Sunday, September 24th, 2017

A Bit of Motivation from Buddha for Those Who Have Lost Their Weight Loss Mojo or Think Losing Weight is Just Too Hard


As the popular song originally recorded by Billy Ocean in 1985 clearly states, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

Maintaining change, be it weight loss, good exercise habits or remembering to be more positive and less reactive is difficult.

Scott Peck warned us in the first sentence of his famous book, The Road Less Travelled, “Life is difficult”.

Buddha also obviously knew a thing or two about life as well, and the first of his Four Noble Truths, “Life Means Suffering”, isn’t that much different to Scott Peck’s first sentence.

I’m not a Buddhist, but figured that as the world’s fourth largest religion, the estimated 350 million Buddhists on the planet must be on to something. So I took a look at the Four Noble truths because they are designed to end suffering, and we could all do with a bit of that!


First Noble Truth – Life Means Suffering

We don’t have to be Einstein to know we all suffer, and on many levels.

  • On an emotional level we suffer anxiety, depression, stress, fear, grief, rejection, disappointment, and betrayal to name just a few.
  • On a physical level we suffer injury, illness, disease, disorders, pain, exhaustion, overweight and obesity, starvation and malnutrition, eating disorders and body image issues, the ageing process and inevitabilities like menopause, wrinkles and death.
  • On a social level we suffer loneliness and isolation; relationship conflicts, break-downs & break-ups; issues with children, friends and family; and the list goes on.
  • On an occupational level we suffer job dissatisfaction, workplace bullying, unemployment, workplace investigations, workplace stress and many more pressures.
  • On a legal level we suffer divorces replete with custody issues and property settlements, litigation, investigations and all others things that allow the lawyers to get richer as we get poorer!
  • In the weight loss area we suffer again, but I don’t need to expand on that because you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if you had not suffered in some way, in relation to weight-related issues.

When you look at the list above, ‘suffering’, or struggling with life and what it throws at us, seems inescapable. However, ‘bad times’ are punctuated by ‘good times’. A practical way to avoid getting too caught up in the downside of life is to perhaps assume that we are here to learn from life’s ‘hard knocks’ and to get ‘better and better’ as a result. Maybe life is just one big winnowing process, separating the chaff from the wheat? And, anyhow we have learned that for every downside there is an upside, which is why we know the difference between emotional states like happy and sad!  As they say, nothing ever stays the same; a constant in life is change. There is always something to look forward to!

It seems that once we accept that ‘life means suffering or struggling’, that no one escapes this inevitable truism and that highs and lows are just part of the living process, we can just get on with living which includes ‘rolling with the punches’ and living life, ‘warts and all’.

Second Noble Truth – the origin of suffering is attachment & constant craving for highs and pleasures

Attachment to our belief systems is possibly one of the biggest contributing factors to suffering.

Examples of belief systems that I commonly see in practice that do not support our cause for a worry free or stress free existence and successful behaviour change be it weight loss, or any other goal you have set yourself include:

  • I should worry about what others think
  • It is selfish to put myself first
  • I am not enough, not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, thin enough, good looking enough!
  • I don’t deserve good things to happen to me so no wonder I don’t lose weight, have a partner, have a job I love!
  • Everyone else gets what he or she wants but not me!
  • It’s too hard, I can’t do it!
  • I need to be right, all the time!
  • I must stay “high”, on the go, busy, goal oriented, and be constantly achieving all the time. Of course, this is an exhausting way to be but generally serves the purpose of never having to confront yourself or  what your life is really like.
  • A final example is that, “The world, events and the people in it should behave like I want them to and it’s upsetting when that doesn’t happen”. This belief is operating when you hear people blame the current status of their life on their parents not being who they needed them to be when they were growing up, even when this was years ago. Another example is when people attribute their inability to lose weight to their partner not supporting them when really, no one else can lose their weight for them.

This list could be longer but we would be here forever. Life is about perception, if we want to change our lives, usually this involves changing our perception of it, and our belief systems are a great place to start.

Look at weight loss. We want to lose weight, but constantly sabotage our weight loss attempts, and in the process become professional ‘yo-yo dieters’. We automatically assume that we cannot lose weight, that weight loss is difficult and that we are unlikely to ever permanently lose weight. All belief systems, a self-created reality! So we spend our lives unhappy about our weight and blame our weight and looks for what is not right in our lives. In short, we suffer because we hold onto beliefs that don’t serve us.

If we could murder our attachment to our unhelpful beliefs, we could start hanging out with more constructive perceptions and realise that if we want change then we must be, do and think that change. Life is full of opportunity and potential, we just need to grab it. Suffering, it seems, is optional! Read on for the Third Noble Truth and the end to suffering.

Third Noble Truth  – The cessation of suffering is achievable

Well, it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we don’t have to murder our unhelpful beliefs to achieve freedom from suffering and struggle, we just have to stop connecting with our suffering. This is consistent with psychological research. The Buddhists say we need to become ‘dispassionate’ about our beliefs and other habits that create suffering. Hanging out with our negative belief systems and feeding them just makes sure the unhelpful beliefs keep coming back for more attention, glory and control. If we keep feeding negative beliefs we just get – same stuff, different day, or for some “same stuff different decade”. So, the new rule is  “no feeding belief systems that don’t serve you!”

Now becoming detached or ‘dispassionate’ to beliefs we have nurtured, fed and used as excuses to continue unhelpful behaviours like over-eating, under-exercising, screaming at our spouse or children, or just generally procrastinating, is a challenge, but it appears that there is no easy way out, consistent effort will be required.

I like what Vince Lombardi had to say:

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

We don’t need to consult Einstein to confirm that persistence and perseverance pay off; none of us get what we want without intention and some form of effort. However, it seems that the goal for Buddhists is to achieve “nirvana” and in so doing release themselves from suffering. I am not Buddha, and did not spend decades under the Bodhi tree discovering how to become enlightened and pain free. This blog is ‘food for thought’, and hopefully motivating you to realise that “If anything is to Be, it is up to Me”.

Fourth Noble Truth – The way leading to the cessation of suffering

I like this Truth, it talks to us about taking the ‘middle way’, the road of moderation – not being super ‘in control’, like a dieter, or totally out of control like a binge eater, but finding a balance that sensibly and practically gets us what we want.

So, it looks like we don’t have to sit in a cave, in a loin cloth, in the forest, living off nettles to find the antidote to suffering, but nor should we rest on our laurels and eat what we like and assume that a magic pill will come on the market and dissolve all our fat before we die of a heart attack, or spend what we like because our retirement plan is to win lotto. Moderation and being-on-purpose is the key. Old news really!

Life is like a big school with a higher purpose. We are on a path of gradual self-improvement, and there is a lot to be said for doing it in a way that is kind and graceful and not too pressuring for ourselves.

Look at how Kaizen worked for the Japanese. Kaizen relates to continuous incremental improvement as reflected in Japan’s transition from a nation once reputed for “Japanese junk” to being a highly regarded “technological giant”.

Another useful concept relevant to the middle path is ‘slow living’. It fits in with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which is being incorporated into many eating programs.  Slow living is an art, and is related to moving slowly and purposefully, so you can appreciate life. We don’t live forever, and get easily sedated or distracted by 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and the shopping sales that take place at the different seasons of the year, and forget to live with awareness and clear intention. “Slow Living” forces us to Be Here Right Now, getting the full juice out of life, and doing and thinking the things that we know will get us what we want, be it weight loss, appreciation of the food we are eating right now or the sun shining.

Buddha apparently developed a game plan for ‘the middle way’ known as the Noble Eightfold Path. This will be reviewed in another blog to avoid drowning you in an ocean of information and ideas.

I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. We all have a bit of avoidance and I recall the first time I ever went to read the Four Noble Truths. When I saw the first one, “Life is suffering”, I stopped reading. I thought, “Wow, this is a spiritual philosophy based on doom and gloom, I get enough of this when I watch the news!” Of course, my reaction was ignorant and ill informed. We should all read or listen to the whole story before forming opinions.

I found it somewhat liberating to have read ALL Four Truths, but make a clear disclaimer that I am not an expert on Buddhism. What is provided here is a light-hearted treatise on some ideas that could help you with any struggles you may have, using the Four Noble Truths as a framework. As you know there is a whole religion based on the subject, so for more information consult a Buddhist Centre.

NOW…it is easy to read something, it is quite another thing to put ideas and insights into action, and to keep using them in your life with positive effect. Following are some suggestions to minimise suffering.

First Noble Truth – Life Means Suffering

  • To address this nobel truth get acquainted with where suffering shows up in your life. Look on all levels – emotional, physical, social, occupational and legal as well as your weight loss history.
  • To make yourself feel better, and to balance all that suffering, list the highs or good things in your life, and do it daily. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way to cultivating positivity in your life.
  • Create a meaning of life that empowers you as opposed to one that gives you permission to whinge about your lot in life.

Second Noble Truth – the origin of suffering is attachment

  • Too often we go through life with beliefs that don’t serve us. An example would be, “I don’t have a girlfriend because I am too fat”. Now no one has probably told this man that he is too fat. It is simply a belief he has taken on and created into a self-fulfilling prophecy because unfortunately we humans tend to search for evidence to substantiate the stories we tell about ourselves. So, get up close and personal and list down all the limiting and self-defeating beliefs you have about yourself that hold you back.
  • Practise changing your life by changing your perception of it.
  • And, never forget, suffering optional, and is not that constructive.

Third Noble Truth  – The cessation of suffering is attainable

  • List out the ways you are sedated in your life – is it 9 to 5, Monday to Friday because you have to pay your mortgage (in Old French, mortgage means ‘death pledge’)? Is it reading magazines and knowing more about celebrities lives than your own, watching endless hours of TV,  playing video games, internet surfing, downloading porn, relationship recycling, moving from project to project, or addictions to busyness, shopping, sex, food, alcohol, illegal substances, prescription drugs, falling in love, gambling, cigarettes, exercise, ….. and the list goes on.
  • Now to rise above doing “same stuff different day or deccade” it is important to start living mindfully, to be here right now, to live slowly, to know immediately which decisions you make that are not empowering or adding value to your life. for example is buying a gossip magazine to find out whether Brad and Angelina are really breaking up, or whether Brad is still talking to Jen, or seeing if there is a celebrity who has more cellulite than you really worthwhile?
  • Detaching is difficult. It requires something few of us have – discipline. It means you have to see your thoughts just as thoughts, and your emotions just as emotions. Notice them, but don’t get down and bogey with them, or they will have you stuck in a belief or emotion that doesn’t serve you. Remember, persistence and perseverance pay off. Write daily affirmations about your ability to get what you want in life. Keep a gratitude journal where every day you write down 5 things you are grateful for, and if you are too lazy to write them down, then just think them.

Fourth Noble Truth – The path to the cessation of suffering

  • Google kaizen and how to do it. Google slow living and think about doing it. Practise mindfulness. Be ordinary, and if you can’t be ordinary, be extraordinarily ordinary.

  • Google the Noble Eightfold Path – Wikipedia says it is about: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration – sounds like fun!
  • Life is difficult but ‘the show must go on’

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One Response to “A Bit of Motivation from Buddha for Those Who Have Lost Their Weight Loss Mojo or Think Losing Weight is Just Too Hard”
  1. Paul says:

    Hi Anita,
    I’ve read and benefited from reading ‘The Road Less Traveled’.
    Yes I agree with you I have had patches in my life were it’s hard to see that there may be even a light shinning at the end of this dark tunnel. But I glad these days there is more light than dark. I only have to see the suffering in the world from natural deserter and man made wares (mans inhumanity to man) so I’m more great full for the very good life I live.
    Thanks I’ll now look to read more about Buddha
    I look forward to your next blog

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