When it comes to weight loss, this time of year brings all sorts of goal setting ideas, resolutions, dietary guidelines, portion control suggestions, exercises tips, and recipes for 101 ways to cook with celery.
Although I work in the field of weight management I have nothing new to offer in this space.
However, I have a suggestion that might be worth exploring.
Most people who book sessions with me are incredibly well informed about nutrition and the latest dietary information. They have had gym memberships and personal trainers. They have often tried every diet, fad, regime, and to their despair all these diets have failed them in the long term.
What this brings are feelings of despair, disappointment, frustration confusion, and self blame.
Then there is a sadness that follows. More often than not they feel it is their fault that the weight has come back on. I really want to reassure readers that this is NOT YOUR FAULT. It is because diets don't work. The diet has failed you. Your body has a weight range that it finds comfortable and safe. This is often referred to as your set point. When you lose weight your brain thinks you're starving and starts fighting back. It lowers your metabolism so that you burn fewer calories and it changes up your hormones to make you hungrier. At the same time, the hormones that make you feel full get weaker.
What I'm about to suggest wont make you lose weight initially necessarily, however it is a different approach that can help you keep weight off long term.
This involves a shift in the way you speak to yourself.
It is not uncommon for people who start changing their eating in order to lose weight, to impose quite rigid eating rules usually in the guise of a diet of some type. When they deviate from these rules there can be a tendency to immediately abandon what they were doing with thoughts like "I've failed" or "I blew it" "I may as well eat everything and anything since I can't stick to this diet"
It can be quite shocking when you listen to your internal dialogue about your attitude towards your self when you over eat, or have regained weight and what you say to yourself when you look in the mirror. It is rarely kind, patient, caring, understanding or loving. More often than not it is punitive, scathing and filled with self-put downs and self- loathing.
Questions you can ask your self are: "how has this voice served you in the past"? Has it ever helped you keep the weight off? Has it changed your behaviours? Or, do you just stay trapped in the same loop, trying, stopping, feeling bad, and then trying again year after year?
If you consider the reason why diets don't work that I mentioned above, here is an alternative way to approach your weight loss.
Observe your thinking. When you notice those harsh criticisms towards self, ask yourself would you speak to someone you love or care about like that? Would you speak to a young child like that?
This is counter intuitive but this is one way of breaking the yoyo dieting cycle. Here are some alternative ways of speaking to yourself. " You are doing your best" "its normal to want to overeat sometimes, you are human, this is not bad behaviour" "you have not been bad" "keeping weight off long term is hard, so its understandable you feel frustrated at times" " I know I detoured from my eating plan, but hey that's normal too and I can get back on track""I have not failed" "I am not a failure" "weight loss has nothing to do with being a good or bad person".
This might feel clumsy and a bit foreign in the beginning because it is so unfamiliar. But with practice and self-compassion you can slowly change the way you approach weight loss by breaking the stop start, all or nothing, the I'm either good or bad thought patterns that obstruct and sabotage so many weight loss attempts.
Hopefully this might make your weight loss a less emotionally fraught process.
If you would like support and help navigating your relationship with food and eating as well as help with weight loss, I offer one on one sessions and run a weekly (online) support group that provides a judgement free, confidential safe space. In these groups we discuss all aspects of weight management aimed at helping to hold you when you feel vulnerable, unsure or worried.
During these challenging covid times all my sessions including the groups are being run online via zoom, face time, skype and old fashioned phone calls which means I can reach people nationally and internationally. Please don't hesitate to reach out for more information re times and prices.
Ginette Lenham (C) 2021