This post appears as part of our Healthier 2021 series, in which we follow three WebMD team members as they strive to improve their health this year. You can follow their journeys here.
By Bill Kimm
Writing this blog the past 2 months has been a fantastic motivator. Knowing I would have to write about my progress each week forced me to be accountable. There was no way I was going to allow myself to fail knowing I would have to admit it here.
But this blog wasn’t meant to be permanent, and now that we’re winding down, I need to find other motivators to keep me focused. And that’s where I have to be careful.
I live with depression. And in therapy for my depression, I’ve learned I struggle with perfectionism too (which just leads to more depression). I am my worst critic. I’m quick to see where I might have come up short or failed, and in those situations, it’s hard for me to see anything positive about myself. As you can imagine, this self-criticism isn’t very helpful when you’re trying to lose weight and live healthier! So finding the right motivators is important for me.
Through therapy, I’m realizing some of the tools that I’ve used in the past for motivation may have actually been working against me.
My Apple Watch, my Lose It app — both of these provide badges, awards, and encouragement to keep me focused and on track. They are fun to win but can also become addictive (and have for me in the past). My therapist and I agree I shouldn’t focus solely on these gratifications. They help, and it’s exciting to achieve them, but they too easily can turn into tools of measurement, which can give my inner critics something to nag me about. So I’ve learned that I can enjoy the badges when they pop-up, but I need to avoid using them as motivation.
Another motivator for me has been watching people get healthy, be it on social media or in my circle of friends. There is nothing better than seeing the joy of others who find success in their journey, and it provides so much encouragement and motivation for me. But I’m also ridiculously competitive. And part of me becomes jealous of their success. Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is a lot of truth to that. The only journey comparable to mine is mine. As I celebrate their achievements, I also need to be careful not to let the success of others taint the way I look at how well I’m doing.
Both of these “motivators” can amplify my depression. When I don’t close all three rings on my watch, I beat myself up; when a friend is running further and faster than me, I think I’m a failure and why bother anymore. And that self-criticism feeds my depression. It leads to more laziness, more stress eating, not caring anymore, and a funk that gets harder and harder to get out of. Thankfully, I have an amazing therapist who has helped me work through these challenges the past 7 months, and I’ve learned how to better manage my thoughts. I also have an amazing support system in my family, my friends, and specifically, my Healthier 2021 teammates Mark and Laura, who have taught me so much on our journey together.
Dr. Bruni, WebMD’s Lead Medical Director, told me back in January, “You’re investing in yourself. This is bigger than weight loss, this is your life!”