In this blog post I would like to discuss a major mental barrier that we often encounter in our Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky weight loss centers. This issue, for lack of a better term, is the fear of being selfish. The term “selfish” has an obvious negative connotation. And this connotation is well deserved if we use the definition stated by Merriam-Webster. They define selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many philosophers throughout history, selfishness is not necessarily a negative thing. According to Nietzsche, selfishness is a valuable trait for an individual to possess as it allows the person to achieve more from their own life. The desire to better one’s own situation does not need to be conflated with the disregard for others feelings or needs. These two things do not need to go together.
Voltaire said the same thing in a similar way. He stated that “It is better to be a gay monster, than a sentimental bore”. His statement basically means that it is better to focus on one’s self and self-improvement than to always be focused on what others are doing.
We get so caught up in what other people are doing, whether it is celebrity gossip or politics, and generally these are situations we have absolutely no control over. We feed off of gossip and friends’ drama. For Nietzsche, Voltaire--and myself--these are a waste of energy. A focus on self-improvement is the most noble of pursuits. It is the best path towards personal fulfillment and simultaneously the best way to improve society as a whole.
So, what does all of this have to do with weight loss? Quite simply, selfishness is required to live at a healthy weight in a society that is set up for people to be overweight. To lose weight and to maintain that weight loss you must be willing to do things that put your health first. You have to be willing to order at restaurants that may cause the waiter to have to write down a bit more. You must be willing to decline invitations to go to the bar because you need to get a workout in. You must put yourself and your needs first.
What comes along with this are other emotions that are often seen as negative, these being pride and vanity. In my opinion, neither of these are negative either. People have the right to feel good about how they look. People should feel pride if they are able to lose weight (which is something very few can do). Embrace these emotions. Understand that if you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin that you are not a bad person for wanting to change that (in fact, quite the opposite). If you accomplish a weight loss that few others can, you should know that you put in the work and embrace that pride. These are significant motivators that can keep you from sliding back into old patterns. Pride is good. So be a gay monster.