If losing weight is topping your list of priorities, is something you think about daily, and you’ve set yourself a weight loss goal, then congratulations! You are well on your way to making changes that could positively impact on your life for years to come.
However, sometimes it isn’t quite as easy as deciding that you want something, and then working towards that goal until you reach it. You face roadblocks. Some of these are completely out of your control, which is frustrating. Others are seemingly within your control – like night time snacking for example – but you can’t seem to help yourself. Which is even more frustrating.
If you find that something is holding you back in being able to lose the weight and keep it off for good, it may be that what you are telling yourself about weight loss is the culprit.
The meaning you attach to actions
We tell ourselves a story about everything we do. We attach an emotion to it. And then whatever we experience tends to back this up.
Let’s say for example that we are looking at the language you use when thinking about exercise. If you say to yourself “exercise is torture” then how likely are you to find exercise to be a positive experience when you do take part in it?
Instead, you will probably notice how tight your chest feels when you are out of breath, how uncomfortable it feels when your muscles are burning with exertion, how fatigued you feel afterwards, and how judgemental your fitness instructor was.
So what would happen if you changed the meaning you gave to exercising. What if you told yourself “every minute of exercise is making me healthier and more energetic.” Can you see how you would be more likely to look for signs during the day of your health improving, or your energy levels increasing?
Can you see how you would start to look for opportunities to sneak in extra physical activity into your day? That this change in language could change your thinking so that exercise becomes a positive experience?
At first, it wouldn’t feel genuine. Your new statement is going against a long-held belief that says the opposite. The human brain, however, is incredibly malleable. The more you repeat something, tell yourself something, the more your mind starts to shift to believing this.
A conscious evaluation of the language you use
Once you can get your head wrapped around the idea that your thoughts are under your control, you can start to pay more attention to thoughts that you have during the day. You can then decide whether those thoughts are helping you to reach your goal, or whether they are making it harder for this to happen.
Everyone is different, and so it’s up to you to figure out what it is that you would have to believe in order to attain a certain outcome. Is telling yourself that healthy food is tasteless going to help or hinder you reaching your weight loss goals?
Is telling yourself that you are terrible at planning going to help or hinder you finding recipes appropriate for weight management, writing a grocery list full of healthy fresh ingredients, or deciding on meals and snacks to have through the week?
Does telling yourself you have no self-control help or hinder your capacity for mindful eating, taking your time to savour a delicious meal bite by bite and realising that you can feel satisfied with a much more moderate portion than you are used to?
It can be difficult to get your head around the idea that that the beliefs we have held for so long may be working against us, but what’s the harm in trying it out? Just for today, pay a little more attention to the stories you are telling yourself, whether it is working for or against you in reaching your weight loss goals, and if there’s another story could be telling yourself instead.