For most of us with a history of dieting, restriction is all too familiar, and has not proven to be very constructive. But as they shed the dieter’s mindset, our Weighless members are embracing the more expansive concept of of restraint.
At first glance, they may seem to be the same thing. But we’ve identified some crucial differences:
has an undertone of punishment: I’m atoning for “bad behavior.”
has a more positive connotation: I’m aligning my choices with my values or objectives.
is rule-driven. “I’m not allowed to have this.”
is awareness-driven: “What do I want/need right now?”
is more likely to be framed in absolutes: “I can’t ever have XYZ.”
feels more flexible: “What does this situation call for?”
often backfires: The more I enforce it, the more rebellion I feel.
Is self-reinforcing: The more I practice restraint, the easier and more natural it feels.
is often consequence-focused: “If I don’t restrict, I might ___________.”
is more reward-focused: “When I exercise restraint, I can ___________.”
Do any of those resonate for you? What might you do to shift your approach from restriction to restraint?
For a long time, I didn’t appreciate the difference between an urge and a desire. I thought they were the same thing. I assumed that the urge to eat or drink or do something meant that I really wanted to eat or drink or do that thing.
But as I’ve been working with my own urges, I’ve realized that urges and desires are not the same. Not by a long shot.
An urge can be triggered by totally random things. I see the butter dish out on the counter and I have a sudden urge for a piece of toast. I see an open bottle of wine in the fridge and I have an urge to pour a a glass.
What follows is that familiar (and often unsuccessful) struggle to resist the urge. The struggle can be uncomfortable. But some of that discomfort, I realized recently, resides in the belief that I really want or desire that thing.
It turns out (much to my astonishment) that sometimes an urge is just an urge. There’s actually very little authentic desire attached to it. It’s just a passing thought or impulse triggered by something in my internal or external environment. Or purely by habit.
And this has been a game changer for me. If I take a moment to investigate, I sometimes discover that my actual level of desire is pretty low. When that’s the case, and I consciously acknowledge it, moving on from that urge is much easier.
Try it and see what you find. When urges arise, instead of moving immediately into “resisting,” or arguing with yourself about whether or not to give in, take a moment to investigate your actual level of desire.
Do you really want that thing at this moment? Or is it just an urge?
In our years of coaching hundreds of people in the Weighless program, we’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: As people begin to see progress–and especially when they start to get close to their “goal,” they are sometimes surprised to discover that they feel a sense of fear or dread.
Many of us have been trying to solve this problem for years–or decades. So, why on earth would we find ourselves suddenly afraid of succeeding?
There’s not a single answer. But some of the things that others have articulated are:
fear of backsliding and not being able to maintain their weight loss
being unsure who they are or how to be in the word without the identity of someone who needs to lose weight
fearing that people will see them differently and perhaps expect something new or different from them
fear that it might change their relationships with other people
dread that once they have solved this “problem,” they’ll be forced to confront other challenges that they had been putting off until they’d lost weight.
Once we uncover thoughts like these, we can obviously investigate them. But if they remain below our conscious awareness, they can (and do) sabotage our efforts.
We all do it, from time to time. We grab a bowl of popcorn, sit down in front of the TV, and shovel away. Before we know it, the entire bowl is gone and we don’t really remember eating it let alone how it tasted. And while this seems harmless enough, distracted eating can easily be one of the biggest reasons we gain weight or have trouble losing it. (Truly, I know people who have lost significant amounts of weight by simply banning food from their TV room)
Now, here is where the paradox comes in…
People often tell me that they need to have a book, a mobile device, a podcast, or a tv show playing while they eat because they “get bored” otherwise.
People also tell me that they eat (even when they are not hungry) because they are bored and it “helps them pass the time.”
So… which is it?
And then things get complicated further when someone claims to be a “foodie” and can’t help themselves because they just love the taste of food … and yet they eat in the car, at their office desk, or in front of the tv. Is that what a true “foodie” does? Is that how to really enjoy the flavours, aromas and colours?
What I propose is a radical idea of not trying to turn your food into entertainment and also not trying to turn your entertainment into feeding time. If we keep them separate, we can fully enjoy both… even if we are a foodie.
If you deliberately give your full attention to what is in front of you, no matter what it is, you will act with intention. And there is never a problem being more deliberate with any of our actions.
Starting a new diet requires optimism. Especially if you have a long history of failed attempts. (And most of us do.)
We have to convince ourselves that this time will be different. Otherwise, why even bother?
One of the ways we muster that optimism in the face of so much damning evidence is to focus on the details of the diet itself. Maybe our past attempts failed because we hadn’t picked the right diet.
But if you are overweight, the real problem is not your diet. Lose all the weight you want on whatever diet regimen you choose. If you haven’t fixed the underlying habits and mindset, you are almost certain to regain the weight.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight adults who lost weight through focusing on changing their eating and movement habits (as opposed to following a certain diet) were more likely to maintain their weight loss for up to 12 months.
“Maintaining weight loss is often the hardest part of the weight-loss journey,” researcher Gina Clea says, “yet it was successfully achieved by our participants on the habit-based programs, without the need for dieting or strenuous exercise.”
This is exactly what we see with our members in the Weighless Program. Although we certainly talk about food and movement, there is no prescribed diet or exercise program. We focus less on what you’re eating and more on how and why you’re eating it. We work on dismantling that dieter’s mindset and creating the habits and mindset that lead to weighing less, permanently. (Here’s what that looks like.)
And it’s working! Just last week we got a note from one of our members who started the program two years ago. By the end of 12 months, he’d lost 10% of his starting weight. Even better, he’s now kept it off for an entire year! It’s exhilarating to witness people finally break free of destructive yo-yo dieting patterns and discover what it’s like to weigh less.
“I basically eat healthy but ______ is my weakness.”
It doesn’t really matter what you fill the blank in with. The idea is that you’re pretty disciplined. Except for this one thing.
Your kryptonite. That one thing that strips you of your strength, your reason, your free will. You’re simply powerless to resist it.
When we declare something to be our “kryptonite” we’re essentially absolving ourselves of responsibility. If you’re powerless, then how can you possibly be held accountable for your actions?
Yet, we still get to maintain our self-identity as “someone who eats healthy.” I mean, Superman was still Superman, right?
I call BS.
You might like chocolate.
And there’s no reason you can’t enjoy chocolate! But you are still in charge of how much and how often you decide to indulge.
And if your choices around chocolate (or chips, or beer, or whatever) are leading to results that you’re not happy with, guess who has the power to choose a different result?
The next time you hear yourself saying, “__________ is my weakness,” I want you to stop yourself, mid-sentence. Instead of giving yourself permission to self-sabotage by abdicating responsibility, try replacing that thought with something more true.
“If I’m not careful, I can really overdo it with _________.”
“If I ate as much of __________ as I wanted to, I would not be happy with the result.”
Then, take back your power. You get to choose what you really want…both for the short-term and the long-term.
Maybe you’ll have a piece of chocolate. Maybe, this time, you won’t. But chocolate is not the one calling the shots. You are.
“I’ve realized that changing my habits doesn’t have to feel comfortable,’ a friend of mine recently wrote. “It doesn’t have to be fun. it’s just necessary if I want to reap the benefits of healthier habits. And when I can see that discomfort as leading to what I want, it becomes a valued discomfort.”
A valued discomfort.
I’ve been turning that phrase over in my my head all week.
When we experience discomfort, we often take that as a sign that something is wrong. But sometimes discomfort is a sign that we’re doing something right.
What might be possible if you started to distinguish between discomfort that has value and the kind that doesn’t? If you started to welcome (or at least tolerate) the discomfort that’s necessary to create the future you want for yourself?
A member of the year-long Weighless program recently posted in our private forum that she is doing really well in so many areas (nailing her daily weigh-ins, moving her body more, making healthy food choices) but one area where she struggles is turning to food when she is bored or stressed.
This is a topic that we cover A LOT in the program, and also in the Change Academy podcast (specifically in an episode called Stop Coping So Well). But I had a recent interaction with a close personal friend that I thought may be helpful.
To set the stage, the idea is that we may create (or at least inflate) the feelings that lead us to indulge or temporarily abandon our goal, out of thin air.
For example, a friend of mine is doing Dry-January (avoiding alcohol for 31 days) and only 5 days into the month he texted me saying that he “really wanted a drink!” I asked him why. He said, “I just finished a carpentry job in the house and that usually means beer.” I asked him what the project was. And he said (after a long pause), “Well, actually, I just put up two shelves…”
And like that, the craving was gone.
He went on with his day and is still on track with his Dry-January.
My point of this story is that his brain, looking for a reason to fall back into the old habit, had turned a simple 10-minute job into a “carpentry project” to justify his urge to have a beer.
The bigger point is that I think we do that with other emotions, too. Stress, boredom, loneliness, celebration – our sneaky brains blow them up so we have a reason to indulge.
So next time you feel yourself reaching into your bag of justifications take a minute and consider: am I really that _______? Or am I inflating this into an excuse (that I will regret later)?
One of our Weighless members recently shared that, despite her success at becoming someone who weighs less, she was feeling a lot of anxiety about backsliding. (She had done this many times in the past.)
Others who are not quite as far along in their journey are feeling anxious that they might not succeed…because all of their previous attempts had failed.
It makes sense. Our expectations for the future are based on our past experiences. Except that this doesn’t take into account what’s changed.
New tools create new results
Brock offered a great analogy:
“In the past, you were like someone who was given the keys to fly a plane but had never been trained to be a pilot. So of course you struggled. It makes total sense. But now you have read the manual, done the training, and are ready to do some solo flights. Sure, you may still make some mistakes, you will have moments of doubt, but you will not crash the plane.”
Brock then invited her to make a list of all the tools that she had at her disposal the last time she was attempting to maintain a weight loss. She immediately got it.
“There were no tools! There were just systems that I was either on or off. So yes, this is different. I need to acknowledge the skill layers I’ve built through Weighless. This is definitely an aha moment and a big confidence builder.”
Letting go of past failures
One way to combat anxiety about the future is to understand–and then let go of–our past failures. We can’t blame our past selves for failing at something we had never been shown how to do. Then, we need to acknowledge the steps we are taking to create a different outcome. This allows us to face the future with confidence.
We may face some turbulence. But we will not crash the plane.
What steps are you taking to create a different outcome? What would make you feel more confident about your future?
We recently checked in with some of the people who decided NOT to join us in the Weighless group that began earlier this month. We know there are a lot of reasons that people might decide not to do the program. And we wanted understand more about those reasons, in case there’s something we can do to address them in the future.
A few people mentioned being reluctant to commit to a year-long program. Which is ironic. Because one of the things we hear from those who are nearing the end of their year (and often long before then) is that they don’t want it to be over. It’s over too fast.
The truth is that the year you spend with us in the Weighless program will pass so quickly…just like every year seems to. (Am I the only one who can’t believe it’s almost time to put up the holiday lights again?)
The difference is that when this year is over, something big will have changed. You will have a completely different outlook, a new set of habits, a new relationship to food, your body, your thoughts. A new community and set of tools.
Was that true for you this year? Last year? The year before that?
There are people who have been thinking about doing this program for years. Maybe some of them felt like a year was just too long to commit to. And yet, here they are all these years later still looking for a solution.
Big goals take time
You’ve probably heard us talk about how important it is not too lose weight too quickly. (And if you haven’t, here’s more on that.) But that’s not really what I’m talking about. The bigger goal is changing our thoughts, habits, and behaviors. That takes time–especially if you want those changes to last.
One of the biggest advantages (and differences) of the Weighless program is that it gives you the time you need to do this. To figure out what works and then figure out how to make it sustainable. To stumble and learn how to recover instead of give up.
But that’s not how we’ve been trained to think about losing weight. We just want to get it over with as fast as we can…because it’s darned unpleasant.
But what if it wasn’t so unpleasant? What if instead of a few weeks or months of dieting/deprivation (followed by a few week or months of relapsing/regaining) you signed on for a year of exploration, innovation, and creativity, resulting in a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle that allows you to weigh less. Permanently?
Here’s an idea
It’ll be at least six months before we launch another cohort. If by then, you’re happy with your progress, we will be the first to celebrate with you. (Really, I mean it. Be sure to let us know so we can cheer you on.)
But if six months from now you’re still more or less where you are today, then maybe a 12-month commitment would be exactly what you need to move foreward.