So this time, this is it. You're really doing it this time. You're sick of feeling like a stuffed sausage in your clothes, you're turning "X" years old, or you have that big wedding coming up or you want to feel good in a bikini this summer - whatever it is that's "motivating" you this time, this time you've decided - IS IT.
So you start exercising. Maybe it's that hot new exercise trend every one has been talking about, or that ass-kicking personal trainer that everyone has been going to (I know, I was her) or maybe you just start making yourself get outside to walk everyday.
And you're smart. You know diets don't work so you just start "eating right" - you want to be healthy too, after all. Right? So you swear off the bars and the cookies and all your favorites. You decide, you'll "let" yourself have them if you want them but you really don't want them - because... you're being good.
"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!" after all, right?
You keep it up all week. You gaze longingly at the bars in the grocery store line - but NO! You're being good. You're really doing it this time. You're not getting one! Same thing with the cookies when you get home. And maybe pizza night comes - you don't even touch it.. you're being good!
A week goes by. You're super proud because you did it! You made it a whole week! Now it's finally time for your reward - validation of a job well done by getting on your scale.
Up a pound.
There are two ways this ultimately turns out almost 100% of the time and both ways end in you eventually quitting until the next time you "try again".
First, you either say screw it right there and then and dive into all the things you didn't let yourself have all week or you promise to do better, try to restrict even more ...before caving and diving into all the things you've been trying to restrict.
Either way - this approach almost never results in weight loss and if it does, it doesn't result in lasting weight loss.
And yet, it's what every one does.
If you actually want a different outcome this time around, you need a different approach. A drastically different approach.
Like - Get. Off. Your. Scale. For one thing.
But more than that - stop making weight loss the goal.
Focusing on weight when you want to lose weight is asking for failure.
Why? A few reasons.
1. Research actually shows that people who diet (defined as restricting ones intake to try to lose weight) are more likely to gain weight over time than those who don't. Our cultural obsession with weight loss is actually making most of us heavier over time.
2. It's a slow process, and the scale is almost never going to cooperate so if that's the validation for a job well done that you're relying on, you're setting yourself up for failure - and a lifelong war with your scale.
3. Weight gain is the result, in large part, of our eating habits. It happens when we eat more than we burn. That's it. So, why are you eating more than you're burning? Where is that extra coming from? And is eating more than you burn or gaining weight even really automatically bad thing?! Actually, no, it's not. I talk about this concept a lot in terms of deeper issues (emotional eating, binge eating, trauma, etc) but it's not always anything that deep. Maybe it's just not understanding what your body needs and what it's getting. Think of it like having a gas tank with no gas gauge. Your body is like a car - it needs a certain amount of fuel to get through the day. Put too much in, and some flows out (or gets stored as body fat in our case). If all you're focused on is trying to force yourself to eat what you think you're supposed to be eating to make the scale go down, you're not focusing on changing the things you actually should be focusing on - what made the weight go on in the first place? If you want to reverse weight gain, especially if you want to reverse it in a way that will actually stick, figure out and change why it went on in the first place.
Now you may be thinking, well I just like chocolate and I'm too lazy to cook. That's all. I don't need all that hippy-dippy looking inward crap - I just need to start cooking more and stop eating chocolate.
But you would be wrong there too.
You can never cook a single meal and eat chocolate every day and still lose weight - if you're putting less fuel in the tank than it needs. Not cooking and eating chocolate (or whatever) doesn't automatically result in weight gain unless you're consuming more overall energy than your body needs every day, consistently, over time. So, why are you consistently consuming more energy than your body needs? That's not meant to sound judgy - and it's not even to say I think there's anything wrong with consuming more than we need. If you're happy and feel good, who cares? When I dug into my own motivations for weight loss, I realized they were PURELY external and outside of that fear of judgment for not looking perfect, I actually prefer carrying extra pounds. Big whoop.
The only reason we've decided it's the worst thing we could ever do, or a reflection of failure is because we've been taught that. We don't need to keep buying that out-dated lie. But I digress...
Whatever stories your thoughts and beliefs have been telling you about why this concept doesn't apply to you are lies it wants you to believe because no matter how badly you may want to change your weight, the computer in your head that's driving all your choices, wants everything to stay exactly the way it is because it doesn't like change.
Your brain is driving your choices and to your brain, change is scary. Even if it promises a better life, change is still scary so it will tell you all kinds of things and sabotage you in all kinds of ways to keep you from changing - like the fact that you need to just keep dieting.
That's why focusing on weight loss when you want to lose weight is setting yourself up for failure. It keeps you stuck in the sabotage mode that is the never ending diet cycle.
Figure out why the weight went on in the first place and why weight loss even matters to you. Start learning about the way your brain works so you can learn to work with it, rather than wasting all your energy trying to fight against it (you will lose that fight every time), and uncover the habits, behaviors and beliefs that are sabotaging you from changing.
THAT'S when real change has a chance. :)
How many times have you repeated that pattern? Shoot me an email and tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you.
Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare's search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220–233. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220