Sometimes people assume that all this healthy eating, fat loss lifestyle stuff is always easy for me now. Yes, I have been “successful” in my fat loss journey. I’ve lost 140 lbs and transformed my body. But I have a long history of disordered eating, binge eating, crash dieting, insecurity and major self-esteem issues. Much of my healthy lifestyle is easier than it has ever been, but I have issues, too.
There are still weak spots. There are still temptations. There are still rough days and challenging weeks. There always will be. Don’t put me, or anyone else, on a pedastal as if we have it all figured out. The difference for me now is that I am much more AWARE of my issues and I create and implement strategies to help me overcome them. In the past, I let my weaknesses rule over me. They always won because I didn’t take control. I didn’t plan for them and I didn’t strategize against them. Now, I do.
Here’s an example of something that is still a struggle for me: I eat clean most of the time and I workout pretty hard. When I don’t see changes in my body I can get pretty frustrated. Sure, logically I realize that it takes a long time to actually *see* the results of our hard work looking back at us in the mirror. I get that. But I’m human and I can easily get frustrated if I feel stuck. Sometimes this is a fleeting feeling that only lasts a minute. Othertimes it lingers for days or even weeks. When the frustration lingers, I start to slip into old, negative mindset patterns.
I’ll start to tell myself that my approach isn’t working or that my effort isn’t worth anything. I’ll try to convince myself to give in to the ice cream or the pizza because it will “shock my body” and maybe jumpstart my results. I argue with myself that way because it has worked before. My subconscious remembers which arguments have worked before and always goes to those first. I lie to myself in that way because I know I’ve responded to those lies before. It’s how I talk myself into eating in a way that doesn’t make me feel good or acting in a way that isn’t aligned with my goals.
But, like I said, knowing my pattern, knowing when & how I fall into old, unhealthy routines is incredibly powerful. As soon as I start to get frustrated or have those feelings of being dissatisfied with my progress I go on high alert. I know that if I don’t change something (like, the way I’m thinking) I’ll find myself at the bottom of that ugly, unhealthy rabbit hole. And that usually looks like sitting alone in my office with a pint of ice cream, red velvet cake and a bag of Pita chips, feeling completely miserable. Of course I could easily slip back into the old way of thinking and acting. I have 20+ years of routine behind me. But I actively stand guard, identify those trouble spots and choose a different path. Each time I do it, those old patterns lose their power and my new habits become more deeply engrained.
So here’s what I do to fight against my known weaknesses and trouble spots:
- I change my thought process – IMMEDIATELY.
Even if my frustration is real (and if it often is), I know that it brings me down a slippery slope so I consciously choose to change my focus. If I’m staring at myself in the mirror feeling like my body isn’t reflecting my efforts, I use that as a trigger to think about positive changes that HAVE happened. I’ll remind myself that I recently ran the fastest mile I’ve ever run. I’ll remind myself of just how far I’ve come over my 140 lb weight loss journey. I’ll go back and look at my heaviest pictures and choose to acknowledge the hard work and effort that went into my transformation. I’ll remind myself of all the times I’ve chosen my goals over the impulse to emotionally eat or binge. Even if these replacement thoughts don’t feel as exciting or genuine as they always do, I go through this process anyway.
- I brace myself for the arguments I have with myself.
I KNOW that when I start to feel frustrated I’m likely to start convincing myself to give in to unhealthy habits. Reminding myself to expect that helps those arguments become far less powerful and increases my resolve against them. It’s kind of the new me versus the old me. I prepare the new me for the old me to come out and fight and then the new me is ready for battle instead of already surrendered. “Here comes that fat, unhappy, sad & lonely Elizabeth. She’s loud but don’t give her any power!!!”
- I create an alternative response to my frustration.
The old programming still lingering in my head tells me to respond to frustration by falling into old, unhealthy habits. When there isn’t an alternative, it’s a lot more challenging to resist that old programming. When I notice that I’m starting to feel frustrated, I will consciously choose a different response to have on hand when I’m tempted to overeat or binge. Sometimes I’ll realize that my frustration is tied to fatigue or having pushed too hard so I’ll make a plan to commit to getting more sleep. Othertimes I’ll plan to call my coach or a close friend and share my frustrations with them before acting on any impulse to overeat. Usually they are quick to remind me that resisting these old habits will only make me stronger & better. They also often point out progress I’m making that maybe I haven’t seen or recognized. No matter what the plan is, I always make sure to have one.
I really just want to emphasize that you don’t need superhuman will to make healthy changes in your life. Those of us who have made radical change don’t have any skills or talents that you don’t inherently have, too. We just work on awareness, focus and replacing old patterns with new ones. But, as I always say, please please please don’t try to take on the world in one giant step. Identify ONE area where you can improve and practice it until it becomes habitual and nearly effortless. Then, and only then, take on more. You CAN do this!!!
If you feel like you can relate to this, check out these two podcast episodes. Click the link and hit “play”. They might be just what you need to make progress towards your NEW self today.
You’re Making it Worse
How To Hack Your Habits