Weight loss motivation and “inspiration” are all over the media. It’s supposed to be helpful, right? Keep you on track. Give you direction. But look at this particular “motivational” image:
“Strive for progress, not perfection.” OK, good advice I’ll admit. In fact, it’s advice I’d share. But how about the image? Good grief, that woman has what bodybuilders call a “coconut delt” with a deep cut to her tricep and her legs and glutes are totally cut! How does an image like this compare with an image of a super-skinny model? They both represent unrealistic bodies that most people could never achieve. But we think this one is “positive.” We think it’s encouraging. Is it? If you hired a professional body-building trainer and worked out for hours every day, could you achieve a body like this? When you look at this image, are you really separating in your mind what’s expressed by the phrase from what’s being communicated by the photo?
So-called “motivation” and “inspiration” have the effect of making you compare yourself to others. Typical “motivational” memes and images use photographs of totally-ripped people. What these images communicate is really no different from the use of extremely hard-bodied people in advertising for weight-loss products and programs. For a lot of people, images of super-ripped bodies are just as unrealistic as skinny models and gorgeous celebrities. “Motivation” makes you focus on what you may or may not be doing and most people will start to be harder on themselves to do what they think would be “better.” They are being “motivated” by the image of a body that could be impossible for them to achieve with nearly any amount of work. Even without images, “motivation” forces us to a place where we inevitably judge ourselves for what we are or are not doing.
I honestly think “inspiration” is much worse. You’re touched by the inspirational story of someone who overcomes significant obstacles to accomplish something that perhaps you’ve been trying to do for a long time. Well aren’t you the big failure if they did it and you haven’t! What’s your problem? The most shame-inducing challenge anyone can level at another person is “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Do not confuse motivation and inspiration with good advice and mentoring. It’s the difference between cheerleading and strategy. Cheerleading may pump you up temporarily but strategy guides you how to make realistic choices. I was really struck by the image I’ve posted above because the advice it expresses is actually outstanding! “Progress” is relative. Progress for you may be literally adding 30 seconds to the time you’re able to lift yourself up on a stepper. Progress for you may be doing some form of exercise every single day for a whole week for the first time. Progress for you may be cooking full meals more often and finally letting go of cleanses and detoxes and crazy diets.
There’s nothing another person can do that will prove something about your own abilities. Only you can determine what will work because nothing works unless it works for you.