Today I have a simple but powerful question for you:
What if you ate as if you didn’t want to lose weight?
It’s easy to gloss over this, to skim this post or to think well, I don’t like my body now, so I’ll think about this once I lose fifteen pounds, but stay with me for a second.
Treat this like a thought experiment.
If you liked your body right now, in this very moment, if you had no desire at all to lose five or 15 or 25 pounds, if you didn’t need your arms to be more toned or your belly to be less flabby, how would that affect your eating? How would it affect how much you eat, what you eat, how you eat, and when you decide to stop?
Let’s do it together.
I mean it: Close your eyes and imagine it. It’s okay if you don’t like your body right now, just close your eyes and pretend for a moment.
Imagine that you like your body, and have no desire at all to lose weight. Imagine that you are standing at a marble island in an absolutely gorgeous kitchen that is piled high with all of your favorite foods (What are they? Notice!). Then notice what you choose to eat.
When I do this exercise, the feeling I have is ease and comfort.
Food is there, delicious fresh sourdough toast and salad with avocado and grilled flank steak and a fresh fruit tart, but I feel easy around it. If I have other things to do, I’ll do them. When it’s time to eat, I’ll do that, too, and I’ll enjoy it.
But I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about food; it’s just not a big deal.
Now, do the opposite thought experiment. Imagine that you are again surrounded by food, but this time you would like to lose ten pounds.
When I do this, I feel my whole body tense up.
When I think about food, suddenly instead of all of that delicious yet kind of healthy food, I am near near pizza or Mexican food or cookies, and not the good, high quality pizza or Mexican food or cookies – the gross stuff that you’d find at an airport or at a cafeteria. Somehow even the foods that are around me change to much “junk”-ier foods when I want to lose weight.
I think about feeling like I can never get enough, and like my appetite is infinite.
For the record, this thought experiment is consistent with my personal experience. Whenever I wanted desperately to lose weight, especially during my college years, I kept gaining weight or (if I was “lucky”), maintaining it with a ton of thought, worry, and anguish.
Once I decided that I didn’t care about losing weight, that I just wanted to feel sane and to enjoy food, I slowly lost weight and then maintained it without much thought or effort, and with a lot of dark chocolate peanut butter cups.
At this point, you might still have one major concern. But Katie, I do want to lose 15 pounds. Am I supposed to stop wanting that?
To which I would say: I never tell my clients how much they should weigh or should want to weigh. If you want to lose 15 pounds, that’s okay with me.
But my goal is to challenge your assumptions. If thinking about how much you wanted to lose 15 pounds helped you to lose weight while feeling happy and balanced, then I would recommend it strongly. But it has been my personal and professional experience that it doesn’t work that way – with me or my clients.
And if thinking the opposite, if even pretending that you didn’t want to lose weight helped you to lose + maintain it with more ease, wouldn’t that be good to know?
So that’s my challenge to you this week:
- Find a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed and do the thought experiment I discuss in my post. Here’s a summary of it, if you need it:
First, imagine that you don’t want to lose weight, that you like your body exactly the way it is.
Notice how that affects how you feel, and what other things are true for you in this fantasy (E.g., what are you wearing? Where are you? How do you feel?).
Then imagine that you are surrounded by food. What do you eat, and how much? How do you eat it (standing up, sitting down, slowly, quickly?). When do you decide to stop?
Repeat this experiment, but imagine that you do wish to lose weight.
- Once this week, before you eat a meal, imagine that you didn’t want to lose any weight at all. See if you can eat the meal as if this thought experiment was true.
I’d love to know: What did you find, when you tried this thought experiment? Is it scary? Relieving? Something else? Let me + the other readers know in the comments below, and we can all compare our experiences!