“Need To” versus “Want To”

I spent the past week and a half working out of town, so apologies for the radio silence.


While out of town, I was working in a hospital setting and had time to do people watching. I love people watching, especially at airports or in the mall. The hospital? Not so much. It’s not the best feeling to be in a hospital when the most vivid, awful memory you have is of watching your mom take her last breath in ICU. With that memory comes a lot of pain and sadness. I also remember how helpless I was in that situation. Life became much more precious and the finality of it all jarred me.

I saw people being wheeled in and out of their rooms in varying conditions and became hyperaware of my body and the weight that was sitting on it. Do people look at me and assume I’m sick because I weigh so much? Do they think I’m lazy or non-compliant in some way, much like a diabetic who refuses to give up sugar?

I worked really long hours and was in a chair nearly the entire time, so my legs were swelling and I didn’t get nearly the amount of water I normally do when working at home. The physical reminders of my health weren’t all bad, however. Walking up and down the hill to the hospital was easy and I wasn’t out of breath. My feet didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t nearly as tired as I would have expected after a 12 hour work day. Those were some definite non-scale victories that will stick with me for a long time. It still surprises me when things like this happen because I’m not used to my body responding how it should. Yet I know I shouldn’t really be surprised because I’ve worked really hard for these results. There are moments where I’m barely hanging onto my sanity in relation to my body and health, but so far, haven’t given up. I may stumble every so often (and many more times than I’d like), but as long as I can get up, I’m winning.

I was talking to a co-worker at the hospital about losing weight. She asked several questions about motivation. To me, she’s thin and shouldn’t even think about weight loss (yes, snap judgement – everyone is entitled to do something for their health regardless of size). But she really was trying to understand so she could figure out how to get motivated.

Finally, I just stated how I really felt:

There’s a big difference between needing to lose weight and wanting to lose weight. When you’re at a point where you have to choose whether to make changes in order to live the life you want, it’s a lot different from wanting to fit into a pair of jeans from a few years ago.

I remember looking at my mom in ICU and seeing her body which had failed her. She couldn’t control her disease, but damn it if I can’t control how I treat my body. I need to live, and am thankful for the opportunity to get up and dust myself off as many times as I have.

Upon returning home, I stepped on the scale to see I gained 12 pounds. A lot of that was water weight from retention in my legs but it was a shock to see how my body can push back at me with any small change in routine. It’s annoying, but it’s not going to stop me. This is something that I don’t just WANT to do – it’s something I NEED to do.

  • Beth

    Hey there Emmie – this week I keep reminding myself of the old saying – “if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! I lost 15 pounds this spring and gained 20 back this fall – I’m trying to take it one week at a time and this week has been a good one. Hang in there – you can do this!

  • http://www.theyearofthephoenix.com/ Jill (Lady Lazarus)

    Wow, this certainly helped put my own weight loss in perspective. In the beginning, at 311 lbs, it was definitely a need. Now my weight loss is slowing down and I’m fighting so hard for every pound and it’s frustrating. But I’m now at just under 180 lbs and right now it’s more of a vanity thing. Yes, I’m still considered “overweight” but my frustration is coming from the fact that I’m not as small as I think I should be or want to be. No longer is this a “need” to lose weight, but a “want” to lose weight and I keep losing sight of the bigger picture and how my health has improved and all the other non-scale parts of this journey. Sometimes we all just need a little perspective so thanks :)

  • Jennifer S.

    I think this is where I hate to tell people about my new goals. I tried it with some folks, saying that I was eating much healthier and exercising, trying to get my body back in shape. And they will always say, “Oh I need to lose about twenty pounds.” No. There is a difference between vanity pounds and a 5’5″/256 lb 30+ year old woman who has a family history of heart disease. There is a real need here, people! I know that people are just trying to make me feel less alone in my fight, so I try to show them grace. Thank you for bringing that up! (And listen to me vent.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30507236 Alyssa Lofgren Curran

    Oh Emmie, I’m so glad you wrote this because this weekend I put on TEN POUNDS from period bloat and eating salty popcorn. I was really upset with myself and thinking, why is this so hard, I should just give up… I’m just relieved to know somebody else can gain an absurd amount of water weight too. This is a great post.

  • TheObeseTraveler

    Congratulate yourself for your victories (being able to effectively work 12 hours, walking uphill for a week) and commit to getting back on the weight loss program. This is how I treat myself. And I only weigh myself monthly, because daily & weekly will discourage me. This winter I stopped exercising due to the weather and being ill and my body too is pushing at me. So this February, I’m gonna LOVE my body and myself and get back to working out. Thanks for the update.

  • http://twitter.com/MyInnerBovine Inner Bovine

    There is no getting around it, weight-loss sucks…especially when you have to. I hate it when people who are thin tell me about their weight struggles…seriously? I don’t care that you gained 3 pds and your size 6 jeans are hard to close. I often wonder how these folks expect a seriously overweight person like myself to respond to that….but I digress…maybe a subject for my next blog post….Anyhow, I am very impressed by your strength and will to keep getting up and keep on keeping on. That is the important part and something I constantly need to remind myself. It would be so easy to give in and give up but each day we don’t is a victory. You go!

  • http://twitter.com/SlimStyleSecret Slim Style Secrets

    What an important reminder about what’s important in life. Sometimes I get so discouraged by failing to meet an imaginary goal that i’ve made for myself rather than concentrating on being healthy and making good choices for my body.

  • tubbyteacher

    It makes me angry that you (we) have to go through this. You should have been able to do what you did for work and NOT gain 12 pounds! Other people do! Then you get to come home, tired from working long hours, and begin analyzing how to deal with the emotions and whys of this weight gain. Don’t forget to add coping (in our heads) with the real or perceived judgment from others for gaining this weight. I know life isn’t fair, but sometimes this just feels like too much. Yes, we need to lose weight and we are making valiant attempts to do so, but it feels like we need to make extraordinary attempts to lose the weight that other people wouldn’t have gained in the first place. I have been religiously staying on track, logging my food, drinking my water (blah, blah, blah) and gained three pounds this morning. I am sure there is a reason, but I don’t know what it is. Sometimes this journey just sucks.

  • Vanessa

    I can gain ten pounds in water retention from an overseas flight. Scary but learned to keep drinking water and go for a walk – but never too far from a loo! – and it will all be gone in a few days. Hang in there, you are doing a fab job. Xo

  • http://twitter.com/thiiirdly Chris

    I can relate (obviously). I get worried about any change in routine because I know how frail my discipline can be.

    I like the way you summed up the want vs need. Everyone I work out with is a “wanter”—I’m the only “needer” . Perhaps one day it will be for vanity.