...but really should have.
Every where you look, there are more new and ridiculous ways for us to lose weight, more new "magic fat burning foods", pills, detoxes and diets.
Yet, everyone is still struggling with their weight and always looking for more weight loss tips and advice. If the current diets, theories, tips and advice all worked so great why are we all still struggling so much?
Damn near everyone can relate to struggling to drop a few pounds at some point in their life and weight loss advice is literally every where – yet, very few people ever actually manage to lose weight and keep it off. Like, only the tiniest little fraction of people actually.
Why? A number of reasons but two of the biggest that we’re not being taught about this whole weight loss mystery are:
our relationship with food (and our weight/bodies) is a direction reflection of our relationships with ourselves and there isn't a single diet or meal plan on the planet that can change that. AND
dieting, with all of its food rules and restrictions (despite its promises) is actually not only making it worse, but it makes us more likely to gain weight over time than lose it and keep it off as they promise.
Read that again because that's a pretty big bombshell that no one is talking about: Research shows that dieting is more likely to result in weight gain over time, than weight loss. Dieting is more likely to make us heavier, than lighter.
That's why we keep struggling with weight and food -- because we keep trying to lose weight to "fix the problem” but weight and food issues are not the problem. They’re the symptom and the food rules and restrictions that accompany dieting, and even healthy eating messages, just makes it all worse.
One of my clients the other day was telling me about buying a chocolate bar.
Here’s how eating a chocolate bar plays out for most people (including her before she started with me) when they’re trying to lose weight or even just “eat healthy” -- first, there’s the inner fight over whether they’ll have it.
“Omg a bar would be so good right now. I need chocolate so bad. But it’s bad, I’m not allowed. It’ll make me fat. I’m supposed to be losing. I don’t want to be bad and fall of track already. I’m gonna be good. I’m not gonna have one. Ughhh… but I want it soooo bad. It would taste sooo good right now. Screw it, I’m getting one. Why not? One bar won’t hurt and I’m just gonna end up screwing up eventually anyway, I always do.”
Then, they go straight into the typical diet culture punish mode after they have it:
"I'm so stupid, I always do this. I always screw up. That’s carbs. It’s sugar. It’s so bad. I just blew my whole day. I’m so weak and pathetic. Why am I such an idiot? Why do I keep doing this to myself? Oh well, since I screwed up anyway, I'll just eat allll this other stuff today and I'll start again tomorrow. TOMORROW, I'll be perfect and won't touch ANYTHING bad ever again."
Then they eat crap the rest of the day, start the next day (or week) trying to be even stricter to "make up for it" and it ends the exact same way... in more punishment, guilt, and shame when something "bad" gets eaten again… and weight either never moves, or just slowly keeps creeping up.
But here’s how that goes in my world, how it SHOULD go in yours if you ever want to break that cycle and the best weight loss advice you will EVER get:
Stop viewing food from the lens of good and bad, allowed or not allowed. Eat whatever you want. Yes, seriously. Stop that food fight and punishment crap in your head so you can put that energy into changing it. This is literally THE single most important thing you can do if you ever want to be happy.
Pay attention to how the choices you make are making your body feel. Aim for reducing the things that make it feel like garbage. If you’re purposely feeding your body things that make it feel like garbage, learn why you’re punishing yourself with food – because you cannot change anything as long as you keep believing you deserve to be punished.
Learn how much fuel (food) your vehicle (body) needs every day to maintain, learn how much it needs to lose and learn how much you’re giving it. Think of it like a gas tank, you need a gas gauge. There are a ton of calculators and apps online to help you with this. No, they’re not completely accurate but they’re a place to start if you feel like you need to know numbers. > NOTE: ideally though, you should learn to pay attention to your own body’s hunger and fullness cues and not always track. You CAN (and need to) learn to trust yourself and your body to do this. (and I’d add that if you’re a bit OCD, fear calories, or are super attached to the weight/numbers thing in a destructive way, you should only work on learning your body’s hunger and fullness cues and stay away from apps, calculators and tracking – it can contribute to dysfunction in a lot of people)
Learn to understand your relationship with food and yourself – WHY are you making the food choices you’re making? But you can’t come at this exploration from a place of judgment and shame, it must come from a place of compassion and love.
Learn to recognize the triggers and patterns that cause you to make choices that go against your own best interests, learn to pause when you’re in them so you can make a conscious choice which path you want to go down – the old, well worn cycle of “screw up, beat on yourself, repeat” …or the new path of self-discovery and new, more productive habits.
Let’s go back our real-life client example to illustrate how that works:
My client the other day didn’t have any fight in her head before or after the bar and she knew what I was going to ask when we talked about it because she's put a lot of work into this process already so she was ready with the answer... a story about something that had happened at work. She was angered by something that happened, chose not to stand up for herself and say something because she wanted "to keep the peace" or however she put it. In that moment at work, anger was triggered by something that hurt her and she denied herself the opportunity to speak up for herself about it. So, we discussed how, when there were bars in front of her, she had a choice… listen to the voice of new habits or ignore that voice, & go down her well worn path of reaching for comfort foods.
She opted to not be denied a second time in the same day so she chose to ignore the voice reminding her of new habits and bought the chocolate bar instead. (Which is FINE, btw)
See, we get caught in those auto-pilot habits of using food for a thousand different things that have nothing to do with physical hunger, and everything to do wit stuff going on IN us. Then, we’re so busy beating on ourselves after the fact for being “bad” that we don’t even realize why we’re doing it and we just live in this perpetual cycle of restriction, guilt and shame, forever. Or until we learn to change it.
But we always have a choice. We have a choice what we eat and more importantly we have a choice how we feel about what we eat. If we choose to hate, judge and berate ourselves for “screwing up again” and making the “bad” choice… we stay stuck in that cycle.
If, on the other hand, we decide that every choice we make is fine because it served us in some way, we can start to learn to understand those relationships, how they’re serving us and why we make them…. that well worn path of old habits slowly grows over.
She recognized that a dozen or more times before that, she chose to listen to the new voice, of healthier habits and that it’s been awhile she since ignored that voice and went down the old path.
She patted herself on the back for progress and doesn't beat on herself for the old choice because she understands that it’s a process that takes practice and we make the choices we make for a REASON. In that moment, it was a choice that was serving her in a way that her earlier decision didn't. She understood that, found a way to make it fit in her day and her goals don’t get derailed.
Where as before, she would have crapped on herself the rest of the day for “being bad”, would have continued the punish cycle the rest of the day and then the whole week likely would have ended up going to crap.
“Oh well, I already screwed up my week, I may as well start again next week.”
You KNOW you do this. 😉
This process is remarkable, profound and powerful and talking through it with people is my favorite thing.
It can take time to get good at learning to recognize our triggers, understanding what's causing them and recognizing when we're trudging down that well-worn path of comfortable and familiar behaviors in response to them but it's a beautiful thing to watch when people start getting good at it.
Ps. This is a client who dropped close to 20lbs "by accident" (that's how she said it felt) while eating in exactly this way. Not through restriction, guilt, punishment and shame but through freedom, understanding, self-discovery, compassion and growth.
TO SUMMARIZE THE BEST WEIGHT LOSS ADVICE YOU NEVER GOT BUT NEED:
If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less than you are burning, consistently. That’s it. That’s your only job. HOW you do it, doesn’t matter a whole lot. It really doesn’t. But telling you that doesn’t make me (or anyone else) any money, that’s why there are a billion different diets and rules to choose from. Stop believing their claims, they will not do anything to help you keep weight off long term. Both science and personal experience proves this.
The best way to do it is to just eat the way you normally eat, but start eating a little less of it and watch how your body responds – learn to listen to your hunger/fullness cues and/or you can pay attention to exactly how much is going in by reading labels and tracking things. And you need PATIENCE with this process -- patience, I might add, becomes a whole lot easier when you're not trying to willpower your way through a bunch of stupid food rules and you're not starving yourself everyday.
If you’re struggling with portion control and overeating, your job becomes figuring out why you’re sabotaging yourself. Refer to the example I gave… do you have triggers in your day that cause you to “cave” as in the case of buying a chocolate bar? Are you a binge eater? Are you an emotional eater? Are you handling in those moments in the traditional guilt, shame, judgment cycle I spoke of? You will never, ever, ever be able to diet away emotional or binge eating. Ever.
If you want to eat “healthier” while losing weight, ignore food rules and listen to your body. It’s really smart, it will tell you when something makes it feel like garbage and when something makes it feel really great. Eat less of the things that it tells you makes you feel like garbage.
If you know what makes you feel like garbage and you keep eating anyway, your job becomes figuring out why.
As a culture, in general, if we ever want weight loss to last and stop having such terrible relationships with food, we have to break the weight centric model. We have to stop focusing on weight, and start focusing on our whole selves… the relationships we have with ourselves, with food and with our bodies – because that’s where the answers lie.