A client asked me recently: How did you stop wanting to lose 10 pounds all the time?
I totally understood how she felt.
For so long, I felt plagued by my desire to lose 10 pounds. Even after finding a more intuitive approach to eating (and losing well over 10 pounds because of it), I kept thinking to myself why aren’t I past this? Why do I still find myself sometimes wishing that I could lose 10 more pounds?
Why can’t I just totally love and accept my body?
So many of us think that eventually we’ll reach some sort of body-image nirvana where we'll never feel critical of our body and just think it’s awesome all the time.
I certainly thought this for a long time.
What I learned, instead, is that thinking that you’d like to lose 10 pounds isn’t the problem.
The real problem is all of the thoughts and actions that gee, I’d like to lose 10 pounds brings up:
- I look way too fat right now.
- I can’t believe I let myself get this way – I need to take control of my life and get my act together.
- I should definitely go on a diet.
- What if I gave up carbs for a while?
- I’m going to give up carbs and sugar for this week and start weighing myself more often so I can make sure I’m on track.
I don’t know about you, but these thoughts didn’t actually help me lose or maintain a healthy weight. In fact, they were an express train to sitting in front of a large slice of chocolate cake, feeling deprived and frustrated and anxious and like a total fat loser.
So that’s why I wanted to write about this very important issue this week. Maybe you do want to lose 10 pounds, and maybe you don't: I know that people reading my blog have all different types of bodies and health situations, and I never tell my clients what they should weigh or want to weigh.
But if you're letting the I'd like to lose 10 pounds lead you towards a dieting-death-spiral, then it's time to reassess. It's time to find a better way.
We all have those I'm too fat today thoughts, but what you do with them has a dramatic impact on your sanity, happiness, and I have found, on your success at losing or maintaining a healthy weight.
And that matters to me a lot.
So let’s dive in. I’ll share with you the three things that have been make-or-break for me and my clients when it comes to dealing with the thought I’d love to lose 10 pounds:
1. Remember that you have many, often-conflicting thoughts.
Let’s take this out of the food and weight realm for a moment.
On a given day, I will find myself thinking:
- I love living in North Carolina
- I should definitely move to California so I can be closer to my family
- Why shouldn't I move back to New York?
- My true dream is to live in the South of France, or maybe the English countryside
- All I really want is to live in Thailand and go swimming every day.
Even writing this list down is exhausting.
But that’s exactly the point.
We have many, many thoughts in a given day. Some of them are extremely critical and others are fabulously positive. Some of them are random dreams that we don’t want to actualize, and some of them are things that we should really take action on.
It’s important to remember that our brain is made to go off in a million different directions.
And that’s okay.
The key is to remember that:
2. You can decide which thoughts are useful and which aren’t.
I’m going to be real with you: for me, spending a lot of time thinking about how much I’d like to lose 10 pounds generally isn't that useful.
It makes me sad and it makes me gain weight.
Thinking I’d love to lose weight usually leads me to decide that I should go on a conventional diet. And, like I said above, that leads me to being chest deep in shortbread cookies, Nutella, or whatever else I’m terrified I’ll be deprived of when I go on that diet.
And that’s just silly.
Instead, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to want to lose 10 pounds, but that I am absolutely unwilling to give up my sanity around food, my trust that my body will make good decisions if I listen to her, and my enjoyment of food.
And when I remember that, I feel safe and well-cared for. I don’t have to go find an enormous slice of chocolate cake, because I know that I can have it any time.
The happy ending to this story is that learning to trust your body more is the absolute best way I know to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, and stop having to worry about your eating.
3. How you deal with unhelpful thoughts will make or break you.
By now, you’re probably thinking okay Katie, it’s all well and good to tell me to stop thinking these unhelpful thoughts BUT I JUST CAN’T STOP.
I totally hear you.
For most of us, it’s not enough to just say, “Yes I see that my obsessive desire to lose 10 pounds is not serving me.”
Because that thought – I would love to lose 10 pounds – it’s insidious.
Even if you know, rationally, that obsessively googling diets or promising that you’ll totally be “good” tomorrow, doesn’t work, you’re still going to go do it.
The only way to actually start dealing with it is to explicitly talk with that critical part of yourself. Reassure her (or him), and help her calm down a little bit.
So that’s my challenge for you this week:
- Create a persona for that critical voice in your head that decides that you need to lose weight and then sends you on a I-gotta-go-on-a-diet-NOW tailspin. If she (or he) was a person, what would her name be? What would she look like? How would she spend her time, and what would she do for a living? It’s helpful to get out some paper or a journal and spend some time really stewing with this.
- When you feel that voice coming up, speak to it directly: Lisa, I get that you think I should lose weight, and that’s fine. But you know that thing I usually do? How I go on a diet and feel deprived? That’s just not working for me and I need to try something else for now. Don’t worry, I’ve got this.
It’s helpful if you speak kindly but firmly. Don’t yell at the critical voice, but let her know that you’ve got this handled. You can even speak aloud (this is extra helpful) if you are alone at home or in your car.
I know that this sounds wacky. But I promise that it will be incredibly helpful if you actually do it. I never recommend anything that I haven’t tried myself and have gotten significant value from.
I hope you have an awesome week! And let me know how it goes!