Have you ever found an old journal, and upon reading the entries, were transported back to that time in your life? That happened to me recently, and whoa. It was like reading something written by a stranger. A very miserable stranger. Fortunately I’ve done a 180 since then, in both my external circumstances and my mindset. But you know what they say, if I only knew then what I know now…
Hindsight is 20/20, eh? Our could’ve-should’ve-would’ves are crystallized in retrospect. This is poignant to me because I see where I wasted so much time holding onto and stressing things I shouldn’t have. I remember being stuck in thought processes that were detrimental to my progress. Looking back, I can see why the pounds crept back on after my initial weight loss.
There was a lot of loafing. There was a lot of eating whatever the fuck I wanted to. But those things were more of a side effect rather than the true cause of my weight gain. I was exercising infrequently and eating poorly because of my mental state. Our thoughts influence our actions, and thus, being so frequently bummed out I rarely had the energy to do or care about anything.
This is the case with many of us who struggle to get on the wagon. We may think that all that’s needed is to change what we’re doing, but often what needs to be adjusted is what we’re thinking. The following is a list of the top reasons why I really gained the weight back, and where many people experience obstacles in making a lasting habit change:
–Being unhappy with your situation-
This one doesn’t need much explanation, but being unhappy is mentally taxing. Complaining and repeatedly putting ourselves in an undesirable position is stressful and zaps our energy. When we’re unhappy with our overall situation, it’s hard to do constructive things. It’s like there’s a black hole in your soul sucking the life force out of you. If you hate your job or are in a miserable relationship, exercising and eating vegetables are the last things you want to do. It wasn’t until I took dramatic steps to change my situation that things started to improve.
Solution: If you are unhappy, think of the situation you’re in and then think of the situation you’d like to be in. Every day we make decisions that affect our future. So according to your actions, what future are you living into? Are you doing things that bring you closer to where you want to be or are you standing still? We can either do something about our situation or, if it’s not possible to change, learn to appreciate it.
When I first lost weight I was extremely obsessive about the way I ate. I wanted to weigh everything. Meals had to be as clean as possible. I dreaded social situations because of the food and drinks. I longed to eat perfectly forever, like a machine–devoid of emotion or weakness. Of course that backfired on me big time. The more rigid I was, the more I would binge. The weight started to creep on, and over time I went from being obsessed to not caring at all. I used to tell people that I couldn’t bother to diet again because I had spent so much mental energy during the first neurotic go-around that I had nothing left.
Black and white thinking does us no favors. When we fall into the all-or-nothing trap, we dance between two extremes–over restricting and then overeating. This does not allow us to adapt to our environment or listen to our bodies. These two extremes often lead to one another, trapping us in a cycle. Over restrict then overeat then over restrict and so on. The result? A lack of progress, or in my case, reverse progress.
Solution: Let go of perfectionism. Very few people can eat a strict diet for an extended period of time. It’s better to allow yourself a small treat that will prevent a binge later than restricting to the point where you break and eat the entire kitchen. Aim to eat 85-90% on target with your diet. The other 10-15% leaves you some wiggle room to enjoy treats. That means 1 or 2 out of 10 meals can be cheats.
I got super skinny and it felt awesome at the time, but the way I had to eat to maintain that was not realistic for me. It made me unhappy and anxious. But I had the expectation that I could be a waif with perfect eating habits if I could just overpower my cravings and emotions. To be fair, at the time I didn’t know that my expectations were unrealistic. So how are you supposed to tell? If you are miserable and it feels like a struggle to maintain wherever you’re at, then you might need to adjust your expectations of what’s sustainable for you. Although the path isn’t always easy, you shouldn’t consistently feel deprived and dissatisfied. When we force ourselves to do something that doesn’t truly satisfy us, guess what–we don’t stick to it for long. And cue my descent in binging.
Solution: Ask yourself if you can keep up what you’re doing for the long haul. If the answer is yes, then great. But if you’re desperately counting the seconds till your diet is over so you can down some donuts and not have to think about being healthy for a while, then you might want to adjust your methodology and possibly your mindset. Think about the future and the kind of lifestyle you want to have. Realistically now, because we all wish we could eat whatever we want, not exercise and not gain weight. Do you want to be eating clean or low carb 99% of the time to maintain a super lean figure? Or would you prefer a more balanced approach that may not leave you ripped, but feels satisfying? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s what’s most realistic for you.
For a long time, I was at the whims of my emotions with little awareness of what was really driving me. The worse my situation got, the more I relied on food to soothe me. We often use food as a way of coping with discomfort, whether it’s stress, anxiety or boredom. But this way of dealing does not actually address the issue. It’s only a distraction, and it prevents us from learning how to cope with the emotion outside of eating. It’s why so many people gain weight when they’re stressed or unhappy. Now that I have the tools to deal with emotional eating, I’m not only more in touch with my body but I feel better because I can actually deal with emotions instead of stuffing them away. Resolution over avoidance is empowering, and not gaining weight is a nice bonus too.
Solution: Get aware of what you’re really feeling and find other ways to deal. The change won’t happen overnight, but the more thought and awareness you give to the undercurrents of your emotional state, the closer you become to understanding and changing the related behavior.
Our thought process is at the root of everything. It’s amazing how our minds can simultaneously work for us and against us. Consider the role your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs translate into your actions. And let me know if any of these points resonate with you 🙂