Have you ever wanted to master a new skill or become an expert in a subject that you know nothing about? Here’s a secret: try teaching that skill or subject to someone else. When you know that someone else is depending on you, it really motivates you to step up your game a few notches, especially when things aren’t as easy as you’d like them to be.
This principle also applies to drastic weight loss, and that’s why the eighth and final stage of the drastic weight loss process is helping other people who are going through the process—in other words, paying it forward. In the research I did with contestants from NBC’s The Biggest Loser, I found that those people who were actively helping and supporting others going through a weight loss process were much more likely to be keeping the weight off themselves.
Formal vs informal ways to give back
Of the contestants I studied, some were paying it forward in a very formal and public way, such as speaking about their journey and experience on The Biggest Loser in front of groups of people. However, others were doing it in very informal ways, such as simply helping out other people in their office with encouragement and advice about losing weight. The way in which people chose to give back didn’t matter much when it came to helping them keep the weight off—it was just the fact that they were doing it that made a difference.
The fact is that when you lose a drastic amount of weight, people will take notice. People will ask you questions about it, and some of those questions will come from people who want to know how you did it so that they can do it for themselves. Although you may not think of yourself as an authority on the subject, compared to them you are an authority, and you have the ability to help them. It’s important that when you get those questions, and when you have the chance to help someone, you recognize that it is also an opportunity for you to greatly increase your own chances for long-term success.
The old saying that “what goes around, comes around” is very true in this case. I’m not suggesting that you help others only out of a selfish desire to help yourself, but knowing that providing help and support to others has been proven through research to improve your own odds can be a good motivator to do so.
A case study in paying it forward
David, a contestant on The Biggest Loser show, is a great example of how giving back can help a person in their own weight loss journey. I’ve mentioned David several times in this blog before, most recently when I talked about stage 5 of the eight-stage drastic weight loss process, which is re-writing your story. David decided to re-define himself as an athlete, and part of how he cemented that new reality was by becoming a trainer and public speaker about subjects related to drastic weight loss.
At that point, it wasn’t just an intention that he threw out there that he wanted to live out a narrative of being the expert–he actually was the expert. As he paid it forward, he cemented his new identity as the fitness expert, the athlete, the motivator, and the trainer. In addition, he continued to grow his own support system (stage seven of the drastic weight loss process), since his audience became a part of his support system. Through David’s example, you can see how stage eight also helps with many other stages of drastic weight loss.
Giving back even when you don’t think you’re worthy
One very important point I want to make is that it’s important to start giving back as soon as possible, and to continue doing so even when you aren’t having as much success with your own drastic weight loss process as you’d like. If fact, you could even say that the less success you’re having, the more important it is for you to start giving back.
Predictably, my research showed that many people who were having difficulty with keeping the weight off felt a lot of shame about that fact, and thus never made it to stage 8. This tends to reinforce negative thought patterns about being a failure and not being worthy of other’s respect. However, people who do give back and provide support for others even when they’re struggling get the opposite effect. They reinforce the belief that their setbacks are only temporary and can be overcome.
I have actually experienced this phenomenon personally. When I started my blog earlier this year, I actually was not doing so great when it came to my personal diet and nutrition. I was starting to slide back into some of the bad habits I had before I went through my own drastic weight loss transformation. However, the process of writing these blog articles, taking on new clients in my practice, and booking more speaking engagements re-energized me. It made me even more committed to my own journey. It empowered me, because it put me in the middle of a community of people who are sharing their stories, and reminded me that it’s ok not to be perfect.
If you’re reading this right now, no matter where you are in your personal weight loss journey, I want to challenge you to start giving back in some way. For some of you, that might mean leading a workout class or doing some public speaking. For others, it might simply be supporting a coworker in your office who is trying to lose weight. Whatever it is that you do, no matter how small it may seem, it will help and inspire others. It will also help you stay motivated in your own journey and set you up for long-term success.