Unfortunately, the predicted heart attack occurred and necessitated a quadruple bypass. Upon recovering from the surgery, and once he obtained medical clearance, he resumed his program with my firm. Now, however, he resumed with a vengeance. He no longer canceled his training sessions. He dutifully monitored his caloric intake in a food diary and faxed them to my office. He subsequently lost an additional twenty pounds. The heart attack and surgery obviously frightened him, they motivated him. His new exemplary behavior unfortunately was short lived — it lasted approximately three months. Then old habits prevailed. He once again started missing exercise sessions, allowed his eating to resume to the previously unhealthy level, and, you guessed it, subsequently regained all the weight he had lost. What happened?
My impression is that once he was no longer afraid he might die, his belief in his ability to succeed at his weight loss program disappeared. He had "flipped" temporarily out of fear, an external stimuli, but once that fear ceased, he "flipped" back. We desperately tried to get him back on track. He expressed that he wasn't interested. Obviously, he had never truly believed in his ability to succeed. He had been frightened and that fear fueled his "flip". He is what I call a "Fear Flipper."
There is a considerable body of research supporting this type of behavior. Jaylan Turkkan, Ph.D., chief of behavioral sciences research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse says, "fear almost never works in the long term. In the short term, people get rattled and try to change, but eventually the fear goes away and the desire for immediate pleasure takes over." Clearly, this is the case with millions of Americans.
The Special Event Flipper
Here's a further instance of not staying "flipped" due to the lack of not believing in one's ability to succeed — what I call the "Special Event Flipper." My weight loss management firm has had dozens of clients who have behaved in a manner similar to the following. Prior to an event, say a milestone birthday (fifty is a big one), anniversary, reunion or Bar Mitzvah, a client will embark on a major weight loss program. Once again, they become the model client coupling intelligent eating with effective, consistent exercise. At the "event", he or she does look and feel great. If they were to complete Exercise Two just before the event, "My current impression of my body is … ," which was your Exercise Two, they would say that they felt and looked the best they had in many, many years. They felt strong, confident, sexy and once again in control of their weight and appearance. But time passes. The "event" is no longer looming on the horizon. What occurs? Invariably, the so-called "bad behavior" reappears and with it, the excess weight returns. Thus, once the event is over and the external motivation ceases, the ongoing belief that they can live "flipped" evaporates. The doubt resurfaces and again, the weight rapidly returns. A short period of time after the "event," these individuals would write a far different ending to the sentence, "My current impression of my body is … ".
The "I'm - Doing - This - For - You - Not - For - Me" Flipper