Updated: Feb 3, 2022
Most of us take the wrong approach to losing weight. We think we need to follow some restrictive eating plan and spend hours on a treadmill to see results. We eat “healthy” food that we don’t even like, and try to find ways to distract ourselves from being hungry all the time. Most of us can stick to these programs for a few weeks, or even a few months, but 97% of the time we eventually give up and go back to our old habits. And then, whatever weight we did manage to lose comes back, plus more. We go into “rebound mode” and over-indulge in all the things we deprived ourselves of while we were dieting, until the next time we feel so disgusted and disappointed in ourselves that we go looking for another quick-success weight loss program.
This is a destructive cycle that most of us (including me) have repeated over and over again, and it’s fueled by the poisonous thoughts that we all carry around inside our heads all day. “I’m disgusting. No one will ever love me like this. I hate myself.” You tell yourself that you deserve the punishment of a harsh diet or exercise program, that you need to give up everything you ever enjoyed, and that you have to suffer if you want to be worthy of other people’s love and acceptance.
There’s a key factor that you’re missing, and it’s the reason why all those past diets have failed. The more emotional pain you create, the less likely you are to succeed at losing weight. Let me explain why.
Human beings engage in a common coping behavior called “buffering”. This means using an artificial distraction like food/alcohol/gambling/shopping etc, as a way of soothing or numbing our painful emotions. We use our favorite buffer to ease the negative feelings we don’t want, or to artificially create the positive feelings we do want. Your buffer becomes your go-to coping skill for dealing with stress, loneliness, frustration, boredom, rejection, or any other form of emotional discomfort. And even if you know it’s not good for you, your subconscious mind only cares about seeking relief in the moment, and doesn’t care at all about the cost you’ll have to pay later. This is why you say that you’re willing do anything to lose weight, yet still find yourself unable to resist your favorite treat at the end of the day. You just want to feel better in the moment, and damn the consequences.
Dieting doesn’t fix the emotional and psychological triggers that cause us to sabotage ourselves. Long miserable workouts don’t fix them either. Focusing on these external “solutions” can result in short-term success, because truthfully all that is required to lose weight is a calorie deficit, and how you go about creating that deficit doesn’t matter at all. Keto, intermittent fasting, WW, calorie-counting, etc… they ALL work. For as long as you stick to them. The real problem is that we don’t. We get ourselves all psyched up and determined to make it work this time for real, but willpower is a limited resource and once it’s exhausted we go right back to the same old familiar lifestyle and eating habits that made us overweight in the first place. Why? Because those habits are how we manage our triggers. We associate those habits with love, comfort, connection with others, stress-relief, and reward. Those are feelings that we very much want to keep in our lives. If you try to give them up without replacing them with something else that fills the same needs, you’re not going to be able to keep it up very long. When you remove your best coping skill, your stress level skyrockets. You focus on how much you miss the way things used to be, how unfair it is that you can’t have all the things you used to love, and you fantasize about the day when “all this” will be over and you can go back to living the way you want to.
When this is the narrative you’re carrying around with you, it’s no wonder that you “fall off the wagon”. No one chooses to keep doing something they think of as miserable, unfair, or some kind of punishment. And this is the reason that 97% of people fail to stay on their weight-loss plans. If you try to change the things that you do, without changing the way that you’re thinking about it, you’ll just exhaust yourself because living this way is a constant struggle. Sustainable change requires that you tell yourself a better story. One that doesn’t leave you dreading and seeking to avoid the changes you’ve made. In part 2 of this article, I’ll take you through the most common mistakes people make when trying to level-up their lives.
See you next time!
Written by Natalie Fayman, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP, COR.E Dynamics Wellbeing Specialist
Are you ready to break through your own barriers? Book a free 30-minute strategy session with me, so we can start designing your success-path!