47. Once You Take REAL Steps Forward, There's No Going Back
Welcome to episode 47 of the Mindful Weight Loss Podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I am talking about what happens when you begin to create real progress in your weight loss journey.
And what I mean by real progress is internal changes that involve how we think and view ourselves. They are identity changes really, and it's these identity changes that stick and produce new lasting behaviors.
Many of the changes we make in attempt to change anything, not just weight loss, they are surface level and external. We start by changing our behavior and we do something like counting calories or intermittent fasting.
But when we make these kinds of surface level changes, it really is so easy to fall off the wagon and go back to our old ways because the new ways are never really ours. And I think that's in part because we would never choose to do them except in order to lose weight. We do things because we think the end justifies the means, but the means aren't something you would ever choose to do for their own sake. In other words, we do things that don't fill our buckets.
And so the problem then is that we don't have any real, internal motivation to do these surface level behaviors. We have to create sort of a fake motivation to get us to do the thing. And that's when we often use negative or away-from motivation to get ourselves to do these things. You tell yourself that calorie counting is the only way you can loose weight and that you can't loose weight otherwise and you make yourself feel guilty if you don't do it. And just like that it becomes a "have to" and a burden. And we're so used to "have to's" and burdens that we don't even recognize this is happening. It's incredibly subtle, but it creates resistance to the very thing we want.
And the other thing is that there is no internal transformation taking place when we do these things. In some rare cases your behaviors can influence and thus change your thoughts and beliefs over time, but most of the time it works the other way around. Your thoughts and feelings - i.e. your motivations - are primary and they are driving your actions.
Consider again calorie counting. I'll grant that by calorie counting you may develop more awareness of your own eating, but since that's not really the end goal, the learning that really happens is about how to become a better calorie counter. You become someone who remembers the calorie counts of food and you develop a routine of meals that you can log easily, etc. But you likely never become someone who no longer needs to count calories. And that in itself reinforces the idea that you aren't really capable of becoming someone new. You will always need the crutch of calorie counting because your weight will never cease to be a problem.
Contrast this with an internal behavior like learning not to feel guilty about eating. This obviously isn't just a surface level change because the very act requires that you change your thoughts. And at the outset this is more difficult than logging calories, but once the evolution occurs, there's no more work to be done and so there can be no falling off the wagon.
And once you experience that kind of internal change, that's when there's no way you would ever consider going back to your old ways. I'm sure there are people who wish they didn't have to count calories in order to lose or maintain their weight. But I can't even begin to imagine that someone who stops feeling guilty about food would ever wish they could go back to feeling guilty.
And it's the same thing with learning to listen to your body and to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. I can't conceive of anybody who has done that and wishes they could unlearn that. It just doesn't compute and I think that's because these kinds of behaviors are truly second nature; they are instinctive. You were created to listen to your body, you weren't created to count macros.
And so when you consider actions you might take to promote weight loss, these are the things to consider:
1. Would I want to do this even if it didn't promote weight loss? Is the behavior valuable in and of itself and would I have motivation to do it if weight loss wasn't an issue?
For example, if you magically woke up tomorrow at your ideal weight and knew that you would never again be overweight no matter what, would you still want to learn how to stop binge eating? Probably. And would you still want to count calories or log your food in an app? Probably not.
2. Does the action promote internal change and evolution?
If you are changing thoughts rather than just behaviors, then you're on the right track. And anytime you are changing a behavior, purposely bring your thoughts into the equation. Don't just exercise, consider what thoughts that behavior can help you promote and then focus on those thoughts every time you do exercise.
3. Is the action second nature? Is it something instinctive?
Listening to our bodies is instinctive. And you know what else is instinctive? Building and creating things. There's a reason building blocks, legos and craft supplies never go out of style, and that's because everyone loves to build and create. And this is some of the most powerful energy you can tap into because you can turn everything into a positive project of your creation.
This is why I think some who lose weight successfully become life-long athletes. Not only is exercise valuable regardless of weight loss, it's also instinctive. We instinctively want to move our bodies AND we instinctually want to improve them. And when the focus stops being on diminishing your body and becomes instead about building your strength or your endurance, that taps into our instinctual desire for creation and progress. This is the positive side of dopamine; the one that get's you excited about setting goals and making plans.
And when you take yourself on as your own project in a way that is loving and positive, that is the most satisfying thing. And as someone who has done this work to transform my own mind and who continues to do this every day, I know how good it feels to change internally and in a way that's intentional. It's one thing to decide to count calories for 30 days straight and then to achieve that. I won't deny that something like that takes work and commitment and is an accomplishment. But it's another thing to decide to change your beliefs; to change your identity and then to achieve that. That is an accomplishment on another level and because of that the benefits are also so much greater.
And I also know that each of us is not just capable of this, it's what we're wired to do. You have an innate desire to build and create and make progress in your life, and it's just waiting for you to tap into it. And when you take actions that help transform you from the inside out into who you want to become, there's no going back.
I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you take really good care of yourself. I will see you next week.