As leaders of the Weighless community, Brock and I are not just here to give pep talks or give you something interesting to think about. We are offering tools that can help you create the results you want. But they have to be picked up and used.
So often we see people whose entire effort is comprised of completely passive activities: reading, researching, thinking, planning. All of those things have their place. But you’ve got to actually take some action if you want to see change happen.
If you’re thinking but not doing…
If you’re learning, but not taking action…
If you’re “inspired” but not actually moving…
…then you are sitting on the sidelines of your own life.
The only way to reach your goal is to get on the field. Yes, you might drop the ball or lose yards. But you can’t win (or lose!) by sitting on the sidelines.
Is tracking your food and calories (or WW points) essential to losing or maintaining your weight? Or is it a toxic dieter’s mindset?
Food and activity trackers can be useful tools when they are used to gather information. You can learn a lot about how different foods and portion sizes compare in terms of how many calories they provide and how much they fill you up. You can learn how your body feels after a 400 calorie breakfast instead of a 200 calorie breakfast, or how it feels to eat 100 calories worth of roasted potatoes vs 100 calories worth of potato chips.
You can identify which foods (or hours of the day) are contributing excess calories that keep you from weighing less. You can experience how much you need to move around in order to hit 10,000 steps a day, or get a reality check on how often you’re getting 30 minutes of exercise.
All of this can be useful and empowering information.
But if you’ve been weighing, measuring, logging, and tracking every bite and step for more than a few weeks, you’re probably not gathering much new information. Instead of being your tutor, your tracker can easily become the judge, jury, and executioner.
Instead of considering your hunger level, you ask your tracker how many more calories you’re allowed to eat. Hit your limit? Then no more food for you. (Or, worse: off to the gym to burn some calories so you can eat more.)
Instead of choosing foods that you enjoy and that make you feel good, you use your tracker to choose the one that’s lowest in calories.
Instead of developing your self-awareness and self-control, you’re outsourcing both of these to a device.
That’s the opposite of empowering.
We hear from so many people who are SO sick of tracking but terrified to stop. They’re afraid that, without their tracker to them when to stop eating, they’ll never stop.
But listen: If you have the discipline to stop eating when your tracker tells you to, you also have the ability to stop eating when your stomach (or brain) lets you know that you’ve had enough. You can reclaim the authority that you’ve given to your tracker. And there’s nothing more freeing than realizing that you can trust yourself to know (and do) what’s in your best interests.
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.
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?
Have you ever wondered what it is that keeps us stuck at a particular weight, or a particular level of fitness, or a particular amount of money in the bank (etc)? Well, I have. And I have to say that the answer is more surprising and simpler than I had imagined.
It is our habits.
This is how it goes: our behaviours/actions are based on our thoughts, and our thoughts are based on our inputs. Our inputs revolve mainly around our habits, and those habits are perfectly curated to support our current results (body weight, fitness, job, relationships, and so on).
Let me restate that: our current habits are the perfect blueprint to achieve our current life.
So, what do we need to focus on to create a change in our current lot in life? Developing new habits.
Current Self vs Future Self
Most of the habits we engage in on a daily basis are designed to satisfy our current self with little or no regard for our future self (let alone our ideal self). For example:
Current self passes the fridge and opens it up to see if there is something delicious in there to much on. Future self wishes that current self would show some self-control.
Current self sees that there is some extra money in the chequing account and decides to order-in dinner three nights this week. Future self sure wishes the retirement savings account was a little more robust (and our waist line was a little less robust).
Current self hits snooze one more time and rushes into work without doing the morning movement routine. Future self is stiff and lethargic.
You get the idea. Current self’s habits are holding future self in stasis which means ideal self is left to hang.
Building the Ideal Self
So, what if we designed our habits to support future self instead of only satisfying current self? Could we break out of a rut? Could we reach our larger life goals? Could we become the ideal self that current self only dreams of and future self laments?
Yes! Yes we can.
Remember that our current habits, behaviours and actions are exactly the ones that we need to repeat in order to continue to be the person we currently are.
So, in the Weighless worldview, we focus on what we need to do instead to move toward the person we desire to become. How we change those small behaviours, repeat a different set of habits, and (as we say in the program) “become the type of person who _insert_desired_outcome_here_” instead of remaining stuck in our current self.
So, what habits and behaviours does your ideal self engage in? What is holding you back from becoming the type of person who chooses those instead?
When I was younger, I worked for a division of the Government in IT. In that crowd, there is a running joke that almost any computer issue can be resolved by “turning it off and back on again.” And all joking aside, it really does work… a surprising amount of the time. Seriously, give it a try next time your computer, phone, tablet or even TV is giving you grief.
The American author and poet, Anne Lamott, also wrote that “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Which is a key point in her TED talk called “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing” which I encourage you to check out.
This restarting strategy is very similar to something we teach in the Weighless program as a way to outwit random food cravings. And no, it doesn’t involve you having to go and take a nap everytime you get a craving for [insert default food here]. It simply involves taking a break from the situation that caused the craving in the first place.
Many conventional diets will simply tell you that you are not allowed to have that food (or will try to sell you on a substitute version) but in Weighless we prefer to be both a little more forgiving and more realistic in our advice.
We know the strength of willpower but we also know its weaknesses – so whenever possible we prefer to take it out of the equation.
So, instead of using a ton of willpower (if you have any left at this point in the day) to resist that urge, we suggest instead to make a deal with yourself to simply take a break for 10-ish minutes and remove yourself from the location or situation that kicked off the craving. Restart your inner CPU, as it were.
Then, the second part of the deal with yourself is that if you still have that same craving after 10-ish minutes of letting your brain reboot, follow through and go ahead and enjoy a sensible amount of that treat. But, and this is important, you REALLY take the time to enjoy that treat!
Don’t eat it distracted.
Sit down, focus on the treat, and enjoy the heck out of each bite until you are satisfied.
You know what? Honestly, more often than not after the restart, our members generally forget about the craving and move on with their day. And even if they don’t, the anticipation, the ritual and the mindfulness of eating that treat with no distractions makes it more enjoyable and often they find that just a few bites is all they required.
Try this strategy next time you find yourself with a random craving and let us know how it works for you. I bet, like my crappy old MacBook, a restart will make all the difference.
We’re hearing a lot these days about the value of planning: A daily schedule to impose some structure to our suddenly formless days. A task list to keep us focused and productive while working or studying from home. A meal plan to keep us from mindlessly grazing all day.
So we dutifully make a plan for the day…and then abandon the plan by 10am. It’s tempting to conclude that planning doesn’t work.
But here’s the thing everyone forgets to tell you about planning. The trick is not in making the plan. The trick is in sticking to the plan you’ve made.
Because I can almost guarantee you that however solid and reasonable your plan, when it comes time to execute it, your brain is going to rebel. It will argue that it doesn’t really matter whether you write that email now or later, or whether you eat this or that. After all (your brain will say to you), you made the plan. You can change the plan. No big deal, right?
And the more often you throw the plan out the window, the easier that “no big deal” moment becomes. Each time you alter your plan, you empower the part of your brain that always wants to give up.
At the end of the day, however, you’re very likely going to be disappointed with the results. A lot of the work you planned to do is still undone. The exercise session you planned somehow didn’t happen. Instead of the nice salad you planned to have for lunch, you ate an entire tube of saltines, 4 slices of american cheese, the cookie you planned to enjoy after dinner plus three more. You’ll wonder how the day got so out of control.
The problem here is that your brain has (at least) two parts: A higher brain that’s looking out for your future well-being and a lower brain that favors immediate gratification.
Which part of your brain do you want calling the shots?
In the Weighless Program, we often refer to that lower brain as our Inner Toddler. And just like a child testing limits, our lower brain is constantly testing to see whether it can get the higher brain to cave in on all those pesky, no-fun plans. But just as a child actually feels much safer and happier when they realize that there are limits that prevent them from doing whatever they want, you will feel so much calmer and more in control when you know that you can count on yourself to stick to the plan. And every time you do, you strengthen that part of your identity.
The art of planning
Whether you are planning your work schedule, your meals, your exercise, or any other habit, you may need to experiment to discover what level of detail is flexible enough to be realistic without being so flexible that it fails to keep you on track. But whatever level of detail you arrive at, it’s helpful to write it down. Because then when your lower brain starts negotiating or you conveniently “forget” what the plan was, you can refer to that document and remind yourself, “Nope, this is the plan. End of discussion.”
At the first moment of rebellion, when your lower brain starts to argue that it doesn’t really matter whether you eat a salad or saltines for lunch, you calmly tell your lower brain, “No, we’re going to stick to the plan–simply because that’s what we planned. If we decide we don’t like this plan, we can make a different plan for tomorrow. But today, we’re following the plan. “
And then you follow through. You trust that what your higher brain planned for you was in your best interests. When you’re tempted to have an unplanned snack or treat, remind yourself that your plan includes a snack and a treat. Just not this one and not right now.
So, you also want to be kind to yourself when you’re making your plans. You want to be looking out for your best interests, whether that’s finishing the work that needs to get done, or eating nutritious foods, or getting some exercise. But in addition to all of these ways of taking care of yourself, remember that your plan should also include ways of resting and relaxing, things to enjoy and look forward to.
It’s OK to plan a food treat but remember there are lots of other ways that we can give ourselves small pleasures through the day, whether it’s a call with a friend, a nap, a half hour with a book or magazine, or an episode of a favorite show. When we include treats in our plan, it makes it much easier for us to resist momentary urges–because we know we have treats coming our way.
If only as an experiment, I want you to see what happens if you stick to your plan all day long. You owe it to yourself to see what it’s like when you actually take care of yourself that way.
There may be a few bumps. You may feel a little grumbly at times. But at the end of the day, I want you to notice how it feels to have completed (most of) the work you meant to complete, to have eaten (pretty much) the way you intended to eat, just moved your body (more or less) the way you planned to, to have enjoyed the treats that you selected for yourself–and to have both the pleasure of anticipating them as well as the pleasure of enjoying them.
Does it feel better or worse than you feel when you abandon your plan because it doesn’t seem appealing or important in the moment?
If you didn’t stick to your plan, think about why your plan failed. Was the plan too strict? Simply unrealistic? Maybe your work plan needs to include an extra hour to handle unexpected stuff. Maybe the meals you planned weren’t quite enough to satisfy your hunger. Or, maybe you needed to leave a little more time for preparation. How can you adjust tomorrow’s plan to make it serve you even better?
In an article I wrote over on my Get-Fit Guy blog, I gave a brief history of the gym (or the “health club” as it was known). In my research, I discovered that it was in about 1977 that the majority of the population slowly started to be introduced to the idea that gyms were a place that you could go to “get fit.” But it didn’t really catch on until the 1980s.
I was 6-years-old in 1977 (and honestly didn’t step foot in a gym until the 1990s) and yet, many of you reading this and many of my peers still have the idea that you can’t get fit if you can’t afford, don’t like, or don’t have time to get to the gym. Or more recently, don’t have a Peleton, treadmill or visit a yoga studio (real or virtual).
Interesting, eh? It really didn’t take us very long to somehow lose our innate ability to maintain our own fitness without outsourcing it to someone or someplace. And never has this lack of understanding been so pointed and obvious as it has been during this current viral lockdown.
Everyone and their dog is currently sharing their workouts on social media, asking people like me to teach some workouts they can do at home, and online workout services are gaining more traction than ever because of this lack of understanding of how to stay fit on our own. And I am not trying to shame anyone. This is a good and natural reaction but …
Give a person a workout video and they are sweaty for a day.
Teach a person how to exercise and they are fit for life.
So, I want to make it simple for you. Are you ready?
The three criteria that a movement needs to fill in order to qualify as an exercise are:
Raise your heart rate (a little or a lot)
Challenge your muscles (a little or a lot)
Move your body beyond your comfort level (a little or a lot).
That is all.
Here’s an example: let’s say you are carrying the laundry basket up some stairs, how can make that into an exercise?
Go up the stairs quicker or two steps at a time,
add more weight to the basket,
hold the basket in a different way than usual,
go up some of the stairs sideways.
Boom – you are exercising! And getting the laundry done!
Now you may be thinking, “that sounds too easy, what if I am more fit than that?”
Well, there are three factors that need to increase to create fitness, and they are:
That is all.
Here’s an example of this: let’s say you have been carrying that same laundry basket up the stairs for a few weeks and it is feeling easy now. Then you could:
increase the intensity (by adding more weight to the basket),
you could increase the distance (by going up and down the stairs a few times),
you could increase the duration (by taking each step slower and more controlled).
Boom – you are getting more fit from the same task!
Sure this is overly simplified. There are a lot more factors you can add in (like which body parts you want to develop) and more considerations that are fun to focus on (learning to do a pull-up) but when it comes to doing nothing (because you feel so lost) and doing something simple like this (because let’s face it, we all need to do laundry during the pandemic) I would choose this every time!
I don’t have to tell you that we’re living through some particularly stressful times right now. And for many of us, eating is a tried and true response to stress.
I take that back. It’s certainly well-tried. But is it really true? Does eating relieve the stress? Only for a moment, at best.
It obviously doesn’t do a thing to change the circumstances. And often, it piles on more stress in the form of regret, self-judgment, or other negative consequences.
One day–and hopefully soon–the current crisis will have passed. Things will get back to normal. The stock market will recover. We’ll go on with our lives. And when that happy day comes, let’s make sure we’re not 10 pounds heavier!
Better stress management skills would probably help. Unfortunately, most of us don’t start thinking about learning how to manage our stress until we’re virtually incapacitated by it. And trying to master a relaxation technique in the midst of an anxiety attack is a little like trying to read the instructions on the fire extinguisher when the kitchen is already on fire.
If you’re seriously stressed out, sitting down to meditate or practice yoga or do a body scan–if it’s not something you do regularly–may leave you feeling even more stressed.
I’d like to suggest a two-step approach.
#1. Leave a note for your future self. “Dear Self, now that everything has calmed down a bit, and it doesn’t feel like your hair is on fire, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to sign up for that meditation or yoga class, listen to that online course on stress reduction techniques, or create a daily relaxation routine?”
#2. And starting today: practice precovering. Instead of waiting until you’re feeling stressed to start looking for a release valve, find ways to pre-release the pressure. Make a little extra time for activities that you find relaxing and calming and use these as a way to “precover” from the stress that each day is sure to bring. Even 10 or 15 minutes a day of effective self-care can make you more resilient.
The difference between numbing and relaxing
Let me also share an insight I have learned the hard way. Distracted is not the same as relaxed. Numb is not the same as calm. Ice cream, Netflix, Chardonnay, and eBay are all great ways to distract and numb. They are not great at generating peace and resilience.
Don’t feel like you have to stick to the cliches. Bubble baths and lavender oil may not be your cup of (herbal) tea.
Maybe for you it’s line dancing. Or playing piano. Or puttering in the garden. Or playing laser tag with the cat. (What is it for you? I’m always looking for ideas to expand my repertoire.)
Whatever it is, try to do it on a daily basis, whether or not you feel you “need” it. If it feels like recovery, it’s too late. (That said, better late than never.)