Eating more mindfully allows us to get more enjoyment from our food and also to make sure that we’re not eating more than we need. In the year-long Weighless program, we have a number of techniques to cultivate mindfulness throughout our lives. But here’s one that you can try 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?
“I start out strong every Monday, sticking to my plan, making healthy choices, checking off my daily wins…but then the week just wears me down. By Thursday, I’m completely off plan and making poor choices. I’m tired and stressed and can’t find my motivation.”
What if we redesigned your week? Instead of a 5-day slog followed by a 2-day collapse, what if your week were a 2-day sprint, 2 days of rest and recovery, followed by a final 3 day effort? Would that make it easier to sustain your focus and motivation?
This doesn’t even require talking your boss into an alternate work schedule. All it takes is mental reframing.
Even those of use who work non-traditional schedules have been culturally conditioned to think in terms of 5-day weeks and 2-day weekends. We’ve also been trained to think of Monday as the day we “start fresh.” with a renewed intention to make healthy choices, But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Whatever your work schedule, trying thinking of your “personal work week” starting on Thursday. If you set weekly intentions or keep a habit- or goal-tracking chart, have it run from Thursday to Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, set aside an hour to prepare yourself mentally and logistically for what you want to accomplish personally in the week to come. Write down your goals, intentions, and objectives. This would be a great time to listen to a podcast or read a book that inspires you to live your best life. (Members of our year-long Weighless program sometimes use their Wednesday nights to listen to their weekly materials or to spend time problem-solving with us and their fellow members in the forum )
You head into Thursday calm, motivated, and prepared.for two days of solid effort. After two days, you get the weekend to restore and reset your intentions. When you start again on Monday, your “week” is already half over. FInish strong! And on Wednesday evening, assess your week and get ready for the next one.
If you are tired of starting every Monday feeling strong and finishing every Friday wondering what happened to your health goals, this simple shift could make a big difference. Even if you doubt that something so simple could help, what do you have to lose? Let’s try it together this week and see how it goes.
I am not much of an (American) football fan. But because it was always a part of our family’s (American) Thanksgiving gatherings, turning on a game while cooking dinner always feels nostalgic. Especially this year, when nothing else feels normal or familiar.
As I was half-listening to the game this year, I got to thinking about the difference between passing games and running games. Some teams throw lots of long passes in order to move the ball down the field and into the end zone as fast as possible. Passing games are exciting because the score can change rapidly. They’re also exciting because there’s a much greater chance of turnovers, incomplete passes, and interceptions.
Other teams prefer to play a running game. They rarely go for big yardage. Instead of putting the ball in the air where it can be picked off, they keep the ball on the ground. They may only move a few yards each play but they rarely turn over the ball. It’s a lot less flashy to watch but teams that do this well can be unstoppable.
OK, here comes the analogy you knew was coming!!
Diets that promise fast weight loss are a lot like passing games. The score (on the scale) can change quickly! But there’s also a big risk of failure, burnout, or rebound weight gain–which is the equivalent of fumbling the ball on the 1 yard line and having the opposing team run it all the way back for a touchdown.
In the Weighless program, we play more of a running game. We have seen over and over again that playing the slow and steady game of sustainable behavior change gets our members into the end zone more quickly, and with far less chance of fumbles and interceptions.
At first, they might miss the adrenaline rush of seeing those first five or ten pounds come off in a few weeks. But they soon learn to appreciate the reliability and security of a good ground game. Especially when they realize that its the only way to win at sustainable weight loss.
So, ready to try out your running game? We’ve put together some ideas that you can put into practice this month (yes, even during the holidays!). You can download it here.
As the winter holidays draw near, there’s a temptation to put our goals (and ourselves) on the back burner. With so much going on, we don’t feel like we have the time or energy to focus on ourselves. So we decide to let ourselves off the hook for the rest of the year and regroup in January.
It feels like a relief at first. One less thing to worry about. But then that low-level anxiety creeps in. How much further from our goals will we be by January? What does this say about our chances of ever actually reaching this goal?
The thing is: It takes so little to stay in the game. It’s not about spending the holidays on a diet. It can be as simple as not finishing a cookie that doesn’t taste as good as it looked. Or putting on an extra layer or two and going for a walk even if it’s frosty. Or setting aside just 15 minutes for a morning warm-up. Or, checking in with others who are working on the similar goals.
Even if you’re not making rapid progress toward your goal, these small actions can reinforce your commitment to your goal, and help to strengthen the mindset and habits that will ultimately get you there. You may be on the bench taking a breather but you’re still in the game.
And here’s the crazy thing: Staying in the game won’t make your holidays any busier or more overwhelming. To the contrary, you’ll probably feel a bit calmer, more in control, and less stressed.
If over the next few weeks, you find yourself tempted to throw in the towel until January, see if you can find one tiny way to stay in the game for another day. (Need some ideas? Let’s chat about it in the Weighless Life Facebook group.)
“I often eat things because I don’t want them to go to waste. I may not even like them that much, but they cost money and I don’t want to be wasteful.”
Can you relate?
One of our Weighless program members posted this in our forum this morning. We’ve heard hundreds of variations on this theme over the years. I shudder to think how many millions of excess calories are consumed every year by people who just can’t stand to throw food away. Or the kids who are being indoctrinated into this unhelpful mindset with things like the Clean Plate Club.
Don’t get me wrong. Food waste is a huge problem that deserves our earnest attention. But guess what? Eating food you don’t need–or don’t even want–does not reduce food waste.
It doesn’t feed starving children. It doesn’t recover the resources that were used to produce it. It doesn’t put the money back in anyone’s wallet. It doesn’t really even keep it out of the trash. It simply turns your body into the trash receptacle.
Once we recognize the sheer folly of eating food just to prevent it from being wasted, it opens up some really useful alternatives:
- We can truly commit to an essential Weighless principle: If you’re not hungry and/or you’re not enjoying the food, stop eating!
- We can truly commit to meaningful action to reduce food waste.
The best way to reduce food waste is to stop buying, cooking, ordering, or serving yourself more food than you want or need. (We have specific strategies for this in Weeks 3, 6, 8, 9, and 12 of our year-long program)
If you do find yourself with more food than you want or need, share it with a friend, stranger, or even with your future self. Split an oversized portion with your dining companion. Donate excess food to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Pack it up and put it in the freezer for later.
If none of that is possible, throw it away or compost it. If it feels bad to throw it away, let that motivate you to redouble your efforts to avoid the situation in the future.
It is everyone’s job to help reduce food waste. But it is not your job to be a human garbage disposal.
I hereby disband the Clean Plate Club.
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.
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.
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).
- Biological and physiological needs – food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, air.
- Safety needs – protection, security, order, law, stability.
- Love and Belongingness – family, affection, relationships
- Esteem (cognitive, aesthetics) – achievement, status, responsibility, reputation
- Self-actualization – personal growth and fulfillment
- 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.
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.