quantity; the fact that, whilst we might not have a pretty face or body shape, nothing comes to the good feeling of taking charge, responsibly taking care of our bodies and as a result respecting ourselves more.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg