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Weight Loss Groundhog Day

Weight Loss Groundhog Day

A Recent Conversation

Here’s part of a conversation that I had recently with a woman (SR) who had just fallen off the weight-loss merry-go-round for the millionth time – or thereabouts. She had started a new exercise program and eating regime on New Year’s day this year. As she does every year. (I’m CH below).

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    CH: “So how’s your eating going?” (I didn’t know the answer at this stage)
    SR: (drops head and avoids eye contact with me)
    CH: “Er, hello?” (trying to make eye contact)
    SR: “Don’t ask?”
    CH: “Why not?”
    SR: “I f***ed up – again.”
    CH: “What happened?”
    SR: “I was going great, I hadn’t eaten anything bad since before New Year and then last Saturday night I blew it all.”
    CH: “You blew five weeks of great work (diet, exercise) in one night? That’s quite the achievement. How did you do it?”
    SR: “My husband and I had a fight, he went to bed and I ate a whole block of chocolate.”
    CH: “And?”
    SR: “What do you mean… and?”
    CH: “Well, after you ate the chocolate, then what did you do?”
    SR: “I felt physically sick and mentally disgusted with myself, so I went to bed.”
    CH: “And when you got up on Sunday, what did you do then? Did you do your exercise and eat a healthy breakfast?”
    SR: “No.”
    CH: “Why not?”
    SR: “I was depressed and angry at myself.”
    CH: “So what did you do?”
    SR: “I ate shit all day because I was mad.”
    CH: “Did you exercise?”
    SR: “No, I was too grumpy.”
    CH: “That’ll help. So the girl who desperately wants to lose weight, eats junk food all day and does zero exercise because she’s mad at herself for eating junk food the night before? Your mind is a strange place.”
    SR: “Well, what’s the point when I had already blown all that good work?”

    An All-Too-Familiar Dialogue

    Now, I know this sounds like an unlikely conversation but it’s actually not; it’s absolutely true and much more common than (some of) you might imagine. But then again, it may seem very familiar to others. I have had this conversation many, many times, with many people. And yes, mostly women. Don’t shoot the messenger ladies, just relaying the facts.

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    What Logic?

    The irony of someone choosing to eat junk food on a Sunday because they are depressed about eating junk food on Saturday night is kind of amazing, but not altogether rare. When it comes to maintaining our fitness regime, our diet and our commitment to changing our body, it seems that many of us are fragile at best. Some of us have a default switch that’s permanently set to junk food, laziness, self-pity and excuses. It’s what we fall back on because we haven’t actually made those healthy behaviours non-negotiable habits in our life.

    If you identify with the above story in any way, here’s a few things to consider and a lesson or two that you might find helpful.

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    1. The woman I was speaking with had lost 7 kgs (15.4 lbs) since New Years day 2009. Now… in order to regain that weight eating chocolate only, she would need to consume 53,900 calories of milk chocolate (her preference) and that would have to be without expending any energy – which is obviously impossible. How many calories did she actually consume on her Saturday night choc binge? 625. That is, 1 x 125 gram block of milk chocolate. How many of those 125 gram blocks would she need to eat to regain all of her weight? Eighty six – and that would be on top of her normal daily (healthy) eating – because her normal healthy diet would take care of her energy requirements for the day and the excess cals from the choc would provide the additional energy for the weight gain. Do I need to say any more? So was her “I blew it” response something of a ridiculous and inappropriate over-reaction? And then some.

    2. It ain’t about about the chocolate anyway; it’s about the reaction to the chocolate. “Oh well, I blew it, I may as well eat everything that isn’t nailed down!” People respond like this all the time. I’ve watched it for years. People over-react, they create problems, they turn a minor hiccup into a major melodrama and they look for an excuse to throw in the towel. Then they wake up six months later, bigger, fatter and more miserable than ever. And so the very predictable and familiar cycle starts all over again. And again. Their life is like a weight-loss version of Groundhog Day. Some people have been losing and gaining the same weight for years.

    3. Of course one block of chocolate can’t make anyone fat but constantly surrendering to destructive behaviours can. For this lady, her problem is largely emotional and psychological, while the consequences are largely physical. Whenever she has a set-back – a normal part of the human experience – she has no coping skills, so she goes back to what she knows; food. A little instant pleasure and comfort… but ultimately an abundance of long-term pain; a life in a fat body that she despises. Her propensity to lose and gain weight is merely a by-product of what’s going on in her head. Does this sound familiar? Very familiar perhaps? The good news is that anyone can lose weight and keep it off. Forever. Is it easy? Not often. Is it possible? Very. Just because you haven’t done something to this point in your life doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you haven’t. Yet. As I’ve said too many times, take your mind there and your body will follow.

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    4. Setbacks are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of humanity. Things only have the meaning we give them and if we decide that eating a block of chocolate is the beginning of the end, it will be. Or we could simply choose different to create different. Next time you mess up – and you will – don’t over-think, don’t self-destruct, don’t beat yourself up and don’t seek sympathy. Instead, refocus, acknowledge what you’ve done, do different and get back to work. Princess. Sure I could fluff this message up a little, make it more feel-good, perhaps explore the psychology of it all and possibly talk about your triggers for reactive eating… but that’s really not me is it?

    Okay, do what you need to do.

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    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

    Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

    He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    His motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • He riles up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    Becoming the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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