Your love of baking is not the problem

Our newest Weighless members have just begun their year-long program. They’re getting to know each other and sharing their stories in the member forum. And several of them have mentioned the same obstacle to weight loss:

“My problem has always been that I just love to bake,”  one said, prompting a rousing chorus of “Me too!”

Man, can I relate.  I was also an avid baker in my 20s. I baked bread, pies, biscotti, scones, biscuits, you name it.  Around the holidays, I turned into a one-woman cookie factory. I took great pride in my creations and got a lot of positive strokes from my friends and family.  Who doesn’t love the friend, sister, or co-worker that’s constantly showing up with fresh-baked bread and cookies? (At least, that’s what I told myself.)

I loved the science and chemistry, the feel of springy dough under my hands, the yeasty scent, the beautiful end product.   All the things that we bakers say we love about baking.

The problem was that I also loved to eat bread, pies, cakes, and cookies.  I baked a lot. I ate a lot of baked goods. With predictable results.

And I finally realized that if I wanted to weigh less, I might need to bake less.

The less I baked, the fewer baked goods I ate. With predictable results.

I still bake for special occasions. Dad gets a rhubarb pie every Father’s Day. I make Challah bread for Easter brunch. (Yes, I get the irony.)   And if I decide to make cookies for the holidays, I’ll choose just one or two of the family favorites instead of all ten.

And you know what?  My family didn’t stop loving me. My friends didn’t stop inviting me over. Holidays are still special. And I have found new ways to be creative in the kitchen.

Time that I used to spend feeding my sourdough, I now spend rinsing my sprouts. Instead of making cookies, I make seed crackers.  Instead of kneading dough, I’m pickling carrots. Instead of trying out new pastry recipes, I try out new soup recipes.

It’s OK to love baking, or cooking, or even eating. But when our pursuit of that activity becomes an obstacle to our well-being, it’s no longer a hobby or an enthusiasm.  It’s a way to abandon ourselves.  A way to excuse or justify poor choices.

Now, you may be one of those rare creatures that can bake up a storm and never over-indulge.  But if you’re more like me, you might want to experiment with the notion that that you can love baking just as much but do it much less often.  You might like the results.

Are You Willing to Know Your ABCs?

Many of us have been using the events of 2020 to justify many of our undesired and unhelpful behaviours. Undoubtedly, it has been an emotional and uncomfortable few months but I have news for you – that’s not the reason you are off track.

It’s not a virus’s fault that you have been baking with flour, sugar and butter incessantly for 3 months now. It’s not the desperate need for racial equality that is driving you to drink more alcohol than you usually do. It’s not even the fear of paying for gyms and studios when money is tight (even if they weren’t closed) that is causing you to skip your workouts. It isn’t any of that stuff. That is just the window dressing. Those are scapegoats.

The real issue is that we have never been taught the correct way to address uncomfortable feelings.

We are suddenly bored of being cooped up at home. We are either ashamed of our heritage or enraged by it. We have had our jobs and finances upset and find it scary and difficult to establish new avenues. And all of this makes us fall back on the habits that we have practiced during previous times of discomfort.

You may have heard this referred to as the “think-feel-act cycle.” Or, in Cognitive Behavioural Terms, it is the ABCs.

The ABC model was created by Dr. Albert Ellis, a psychologist and researcher and its name refers to the components of the model:

A. Adversity or activating event.
B. Your beliefs about the event. This involves both obvious and underlying thoughts about situations, ourselves, and others.
C. Consequences. This includes your behavioural or emotional response.

When C (the consequences) turns into a destructive or even an undesirable behaviour (like overindulging or skipping your workout) instead of rushing to the baking cabinet, I suggest that it is time to look at B (our beliefs) instead. I mean, let’s face it, we really have no control over A and waiting it out is taking a lot longer than we had initially hoped.

In this ABC model, B is considered to be the most important component because if we can identify the belief that isn’t serving us, we can question it and ultimately change it. And once we change that belief, we change the consequence.

Here’s an example:

  • your spouse brings a bag of donuts into the house (that is A).
  • You see the donuts and think “Oh no, I am trying to lose weight but when I am this stressed out I am not able to resist the deliciousness of donuts.” (that is B).
  • You hold off for a while but eventually snap and eat not just one but a few of the donuts (that is C). Then you are mad at yourself, your spouse and the scapegoat of “2020” gets the blame.

So, you can see how changing B is a lot easier than changing A (you can’t control someone else’s behaviour – not for long anyway) and C is a direct response to B. So what are we left with?

Doing some deep questioning into the validity of B.

Are you really powerless around donuts? Are donuts really that delicious? Even if they are, do you have to eat them, just because they are there? Is the momentary reward of eating a donut more satisfying than making another step toward your goal of weighing less? Is blaming your spouse for bringing them into the house going to solve this issue? Is getting upset with yourself for not having more willpower going to prepare you for when this happens again?

By asking yourself these (and other) challenging questions, you can eventually rewrite the narrative of this ABC, and every other ABC, into a story that helps you achieve your goals rather than derailing you.

This is the type of game-changing work we do in the Weighless program that no other weight loss program does. Doing thIs deep work of cutting the issue off at its source, makes calorie counting and food tracking irrelevant.

It starts with being aware there is work to do – and ends with doing the work. And that work is forever. Not just until you have hit your goal weight.

So, are you willing to dissect and examine your ABCs?

Weighless or Precision Nutrition?

We’re often asked about how the Weighless program compares to Precision Nutrition’s program. Both are 12-month programs that promise to create sustainable behavior change. Both incorporate nutrition and fitness. Both cost about the same.

Let me start by saying, I have a ton of respect for what John Berardi has created there. From what I’ve seen, the concepts and philosophy of Precision Nutrition are 100% aligned with our approach–although the name might suggest otherwise.

The name “Precision Nutrition” implies that they focus on getting exactly the “right” number of grams or percentages of various nutrients. In reality, their approach focuses more on making small sustainable shifts in habits and setting up the systems that support your goals: very much like what we do in the Weighless Program as well.

(This is the opposite of what we’ve seen of the Noom program, by the way, which promises psychology and behavior change but delivers the same old, doomed, calorie-obsessed diet.)

How Weighless is different

So, for those who have already tried Precision Nutrition, or are trying to do decide between the two, here are the three things that set the Weighless program apart:

Your Curriculum. In the Weighless program, we don’t just have a method. We also have a process for teaching that method. Our 52-week curriculum guides you step-by-step through an incremental, cumulative process of behavior change. You’re not only learning how to weigh less without dieting, you’re learning a method that can be used to create any change you’d like to see in your life.

Your Coaches. Brock and I didn’t just create the Weighless curriculum. We’re there personally, throughout the program, to help you understand, implement, modify, and problem-solve, and to offer insight, feedback, and support. We do not outsource this support to free-lancers. And unlike Precision Nutrition, we do not run a training or certification program for other coaches. Your success is our primary bottom line.

Your Community. In Weighless, you’ll go through the entire program with a small group of people (we’re talking dozens, not thousands)–all of whom you will know by name, and all of whom will be working through the same material at the same time. The private member’s forum (not on Facebook) becomes an information hub, a co-working space, and a place to connect with us and your fellow members. It’s available to you 24/7 and with members located around the world, the lights are always on. This tight-knit community becomes an invaluable source of support, ideas, and camaraderie.

Other questions? Need more help deciding whether or not Weighless is a good fit? Feel free to email us.

But I’ve tried so many times before

We asked people to share the biggest thing keeping them from tackling their weight issues. And one answer that keeps cropping up is breaking my heart.

“I have tried (and failed) too many diets in the past.”

“With a history of yo- yo dieting, I already feel discouraged.”

“Knowing myself, I won’t succeed.”

Ouch. I get it. You’ve tried again and again to lose weight without success. Or you’ve lost weight and always gain it back. The thought of trying and failing again is just too painful.

But the alternative seems just as painful: simply giving up and accepting that you’ll always be unhappy with your body and your relationship with food.

But there is one more option. And it’s not simply to try again and hope that this time, somehow, it will be different. It’s to try something you haven’t tried before.

Instead of going on yet another diet to lose weight, you could start creating a life in which you weigh less.

You can accept that this process will involve a certain amount of failure. But if properly utilized, those failures can actually become stepping stones to success.

And just like mountain climbers clip into each others’ lines for safety, you can hook into a community and a system that will keep you from falling off the mountain when you slip, and hold you in place until you regain your footing.

This is what we do in the Weighless program.

Here’s the thing: Every single one of the people who has succeeded with us had a long history of failed attempts.

I’m so glad they didn’t give up. I’m so glad they decided to try one more time…but to try something completely different.

Bait & Switch – My Noom Adventure

Photo of a woman eyeing a single leaf

When Monica and I saw that there was another program out there which promised to be a “weight-loss program designed by psychologists & scientifically proven to create real, sustainable results” we were pumped!

Sometimes when you are the lone voice in a space, you start to question your sanity. But Noom’s ads talked about all the stuff that is near and dear to our hearts here at Weighless. Phrases like “create new habits and healthy behaviours that stick” and “practice and master healthy lifestyle habits” were music to our ears. It was both validation that we were on to something, and reassurance that the world was truly fed up with diets and ready for something better.

Then one of our new members told us that she had actually quit Noom to come over to the Weighless program because they had put her on a 1200 calorie per day diet and she was tired of feeling hungry all the time.

Well, that doesn’t jive with their messaging, does it?

So, I decided to sign up for their service and see what was going on.

Now this wasn’t some undercover, stealthy, nefarious, creepy infiltration. I was completely honest with them, including my goals and my name. I told them I only wanted to lose 2kg and was simply focussed on being healthy and strong as I approached my 50th birthday.

They had access to my demographic info (height, current weight, BMI, age, gender and so on) so what happened was a complete surprise to me.

They immediately adjusted my goal weight to 72kg (instead of my actual goal of 75) and put me on a 1400 calorie per day diet. What?!

I am a 6 foot tall, quite muscular, very active, 48-year-old man. 1400 calories per day is about 1000 calories less than I have been eating for the last 25 years. And even when I was a 21-year-old professional ballet dancer, I never weighed in at 72kg (158 lbs).

But the good news was, the Noom app told me, that if I exercised more, my calories allowance for the day went up.

Well… that also doesn’t jive with their messaging, does it?

Here’s the thing. After working in this space for as long as Monica and I have, we have learned to recognize these behaviours as two of the cornerstones of disordered eating.

  • Starve yourself using an extremely low-calorie diet.
  • Reward yourself with more food by exercising (usually excessively).

And to top it off, I was meant to record all of my meals in their app, tracking every bite. Just like every diet and calorie counter I had ever encountered. A practice that has been shown in studies to decrease quickly over time.

Sure there were daily lessons that were surprisingly aligned with what we teach in the Weighless program – but by that point, the damage had been done.

Any possibility of “developing healthier habits that last” is lost when any of the weight loss I would experience (and I would definitely experience weight loss had I stuck to that absurdly low-calorie intake) is obviously coming from a diet that is exactly like all diets before it.

This is a true case of bait and switch.

They promise a lifestyle overhaul but that promise is purely window dressing on yet another diet that is doomed to fail in the long term.

Motivation and the Hierarchy of Needs

I have been thinking about how our current covid-heavy situation might be affecting our motivation and willpower lately and my research led me to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Now, this may sound dry but stick with me for a minute.

This is how the hierarchy goes, in order from most important to least important (remember, this is in “the survival of the species” terms).

  1. Biological and physiological needs – food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, air.
  2. Safety needs – protection, security, order, law, stability.
  3. Love and Belongingness – family, affection, relationships
  4. Esteem (cognitive, aesthetics) – achievement, status, responsibility, reputation
  5. Self-actualization – personal growth and fulfillment
  6. Transcendence – Helping others (this was a later addition to the hierarchy)

If we are striving to maintain motivation for some of the higher needs on Maslow’s scale, like “Self-actualization” (personal growth and fulfillment), but – for perhaps the first time in our lives – we are faced with the possibility of our “physiological” or “safety” needs not being met, well isn’t it totally understandable that our motivation for self-improvement takes a backseat? Or gets the boot altogether?

Here’s an example: you want to learn how to do a pull-up properly so you resolve to exercise for at least 30 minutes each evening after dinner. Great! But instead, you find yourself reading social media posts about how the food supply in your nation is deeply flawed or obsessing about how your retirement savings have taken a hit during the current financial downturn.

By nature of our own instinct for survival, the motivation to get strong enough to do a pull-up is replaced by worry about safety and security.

This is the problem with relying too heavily on motivation. And I mean any time In hIstory, not just during a global pandemic.

In the Weighless approach, (unlike in most diets or exercise programs) we take the focus off of motivation and willpower and instead build systems that can withstand stress and uncertainty. We focus on paying attention to the thoughts and the feelings that drive our choices and actions. Are they true? Are they meaningful? What other choices do we have that are rooted in reality (not just in fear)?

By doing this we can circumvent motivation and achieve our goals, even during stressful times.

Motivation can certainly help you survive but it is unlikely to help you thrive.

There’s a choice to be made

I know it seems like a lifetime ago, but think back to before we were all plunged into this global pandemic. What was on your personal To Do list? What goals were you working toward? What projects were most important to you?

Are those things still important to you? Why or why not?

Does it still feel possible to make progress toward your objectives? Why or why not?

It may be tempting to use this disruption and uncertainty as a reason to give up on goals you have been working towards.  Or as an excuse to (over)indulge in things that move you even further from your goal. 

Alternatively, you can choose to find the ways in which this disruption offers an opportunity.

  • Cooking more at home means eating more nutritious meals.
  • Less commuting means more time to exercise.
  • Fewer trips to the grocery store means less impulse buying.
  • Not eating out equals less temptation to overindulge.
  • The loss of old routines is a golden opportunity to establish new patterns.
  • A change in employment status is a chance to pursue a new path.

You can decide which of your previous habits you want to return to when conditions allow and which of them you’ll shed for good. After all, not all of what we used to consider “normal” was good for us. 

How do I know that it is possible to grow and thrive in the midst of chaos and uncertainty?

I’m watching you do it.

In March, just as Covid was shutting down the world as we know it,  a new cohort was just beginning in the year-long Weighless program.  We’ve got teachers, parents, essential workers, business owners, furloughed workers, and first responders. And these people are KILLING it!  They aren’t making excuses. They are figuring it out.  (And if you can learn to weigh less during a global pandemic, there’s really nothing that can stop you.) 

In a few weeks, we’re planning to open enrollment for our next group. We don’t know how the current situation will affect enrollment.  We may have a smaller group than usual. And that’s totally fine.  In fact, it may be a bonus. Because these will be people who understand that conditions are never ideal and that health and well-being is not a luxury. And that right there is a powerful predictor of their success. 

In the meantime, I want to encourage all of us to use the challenges we are facing as an opportunity and not an excuse. 

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash