3 Ways To Weight Loss: It’s All In Your Head
Dessert was being served at our friends’ house, and although belly-deep in my usual weight loss struggle, I didn’t want to be rude.
“Could you give me one tiny scoop of ice cream?” I asked Jim, with my fingers spread 1.5 inches as a visual aid to avoid miscalculation. “No, actually, like half a scoop?”
Jim shook his head. “I just don’t get it. Why can’t you just take what you get and then not eat it all?”
As badly as I wanted to bludgeon Jim with my spoon, it did get me thinking.
Why is weight loss so hard for some of us, and a non-issue for others?
I'm pretty sure the answer is that no one will ever know. Ever.
What I do know is this. For those of us who endlessly, angstfully wrestle with our weight, here's the newsflash: the answer is in our head.
And so, dear readers, I offer you three powerful key principles to making peace with the complex, herculean task of losing weight for good.
Weight Loss Key Principle Number One Give up the struggle.
I get this phrase from Linda, a weight loss guru to legions who has lost 80 pounds and kept it off for decades.
What does Linda mean by giving up the struggle?
This: For so many years, I was raving pissed. Why can’t I be a normal person who just eats without having to think about it? Who eats when they’re hungry and stops when they’re full? Who isn’t buried in a 24/7 head game with food and weight?
Why can’t I, like the teenaged boys frequenting my home these days, shove down a triple burger and fries and still look like a green bean with a six-pack?
Friends, listen closely, because this truth will set you free: If you’ve struggled with your weight for most of your life, you're never going to stop. And given this, you have two options:
Option A) You can expend that energy in a negative way, with rollercoaster eating, fad diets and bitter denial, annoyed at the Jims of the world and feeling demoralized by your constant ups and downs.
Option B) You can expend that energy in a positive way, accepting that your complex relationship with weight and food is a permanent, intractable part of who you are. Once achieving true acceptance, you can expend positive energy actually doing the work of learning to understand your triggers, changing your eating habits, and creating routines that help you manage this part of yourself and your life. (See Key #3)
Weight Loss Key Principle Number Two:
Self-loathing does not help you lose weight.
This was a shocker for me. I figured if I mentally beat myself up whenever I slipped ("Idiot! Again with the CVS candy aisle? Why can't you get a grip!?, etc...), I’d eventually be miserable enough to lose the weight.
Then I finally realized that if that strategy worked, most of us self-punishers would have become green beans with six packs years ago.
So here’s a bizarre, alien alternative to self-punishment: Self-compassion.
For most of us who have a weight issue, this will be your Very. Last. Impulse. Try anyway.
Quick story. A few months ago, I had a thought: My jeans are so tight that they may soon bisect my torso. Perhaps I deserve to breathe?
Naturally, I’d been operating on the notion that it was a dirty sin to shop under these circumstances, because doing so would signify both indulgence (spending money on clothes when I was overweight) and defeat (I’d given up).
But then I decided to override all my instincts and try something highly uncomfortable. Instead of continuing to punish myself senseless with shame and discomfort, I went out, ignored the alarming sizes, and bought some clothes that were downright roomy.
Crazy things happened. I could breathe! I could sit down without cutting off all blood circulation! I felt good in my clothes! And miraculously, all these things led me to reaffirm Key Principle #1 and #2, which magically gave me full mental access to Key Principle #3.
Weight Loss Key Principle Number Three:
Replace your good and bad food/diet mentality with building new habits and routines.
Okay, sure. These days, there are lots of flashy choices: Intermittent fasting, the Keto Diet, the Whole 30, Flexitarian, South Beach, Paleo, blah blah blah.
But friends, at the end of the day, long-term weight loss comes down to changing the way you live and eat––and that’s a lifestyle, not a diet.
So if you’re serious about Key Principle #3, may I suggest these three rules:
Rule 1: Find or create a program that helps you build healthy habits that are sustainable for life. Mine happens to be Weight Watchers, because it helps neutralize my feast or famine mentality and teaches me how to create an environment—in my head and home—that is flexible, creative and deprivation-free. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. Figure out what works for you.
Rule 2: The 80/20 rule. Another brilliant Linda rule. If you stay on your game 80 percent of the time, and aren’t fully there for 20%, you’re winning. The big trap is trying to be perfect, failing, and then skidding into oblivion so many times that you’re ultimately back where you started.
Rule 3: Make peace with the fact that resetting is just part of the process…forever. Often we backslide because of the crap in our head. One night of pantry surfing or a weekend blow-out and it’s “oh, to hell with it, let me stick my head into that cake till Monday."
But as evidenced in Key Principle #1, your weight loss challenge is for life, and your overall success and well being depends 100 percent on you being able to fall off and get back on again and again…learning to show yourself, especially at that moment of reset, the same empathy and warmth you would for a struggling friend.
No easy task, for sure, but your long term well being and success depends on understanding that resetting is a natural and ongoing part of maintaining a sane and healthy lifestyle.
I’ll never forget one Saturday morning years ago when I was on my way out the door.
“Okay, bye everyone!”
“Where are you going?” my son asked.
“To my Weight Watchers meeting.”
He looked at me in that little kid incredulous way with both hands holding the air.
“Mom! You still haven’t figured out how to watch your weight?!”
One step at a time, friends, one step at a time.
Next up: The Impatient Chef: Using Sundays to Set Yourself Up for Healthy Eating All Week
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