When I started my weight loss journey back in 2011, I pictured my future self the way dieters do. I dreamed about that magic number—180—that I’d one day see on the scale. It was like I thought the scale would hit that number and then erupt into fanfare and spit out confetti. Here’s the problem: that number didn’t really mean anything tangible to me. Sure, losing 100 lbs in X number of months sounded great, but I had no idea what I’d actually look like.
You might run into that issue, too. You’ve got your “magic scale number” in mind, but that alone doesn’t do much to inspire. Why should it? Numbers aren’t sexy on their own—it’s what they represent that gets us going. Dropping 100 lbs didn’t grip me enough to inspire change to fuel that journey. What moved me forward—and can move you, too—is rewarding that future person NOW.
I used to think that I had to wait until I saw visible change to reward my efforts. That’s not true. Here’s how it works:
1) Shop outside your comfort zone.
Pick an article of clothing—new dress, jeans, shirt, whatever—that’s 1-2 sizes smaller than your current size. Buy something on the high end of your price range, if you can. Be bold. Pick an item you think is so damn hot, you can picture yourself strutting into the club like it’s new haircut day. Don’t worry about trying it on, either. It’s not supposed to fit you yet. Just find it, love it, and buy it! (But pay cash! Don’t write any checks that your soon-to-be toned ass can’t cash.)
My first “goal clothes” were a pair of dark blue Levi’s jeans, size 36. When I bought them, I was still barely squeezing into my size 40 jeans from Old Navy. I hadn’t worn a size 36 since my freshman year of college (I was 31 at this time). Buying those “skinny Brett” jeans both exhilarated and scared the shit out of me, but I did it anyway. After all, Future Me would be strutting around in those jeans soon enough!
2) See them every day.
This is where the real action happens. Once you’ve got those Future You clothes, take a few moments every day to see yourself in them. Maxwell Maltz, author of The New Psycho-Cybernetics, dubbed this visualization technique “Theatre of the Mind.” Practice seeing yourself in the new outfit. Experience how confident you’ll feel as Future You goes out in the new outfit. It’s even easier if you can remember being at this smaller size and wearing similar clothes in the past. If you’ve been there once, then you can go there again! Recall this confidence as you go about your day, making the decisions that Future You made to create the person who’s wearing those clothes. By experiencing this tangible sign of your weight loss goal, you train your mind to start making those new decisions that will transforms Current You into Future You.
When I had that first pair of size 36 Levi’s, I would work myself into a giddy frenzy almost daily with them. I imagined how much confidence I would feel when I put on those new jeans, looking slimmer than I’d been in over a decade. Because of those jeans, I started focusing on little things like drinking water with lunch and walking nightly. To quote Wayne’s World, “It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.”
3) Embrace the day, then start again.
Consistent effort in changing your lifestyle habits will pay off. When Future You gets to put on those clothes for the first time, I want you to celebrate. Get so damn fired up about your success and your life that you want to squeal. Take a selfie! Call a friend! Whatever you do to celebrate your new life, do it.
Then, start over again.
The first time I put on those size 36 Levi’s in dark blue, I damn near cried. At age 31, I wore jeans that 18-year-old Brett would have worn. I did my little happy dance and hugged my roommate as tightly as I could. I walked on cloud 9 all day. A few days later, I thought, “Yeah, size 36 looks pretty sweet on me. But you know what would look even better? Size 32!” And the cycle began again, moving towards that next achievement, getting ready to meet Future Me all over again.
You see, that’s the way the journey goes. There’s not just one finish line—there’s lots of them. There’s not just one Future You to become—there’s several. That’s the beauty of this whole process. By picking those goal clothes (or any other tangible proof of your efforts), you create the pull within yourself to move towards that other, less tangible goal: the magic scale number. So keep shopping for Future You and setting new benchmarks for them to hit. Do it long enough, and the scale will show you the number you want. Just like magic.
I believe in you.