I just finished reading Sean Anderson’s (no relation) book Transformation Road, which chronicles his journey to and from 505 pounds. This is not a book review, per se, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations.
I believe anyone who embarks on this kind of journey has a unique story with universal elements. There are many common themes amongst those of us who are, or have been obese/addicted/emotional eaters/binge eaters. And so as I read, I often found myself nodding my head in a “been there done that” familiarity.
What I love about Transformation Road is that it is not a “how to lose weight” book. There are no “sure-fire tricks” or “secrets.” Sean spends most of the book telling the story of how he got to 505 pounds and what kept him there until he was ready to do something about it.
And while his body certainly transformed, the real transformation happened in Sean’s mind. That, to me, is what makes Sean the real deal. He practices and lives his story instead of preaching it, and this is what makes him credible and his story powerful. Sean hasn’t removed himself from his story in order to sell a diet or a program. And even though he doesn’t reveal some until-now-secret weight loss surprise, there is plenty to learn.
(And I have to admit that when I first started reading, I thought, “I am sure this will be a good read, but I’ve been on my own ‘transformation road’ long enough to have learned all the lessons.” HA!)
About mid-way through the book, Sean is relating his adventures in stand-up comedy when I read this: “What possessed me to constantly bully myself for the sake of comedy? It was my way of avoiding the issue of food addiction and compulsive eating by embracing, almost celebrating, my morbid obesity. It was horribly self-deprecating, and it was sadly, self-accepting. I was giving up on ever losing the weight. Not really, I mean in the back of my mind I would always think, someday.”
“it was sadly, self-accepting”?
Self-acceptance is sad??
As someone who sees her life in two parts – the obese, unhealthy, unconfident part before self-acceptance, and the lighter, healthier, confident part after self-acceptance – this didn’t make sense to me.
And as much as I believe in the practice-don’t-preach thing, I have often preached self-acceptance without fully understanding what it is. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to prove my point, that this whole weight loss deal is all about self-acceptance. And now this guy who’s lost a whole lot more weight than I ever did, says that self-acceptance was part of the problem?
But then, several pages later, he writes: “My experiences in stand-up mostly included me making fun of myself. But when asked, I wouldn’t focus on that at all. I would talk about the wonderful connection with the audience, the natural high of making an audience erupt in laughter, and how blessed I was to be pursuing something with such passion. And I was passionate about those things, it just came at a high price. I was my own bully. I was in Hollywood representing myself as this big, fun, lovable fat guy, who was completely at peace with his size and role as such. Wasn’t this what I wanted? If I was constantly searching for acceptance of my 500-pound self, I was finding it, but can one feel real love and acceptance from others without honestly loving and accepting himself first? I thought I was being genuine.”
Ahhhh…now I understand. Like me, Sean was searching for that acceptance from everyone else but himself. I don’t know if his choice of words in the first paragraph was deliberate, but I understand now. The self-acceptance he spoke of wasn’t real and true self-acceptance, it was fear of change.
Something else that struck me throughout the book is that Sean’s transformation is the result of his understanding of several things I am constantly learning. Remember the Woo-Woo-Head-Heart Stuff I wrote about a while back? Here are some nuggets from that post:
- Change occurs in the moment.
- Abusing food cuts our heads off from our bodies.
- Criticism (from others or from oneself) never motivates.
- It’s not the food that hurts you, it’s the self-loathing.
- If you keep saying, “I can’t eat ________” or “If I eat ________, I’ll never stop” or “I can’t have ________ in the house or I’ll eat it all” those things will be true.
- Once you label yourself, you look for experiences that will prove it.
- In order to protect ourselves from outside criticism, we start doing it to ourselves.
These are some of the themes that came up over and over again throughout the book.
And that leads me to a subject that is near and dear to my heart, a subject that Sean very much gets: our words create our reality. OUR words. Not other people’s.
So how do figure out what your words are? One way is to start noticing your reaction to them. Those who know me well know that I have a negative visceral reaction to such words and phrases as “goal,” “just do it,” “motivation,” “willpower,” and others.
So I use different words and phases: “intention,” “desire,” “inspiration,” “soul goal” (thank you Jules), “practice,” and “act as if” (and it was a nice surprise to see that, while Sean has his own words and phrases, he and I share that last one in common). This is why “know thyself” is pretty much the key, and it’s why blogging can be such a powerful transformation tool.
Sean did the same for himself…he figured out which words, phrases, and analogies work for him. And once he understood this, he understood its simplicity. And he imparts that simplicity very well while acknowledging that, while simple, it’s not always easy.
Have you read Transformation Road? What did you think? When you read books about other people’s weight loss journeys do you want to be told, in specific terms, how they did it or are you willing to figure out on your own what works for you?