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The power of visualization for weight-loss motivation

February 20, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 432 lbs.

Last week: 436 lbs.

Start weight: 470 lbs.

Total lost: 38 lbs.

Sometimes when I’m in bed at night, I try to visualize a time when I was younger and more fit, hoping that the memory will either speed up my weight loss or keep me in the right frame of mind to guide me to my goals. So far, I’ve had no luck.

I simply can’t remember a time when I was fit, so I can’t transport my mind back to a place in time. Looking at my fifth-grade school photo, I see that I’d started looking a little chunky by the time I was 10 years old. My face and arms were puffy, and I was beginning to get a gut. I hadn’t ballooned, but I wasn’t skinny. I don’t remember any obesity problems earlier than age 12, but that was too long ago to create a mental time stamp.

So those nights in bed, straining my memory banks to find an inkling of inspiration, have been fruitless. But I’m not one to give up, so I’m creating a visualization plan to coincide with my weight-loss goals.

There are a lot of mixed messages out there about setting weight-loss goals. Some fitness experts and doctors say we shouldn’t set an overall goal because thinking about that big number can get overwhelming and depressing, and it will lead to failure due to the loss of motivation. Instead, they teach us to set small goals, which are repeated over and over, and that will eventually lead to a bigger number.

But I’m not afraid of a big number. In fact, without it, I wouldn’t have a motivational system to keep me going.

My big number is 220 pounds. That’s where I’d like to end up after this weight-loss journey ends. If I get lower than that, it would be nice, but I don’t have my heart set on it. The main reason is that 220 is a time stamp for me, and I can’t remember a time when I weighed less. I weighed 220 pounds when I left for college in August 1987, losing 30 pounds that summer after high school graduation. Even though I worked at McDonald’s, where the temptation to overeat junk food was constantly in my face, I remember eating a lot of grapefruit and playing a lot of tennis at the Municipal Park in Tupper Lake. I was active, and it felt great. Yet it was so long ago, and I was still technically obese, so I’ve lost that feeling of being 220 pounds. All I know is I’d like to get there again someday.

In order to reach my big number, I’ve created a series of smaller goals. How long will it take to lose 250 pounds? If it were up to me, I’d say a year, but reality always trumps ambition. I know losing 250 pounds in one year is not realistic, so my answer is that I’ll get there when I get there. Rest assured, I will definitely get there.

I’ve set aside my small goals in 5-pound increments, for the most part. Along this goal line, I’ve written time stamps and medium-sized goals in order to keep me motivated and help me attempt visualizing healthier times in my life. Listed below is my series of goals.

-430 pounds: This signifies the real beginning of my struggle, as it was my weight in April 2012 after losing 63 pounds. Ten months earlier, in June 2011 when I weighed my heaviest at 493 pounds, I had the emergency hemorrhoidectomy that almost claimed my life. After April 2012, I gained 40 pounds in a year-and-a-half; therefore, shedding that initial 40 pounds this time around is just a warmup. And I’m almost there.

-420 pounds: I’ll have lost 50 pounds since starting the Lake Placid Diet, which is a milestone I’ll be proud to share. I just like the feeling of saying, “I’ve lost 50 pounds.” It has more resonance than saying, “I’ve lost 38 pounds.” Fifty is a good, clean chunk of weight.

-399 pounds: It will feel great to get below 400 pounds.

-393 pounds: I will definitely celebrate losing 100 pounds from my heaviest weight.

-370 pounds: I’ll celebrate losing 100 pounds since starting the Lake Placid Diet. That was also my weight in 2002 when I walked the VIC Marathon, so I’ll be transported back in time 12 years.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic -350 pounds: It will be satisfying to finally be weighed on a normal scale. The scale in my doctor’s office only goes up to 350 pounds, so I had to use the one in the surgeon’s office before getting a scale at home that goes up to 550 pounds.

-330 pounds: This is how much I weighed in August 1997 when I got married. I lost 30 pounds that summer in order to fit into my wedding suit, which is still in the closet waiting for me to reach 330 pounds again.

-299 pounds: It will feel out of this world to get below 300 pounds. Plus, this is about how much I weighed when I returned home from college in December 1991 (a weight gain of about 80 pounds in four-and-a-half years).

-293 pounds: I will be down 200 pounds from my heaviest weight.

-270 pounds: I will be down 200 pounds since starting the Lake Placid Diet.

-250 pounds: This will be my weight at the time of high school graduation.

-220 pounds: I will celebrate reaching my big goal and think about losing more weight. This will signify the beginning of a new chapter in my journey: keeping off the weight, which is just as hard as shedding it. The struggle will continue.

At the end of my goal line, I’ll create a new time stamp for myself at 220 pounds. I wish I could visualize that future time in my life, but I can’t. I only know that I’ll be healthier and have more energy, and I will hopefully be happier than I am today. In the meantime, I’m storing up those little successes I’m having weekly, and the short bursts of energy that accompany the weight loss, to fuel the fire in my belly.

Now let’s do the math. From 1987 to 2011, I gained 273 pounds in 24 years (an average of about 11.3 pounds a year). I truly never thought it would stop. Even after I lost the initial weight in 2011 and 2012, my lifestyle remained the same, so I packed on a lot of that weight again.

If it weren’t for the Lake Placid Diet, I’m not sure how many more years I would have lived. It was out of sheer desperation that I started doing this in a public way. Looking at it objectively, it was a cry for help. It was the only way I could hold myself accountable.

I knew I couldn’t do this alone, and I’m thankful that so many of my friends and family — and scores of strangers — are offering their support. Some are even losing weight with me. All I can say is thanks for joining me on this journey to 220, which I affectionately call the Lake Placid Diet.

Next week: I dunno yet.

Contact Andy Flynn at


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Andy Flynn weighed about 370 pounds when he walked the VIC marathon in 2002 -- all 26.2 miles.