The percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese is on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Americans are obese, that is around 78.6 million people! The leading cause of death from preventable diseases can be attributed to obesity, and the estimated obesity related healthcare cost in 2008? $147 billion. One hundred and forty-seven billion dollars! The fact that we have some major issues with weight in this country is indisputable.
I came across an article the other day in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that caught my eye. The laborious title? “Means Yield to Ends in Weight Loss: Focusing on ‘How’ vs ‘Why’ Aspects of Losing Weight Can Lead to Poorer Regulation of Dietary Practices”.
How verses Why. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. I read on.
Despite the endless weight loss products and methods, there is little correlation with sustained weight loss over time. One can then reasonably conclude that the how is not the problem. If not how, then what?
In summary, the study conducted and previous studies researched lead to several interesting points. When high-level construals or high-level factors are activated, one’s actions are goal based (the “why”). In contrast, low-level construals or low-level factors are means and resource based (the “how”). No matter if the subject material was weight loss, smoking, or alcohol consumption, participants who had a means-focused mindset (“how”) typically exhibited less self-control. To successfully achieve the goal, one must be why based. In other words, when it comes to weight loss or any other subject that demands self-control, the why is more important than the how.
Yep. That definitely sounds familiar.
Why we do things matters. When the rubber meets the road, when the cake meets the fork, when the backside meets the couch instead of the gym, that game plan is gone, along with that double quarter pounder with cheese you just inhaled. If you have not spent any time on the why, the how will soon be useless.
Weight loss may not be an issue for you. Fill in the blank with anything in your life that requires self-control and we are all in the same boat: methods alone will not lead to reaching our goals. We must dig deeper to the why.
For you, the challenge may not be a problem of subtraction but of addition. Let’s take a simple example that shouldn’t step on anyone’s toes: flossing. After a teeth cleaning I always re-commit to flossing every day. I have unwavering commitment…for about a month. The means to flossing daily are quite simple. But after having good oral hygiene which in the past three years seems only to have resulted in seven cavities, three root canals (two being on the same root), and two (going on three) crowns, my why for keeping up with flossing left a long time ago. Immediate results are unseen, and I choose to spend the thirty seconds it would take for this little activity to do something else-anything else.
If I would look at the why and the long-term benefits, it would not take much convincing to get back into a routine. I may not immediately see the results, but I know there are unforeseen benefits happening. Pushing your plate away before you are full is one action which can eventually lead to weight loss. But what will keep you having the ability to make that choice meal after meal is a why, for example, of becoming healthier in order to stay active with your children and grandchildren.
Means to a particular goal are important, and we can discuss this in more detail another time. For today, the goal, the why, is the root. As always, I want to challenge and encourage you to look at your own life. What is it for you? Which area do you need to dig to the roots and pull up the why? Start activating the high-level construals by making each action goal-based not just means-based.
I leave you now. Why? I’m off to floss.
When you know the why you can do the how.