What happened? It was all so clear to me a month ago --- I was sure I could be satisfied at 9 pm with a half an apple and my last, preciously guarded bread exchange, patiently watching the poundage drop off at a sensible 1.5 pounds a week, eyes on the target, firm of resolve; clear of mind. Then, late one afternoon, that little inner voice says “I WANT COOKIES!... No, I mean I REALLY want cookies. I’m not hungry, I just want cookies...and I want them NOW!!!
That firm resolve that was so clear and present yesterday is nowhere to be found. I can’t seem to recall what I thought was so darned important that I had to deny myself that simplest of pleasures --- cookies and milk. I look in the mirror and say to myself, “for a middle-aged woman you’re not so bad. Besides, why are you trying to be a svelte sex-goddess at your age, anyway? You should be secure enough that you can accept yourself, no matter what size you are.” (blah-blah-blah!)
Can you relate? This scenario has played itself out in my life more times than I care to recall. But recently, I finally had enough, and used the skills I use to coach other people to success, to jump start my own weight loss plan and re-boot my resolve. And it worked! Now I want to spread the news! Here are the coaching techniques I used to get off the diet merry-go-round and lose weight. And you can do it, too!
1. Envision your goal If you’re vague about where you’re heading and why you want it, you won’t get there! So, write out (or, if you hate to journal, speak it into a tape recorder, or speak it to a friend who’ll write it down for you), a beautiful, blissful, perfect, 100% satisfaction, no limits, no negative self-talk picture of what you want to achieve in your eating habits. Be as specific as possible, and use as many sensory details as you can come up with. IMPORTANT NOTE: Make this fun!! When you have a clear idea of what you want, the how-you-get-there piece gets easier and clearer. If your resolve starts to wane throughout your journey, take this out and read it again.
Complete the following statements to stimulate your thinking:
• I want to feel ________
• I see myself __________
• I am “having”…”being”…”doing”…____________
2. Food Association Journal Set aside about a half an hour for this. Take inventory of all the associations you have with food. Sit down and write it all out. The good, the bad, and the ugly! Let your unconscious mind and your imagination go nuts with this one. Draw pictures even, if you want to! But get down on paper, every attitude, belief, opinion, love, and hate that shows up when you think about or have anything to do with food.
Example: “Food is Mom! The smell of meatloaf, corn, and baked potatoes when I came in from playing as a kid.” or “Food is bad --- It tempts me at every turn and I have no control over it!”
3. Values Assessment Take a look at your Food Association Journal and from it, pull out as many things that you value, deem really important, must have, and love about food. Write them down. (Bear in mind that when coaches refer to values, we don’t mean what you think you should think is important, or what someone else thinks is valuable. Values in this context refer to those things that aren’t either “right” or “wrong.” Like emotions, they just “are.”)
fresh/colorful/vibrant/nourishing celebratory/social/seasonal rituals/family
How will you honor those values on your healthy eating plan? (So you ENJOY this journey, and don’t feel deprived or “punished!”)
4. Start – and stick with – a food journal Create a plan for what you’re going to eat, and then write down everything you do eat, even when it deviates from the straight and narrow path. WRITE IT ALL DOWN! Awareness of a habit is MOST of the solution. And you might be surprised when you tally up whatever units you’re counting (calories, fat grams, etc.) It may be less than you think, and then you’ll be less likely to throw the towel in on your whole goal.
5. Craving Antidotes Make a list of at least 10 antidotes you can call forth when you’re hit with a food craving.
• re-read your vision
• a picture (from a magazine, drawing, photo, etc.) that captures the feeling and look of what you want to achieve. (Mine is a woman, about my age and coloring, in a cool turquoise swimsuit, enjoying the beach!)
• a mantra, or affirmation that calls forth your inner strength and resources.
• activities you can choose instead of eating: For example, a hot bubble bath, an invigorating walk, call a friend, read a juicy novel…
6. Get back in your body! That’s right. We often disassociate from our bodies by turning our attention to analyzing, judging, planning, or otherwise medicating (with food, drugs, alcohol, and other repetitive thoughts and behaviors) in an attempt to avoid being present in the everyday struggles of life. The body is an undeniable reminder of where we’ve been and where we’re headed! It’s our bodies that show the effects of time, stress, and the choices we’ve made in a visible and concrete way. So, crafty, adaptable animals that we are, we’ve learned to escape by “going into our heads,” so to speak. Well, now it’s time to call yourself back home to your body!
Set aside some quiet time to be alone and undistracted. Check in with your body. Notice what it feels like to inhabit this body. Ask yourself the following questions:
•Where does my energy feel sluggish, or stuck? Be specific. Your body knows, if you give it a chance to “speak.”
•What am I hungry for (other than food --- like love, appreciation, justice, etc.), and how will I choose to get it?
• What food does my body want/need right now? And what choice will I make?
• How do I want to feel, in my body? Be as specific as possible. For example, “I want to feel light in my knees, and free and unencumbered in my lower abdomen.”
7. Expect obstacles and relapses now and then. I promise you, they will happen. But get the big picture – one little slip up (or even two or three...) does not mean your goal is doomed. Weight fluctuates. Period. Whether you’re trying to lose or gain, your mostly fluid body will ebb and flow. You are not a victim of your humanity! You can choose whether to stay stuck, or get back on track.
8. Take the scenic route I don’t know about you, but for me, I wanted to change my eating habits for life, and I certainly didn’t want to spend my life feeling deprived!! So I decided to consciously choose what I call, “Pauses on the scenic route,” --- You know, like when you decide to take longer to get to the Grand Canyon so you can stop periodically and really soak in the scenery? I decided to give myself permission to deviate from my eating plan now and then. My only rules were:
• Enjoy every delectable morsel!
• Make it REALLY good quality and something I really love and want!
• Get right back on the program after I enjoy the “Scenic Lookout”
• No bingeing
This also means I didn’t lose the classic 1.5 – 2 pounds a week. So what! It means that I am in control, at choice, and am not a slave to my (former!) addiction to food. You can be in control and at choice, too!