8. How to Make New Year's Resolutions Work
Welcome to episode 8 of the Mindful Weight Loss podcast. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you if you have subscribed. Thank you if you have left a review. Thank you for being open to new ideas. And most of all, thank you for listening to your gut and knowing that despite past failed attempts, you are meant to lose weight, you are meant to put an end to overeating. Your mere belief in the possibility of that possibility even when you might not know the how, that's huge! You deserve credit for that. And I promise that when you get to the other side so to speak. When you reach your goal, you will look back on that faith in yourself as perhaps the most important part of this whole journey. Despite evidence to the contrary, you listened to that small voice inside to keep going.
That little voice needs to be strengthened in order to stop overeating and lose weight - that connection with yourself, that inner-knowing and that faith that it will happen.
And today we are talking about how to do that in the context of New Years Resolutions.
Now, I actually think resolutions and goals are wonderful. But, I have to admit that the way so many of us tend to approach New Years Resolutions isn't the best. We tend to expect some kind of immediate transformation to take place on January 1 which isn't realistic. And we tend to demand perfection. We imagine being a completely different person once the clock strikes midnight and then when we don't completely sustain the changes we wanted to make, we give up that hope that we had in December that we can actually change and go back to our old ways. And that giving up part is painful.
So why then do so many of us continue this painful cycle year after year? What is it about New Years resolutions that are so appealing? It's that hope - that same hope that has brought you to this podcast and I would say that it's even deeper than hope. I think it's that inner-knowing that your life really can be different. And when we visualize the future that we know deep down is possible, it feels amazing. That pleasure of contemplating and actually feeling the future you want. It's glorious.
That is what's wonderful about new years resolutions - that positive forward thinking that feels so good. And that's that part I DO NOT want you to get rid of. You can use this forward-looking pattern of positive thought to your benefit and in fact you need this kind of future focus in order to lose weight.
Step 1: So, don't stop dreaming about your amazing, bright future. If anything we need to start dreaming and visualizing more. Don't wait until December to think about the future you want to create. Think about your future daily and use those good thoughts and feelings to motivate you to actually perform the actions and behaviors that will help get you there.
Step 2: Dial down your desired behaviors. And yes, that is really just a fancy way for staying start small, but I think when we phrase it in this way it's more appealing. Nobody wants to start small, even though that is the way to create change, but if we can focus instead on working up to that bigger desired behavior, we feel better about what we're doing.
So, say in 2021 you want to start exercising. When you dream about your future you see someone who walks for an hour every single day. So start with just 5 or 10 minutes each day so you can ease yourself into this new behavior. And that doesn't mean you can only do 5 or 10 minutes. When you're motivated and have the time, do the hour, but then on those days when you aren't feeling great, just do the 5 minutes and call that success. And believe that is success! Celebrate yourself for that effort, that consistency.
This is how you build from hope to belief. You create evidence that you are creating that change and you see that evidence on purpose. You actively look for your success so you can keep your good feelings and motivation going, so you will continue with your behavior change. And when you keep that up, things start to snowball. And then it's just a matter of time before the physical changes you were after start to manifest. The walks get easier and more enjoyable. That 5 minutes turns into a solid 20 minutes on days when you're not feeling it, and you generally have more energy and feel like a more active person.
And that leads me right into step 3 which is: Don't take score so soon.
How many times has this happened to you? You go on a diet, follow it to the letter for a few days, maybe even for a whole week, and you get on the scale to validate your hard work, but the scale doesn't move, or doesn't move as much as you'd like, or worse, it actually goes up. And then you decide that the hard work isn't worth it and you quit.
Now I used following a diet for the sake of the example. But let's say you're doing my course and instead of dieting you are creating and following your food plan each day. The same thing can happen. You follow it for a week, get through some tough cravings without binging and you are incredibly proud of yourself. But then you don't see the corresponding result on the scale and you get completely deflated, depressed even. And because you didn't get the proof that you were after, you start to question everything - your commitment, whether it's working, etc. And if you keep on down that path you will very likely create evidence to support that doubt. You'll eat off plan or you won't even create a plan, because why bother if it doesn't really work, and then you start overeating more and I think you can see where this is going.
And it's all because you felt the need for that external evidence, for that number on the scale to prove to you that you are actually changing, when instead you could just be amazing proud of what you know you accomplished.
Weight is fickle and will fluctuate, because of so many things that have nothing to do with whether you are losing fat from your body - things like hormones, sale intake, how hydrated you are, how regular you are, whether you are building muscle or worked out the day before, and so many other things that we aren't even aware of. So don't pin all your hopes to that measurement. It will never be a direct correlation to the work you put into it. And because of that, if you want to be successful, you have to let the behaviors be the end goal and know that the weight will catch up to you eventually.
And I want to clarify that I'm not advising you not to weigh yourself and not to follow those longer term trends that do indicate wether your plan is working for you or not. I'm advising you not to let the scale rob you of your success. When you know deep down that you are changing, that you are thinking differently and behaving differently, revel in that and have faith that the scale will catch up. Have faith that your external world will start to catch up to your internal world.
And so don't just keep score by the scale. You decide whether you were successful based on your actions and let the scale be what it may. Don't let the scale rob you of your real achievements.
And that brings us to the final step, number 4, which is to stop sacrificing the now for the future.
Yes, we want to dream about our amazing future, but not at the expense of right now which is where so many of us make such a pivotal mistake. We think that if we keep our heads down and just grit our teeth we can accomplish our goals and then we'll be happy.
But that's a trap because suffering will never see you through to the end. Suffering is the opposite of motivating. Suffering doesn't teach you how to live a happily ever after, it just teaches you how to suffer. Even if you are able to suffer your way to your goal, you won't have learned how to be happy without extra food, so then you'll try to be happy and start gaining weight again.
The quickest way to change into your happy future self is to practice being that happy future self right this very minute. And, no you can't wave a magic wand to get to your goal weight, but you can think, feel and behave in a way that is very much like that person right now. You can practice thinking positive thoughts and practice feeling happy and satisfied and proud of yourself. And then you'll be more motivated to engage in behaviors that reinforce those positive thoughts and feelings.
And here's where this can all magically come together. You can cultivate those happy feelings by thinking about your future in a positive way. Go back to step 1 and visualize the heck out of your amazing new life.
Our brains don't know the difference between real and imagined events so when you really immerse yourself in that future, when you really visualize it and feel it, it is like it's really happening. It feels really good, and it's highly motivating.
Think about it. The only reason you want to do something is to create a state of mind; to create a feeling. You want to lose weight because you believe that you will feel great once you lose the weight. But you can actually give yourself that feeling right now.
The key is to sustain that feeling and that faith in that future with the other steps.
Dream, but then keep your behaviors small and easy, and don't look back to the scale or the mirror or anything else in this physical reality to validate that you are moving toward that dream. And don't compare this reality to that future reality. Don't sacrifice now for later. Let them both exist simultaneously and let them both be good. Be as proud of yourself on the way to your goal as you are at that goal, prouder even because you are actually creating the change right now.
As I continue to teach this material I am so often struck at how much of a win-win, too-good-to-be-true scenario this is. Learning to lose weight, is really about learning to feel good right now. I'm serious, that really is it in a nutshell. Ponder that, think about these steps that I've given you, and go out and make a New Year's resolution that feels good, and that you can feel good about while you are working towards it.
Take care and I'll see you next week!