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Challenge or Threat?

Many people find that they can keep their diet and exercise regimen on track perfectly well as long as their life is going smoothly. But as soon as they hit a rocky patch, their meal prep, portion size, evening snacking and exercise time goes haywire.

In other words, when life inevitably gets stressful, their best intentions fall apart.

Enter the…

Transactional Theory of Stress

This model, outlined in Handbook of Behavioral Medicine, suggests that while we unconsciously assess the stressors and demands of an event, they’re not actually the problem.

The real problem is how we appraise each of them and then decide whether we have the resources (grit, determination, motivation or willpower) to meet the problems posed. But these “resources” also include our perceived ability, our previous experience, and our relevant skill level.

So when these stressful times arise, based on your ability to face these problems, you’ll fall into either a Challenge state or a Threat state.

  • The Challenge state is where you’ve processed the situation and concluded that yes, you can cope. You’re fully engaged with the task at hand and can employ positive coping strategies to deliver optimum performance.
  • The Threat state is where you perceive that you lack the resources to cope with the situation ahead. This often leads you to turn to old behaviours/patterns and abandon anything that doesn’t feel comforting or familiar.

The next time you are faced with a stressful situation, wouldn’t it be nice to have the “resources” on hand to be able to switch into a challenge state rather than a threat state?

That is a big part of what our Weighless graduates experience. Over the year-long program, we give you the tools and mindset to be able to reassure yourself that the problem at hand is a challenge which you can handle… without busting into a pint of Ben and Jerrys.

When your inner toddler throws a tantrum

Last night, Brock and I were coaching some folks who are working on impulse control. And more than one of them described times when an urge to eat something felt almost like an addiction. The more they tried to resist, the more overwhelming it felt. Sometimes, giving in–even though they knew they’d have regrets–felt like the only option.

But framing a desire as an addiction can make us feel really powerless. It also shifts all the focus onto the object of our desire, rather than our own thoughts and feelings–which is where the action really is.

Brock suggested that it might be more helpful to think of that part of ourselves as our inner toddler rather than our inner addict.

Deciding to resist an urge or craving can easily trigger a temper tantrum from your inner toddler. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an actual toddler’s temper tantrum, you know how easy it is to get caught up in that emotional storm–and when you do, you have lost control of the situation.

But if we can step back and access our mature adult brains, we realize two things:

  1. We can see that the drama is totally out of proportion to the reality. For the toddler, getting the thing they want literally feels like a matter of life and death. As adults, we can see that it is merely a passing squall. We may even be able to see the humor in the situation, which allows us to respond more gently.
  2. We may also be able to see that the toddler needs something–just not the thing they are demanding. Perhaps they need a nap, or a cuddle, or less stimulation, or something more interesting to do. This can turn irritation into compassion and allow us to care for our toddler more effectively.

The next time you find yourself in the grips of a desire or craving, see if you can visualize that inner toddler who truly believes that they cannot live without this thing. Recognize the adorable absurdity of it all.

And then, instead of trying to reason with your screaming toddler, disciplining them, or simply giving in to an unreasonable demand (thereby perpetuating the behavior), see if you can figure out what that little person really needs.

Why we build intentional plateaus into our approach

Although most people see weight loss plateaus as a problem, we actually encourage members of our year-long program to pause their weight loss efforts at regular intervals. For one thing, we’ve found that practicing maintenance is an essential part of learning how to weigh less. So we build it into the program.

But our approach is also designed to minimize the metabolic adaptation that typically accompanies weight loss. (This is that insidious phenomenon where the body compensates for weight loss by slowing down your metabolism. Not helpful.)

We believe that these intentional plateaus help the metabolism stabilize and recover. And there’s science to back that up. A 2018 study out of Australia found that alternating periods of active weight loss and stabilization periods improved weight loss efficiency and led to greater fat and weight loss.

In other words, sometimes slowing down is actually the fastest way to reach your goal.

How to celebrate your progress

Custom Made Stained Glass - Suncatchers

It’s easy to get discouraged when your goal feels too far away. And that’s why it’s so important to celebrate your incremental progress.

In our year-long Weighless program, we throw a little virtual confetti every time our members hit milestones such as losing 5, 10, or 15% of their starting weight.  And one of our members recently came up with a fantastic idea for taking this a step further. 

When she reached her 5% milestone, she bought a beautiful sun-catcher and hung it in the large window of her master bath. When she reached 7.5%, she bought another smaller one and added it to the window.  She’s already got her eye on a larger one for when she reaches 10%.  And the other night, in our group meeting, she told us: 

“My plan, when I reach my goal, is to have one custom-made, maybe with a bright red cardinal, for the very center. It’s going to be a while, but I figure I’m not going anywhere, so I’ll just enjoy the periodic additions to my collection.”

How brilliant is this?

Every morning, when she steps into her bathroom to get ready for her day, she is greeted by this heart-lifting display, signifying what she’s accomplished and reminding her of her goals for the future. An ongoing, tangible celebration of her decision to be someone who weighs less. 

I want you to steal this idea!

Step 1: Think of something that would bring you genuine pleasure–ideally something that you could enjoy in an ongoing way.
Step 2: Set an incremental goal.
Step 3: Post a comment below and tell us what your goal is and how you plan to celebrate.
Step 4: When you reach that milestone, reward yourself!  (And send us a picture!)

Are you coping too well?

A lot of us use food as a coping mechanism. 

We’re eating to cope with stress, fatigue, boredom, anxiety, anger, grief…did I mention stress?

This might be OK — after all, coping is good, right? Except that all that “coping” is leading to unwanted  consequences. We gain weight or we can’t lose weight…and that is creating stress, fatigue, anxiety, anger, grief. 

Maybe we actually need to do less coping. 

If you stopped using food to “cope,” maybe you’d be compelled to make changes that made your life less stressful, boring, or exhausting. 

And maybe that’s the difference between coping and self-care.

So, here’s a question to consider: Is self-medicating with food allowing you to tolerate things that maybe you shouldn’t be tolerating?

What about your life might you be moved to change if you stopped “coping”?

What to focus on first

Now that our newest members are well underway on their year-long journey to weighing less, Brock and I have been thinking hard about how we can help EVERYONE in our community create a healthier body and life.

And I’m excited to tell you about a new tool that we’ve created: something we think you’ll find super useful

It’s designed to give you clarity and laser-focus on your next action steps. The steps that will move most quickly toward your goal. Because overwhelm generally leads to inaction.

Check it out here.

What’s your weakest link?

Like any complex task, maintaining a healthy body weight requires an assortment of skills. But here’s the thing: You’re probably a lot better at some than others.

We’ve put together a quiz (actually, a scientifically-validated assessment) that evaluates your current abilities in 6 different skill sets associated with maintaining a healthy body weight.

You can use this information to zero in on strategies that will strengthen your weakest links. (We’ve also provided some of those strategies.)

Take the quiz and get your personalized action plan here.

For added accountability and support, click the link at the end of your results to let us know what you’ll be working on!

What our members lost this year

In a few weeks, we’ll be saying farewell to another group of Weighless graduates. These are the folks, remember, who began their year-long Weighless journey just as the world entered a global pandemic shutdown. 

Some of them were front-line workers: health care professionals, teachers, essential service providers..  Some lost their jobs. Some had their adult children move back home. Some got — and recovered from — Covid. 

Suffice it to say, the year was not without its challenges.  And yet they persisted. Many, in fact, expressed how grateful they were to have a structure and support that helped them rise to those challenges without sacrificing their goals or self-care.

And speaking of goals, 64% of those who finished the program lost more than 5% of their starting body weight. (25% lost more than 10% of their starting body weight!)

And that wasn’t all that was lost. They also lost bad habits, negative self-talk, and a host of other unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to become someone who weighs less, I hope you’ll take their triumph as inspiration. None of them were any stronger, or smarter, or less stressed or busy than you. They just showed up and did the work. And look what they have to show for it!  (What might you have to show for it a year from now if you made the same leap?)

What you can do right now

I’ll let you in on a secret: The trick to talking me into a big project (like writing a book or hosting a conference or chairing a committee) is to ask me a year ahead of time.  Because although I always feel waaayyy too busy in the present, I somehow always believe that I’ll be less busy in the future.  

Do you share this delusional thinking?

I think that’s why so many people put off taking action on their health or weight. We tell ourselves that once this work project/tax season/kitchen renovation/pandemic is out of the way, we’ll have the bandwidth to focus on building a healthier lifestyle. 

But of course, our lives never really get less busy. A new project or challenge will come along as soon as this one is in the books. Meanwhile, the costs of not taking care of ourselves accumulate and compound.

And the truth is that we don’t really need to spend more time on the problem in order to solve it. We just need to spend the time we’re ALREADY SPENDING on it more productively.

Instead of complaining about all the things standing in our way, we can move just one of them out of the way.

Instead of endlessly researching our next step, we can take imperfect action right now.  

Instead of talking about how discouraged we are about our lack of progress, we can identify one small action that will move us in the right direction. (You’d be amazed at how quickly THOSE things start to accumulate and compound.)

Think of a goal or objective that you’ve been putting off, waiting for a “better time.”  There really is no better time than today. What small step can you take before this day is over?