Weight loss is really tough, but so is Frogger.
At first glance these two pursuits seem completely unrelated. What do video games have to do with weight loss? While the act of being sedentary and playing copious amounts of video game playing is certainly not going to help anyone drop 5 lbs, there are some important lessons and perspectives that can be gleaned from gaming.
There are a lot of surprising parallels between video games and weight loss. Both have a desired endpoint. Both have challenges along the way which must be dealt with. Both yield a certain amount of gratification from small successes that can encourage continuing the task at hand. Last, but certainly not least, both can be insanely frustrating. However, gamers ENJOY playing video games. They play for fun, not because they feel like they should. To play is the goal in and of itself. Each level possesses it’s own set of challenges, and while beating the final boss is the ultimate goal, there’s no rush to get there. If you manage to beat Bowser, but you skipped most of the levels because you found that one shortcut, you didn’t actually beat the game, you beat part of the game. This is why many gamers who know of the shortcuts and cheats don’t use them.
In other words, enjoy the process because there aren’t any cheat codes or magic flutes for fat loss. The end goal doesn’t just happen without beating all of the levels to get there. I think there is also something to be said for treating your weight loss like a fun series of challenges. There are a lot of deep psychological reasons behind why people want to lose weight, so the often intense emotional reaction to dietary “failures” is understandable. However, beating yourself up and feeling guilty about eating pizza is unproductive.
When you play a video game, usually you have a health meter–you can make a few mistakes before your character dies. If you have 2 health, that means you can get hit 2 times before you lose a life. Plus you can usually find health points along the way so that you can make up for the lost health point. If you lose all of your lives you get game over.
In most games, game over just means you have to start the level over from the beginning. Even when you mess up and lose a life, you’re never starting from the very beginning of the game(with the exception of a few infuriating games). You simply start from the last checkpoint. There is a lot of room for error as you move forward in your journey. Mistakes will be made along the way, but to get to the end of the level you have to learn what you are doing wrong. If you keep dying at a certain part of the level, you don’t just give up right? You keep trying until something finally works. Whether an avid gamer or not, I’ve never seen anyone lose one health point and then shut off the console without saving and exclaim that they will try to beat the game again on Monday, starting over from level 1. However, this is EXACTLY what people do when they are on a diet, they eat one doughnut, exclaim their diet is ruined so they might as well binge until they “start on Monday”, causing them to go back a few levels rather than moving on from the last checkpoint.
I hope this metaphor has illuminated how silly the “start on Monday” mentality can be, as well as providing some insight as to how weight loss, or any long term goal for that matter, works. It’s a matter of solving problems to get past the many challenges to get to the end point. And although the end point is the signifier of success and completion, it’s really the steps and challenges along the way that build up your abilities. Losing 5 lbs means very little if you haven’t built the habits to seamlessly and automatically maintain your desired weight. Furthermore, video games are ultimately about enjoying the process and allowing for mistakes while still getting better and moving closer to the final boss fight. Try to view your efforts as a bunch of fun games that, with consistency, will stack up to build a high level version of yourself that has no problem confronting any unexpected battles you may face.