Many factors in our modern society make it hard to be a healthy weight. Yet, we blame ourselves for our weight challenges. There is no right answer to losing weight. We have to find our own personal food plan. In the process, be compassionate to yourself and think "just right" thoughts.
but only you can do something about it
As I was entering a woman’s information into the computer at a health fair, I heard her quietly say, “I am so ashamed.”
I was confused as to why this beautiful woman would say such a thing. “You’re so ashamed? Why would you be ashamed?” I asked.
“Did you see my weight?” she explained. I was still confused.
Again I asked,”But, why would you be ashamed of your weight?”
Again, she tried to explain, ”You’re the dietitian, right?” As this was explanation enough. I was still confused.
I didn’t judge her. Actually, I’m one of the few people who actually knows what she is up against.
It’s not her fault that there are so many skillful, marketing pressures to eat highly palatable, processed foods in America.
It’s not her fault that delicious, crave-able processed food hijack her hormonal balance and reward centers of her brain and cause her to gain weight without knowing why.
It’s not her fault that there is so much conflicting information out there about weight loss.
It’s not her fault that she has been taught many erroneous things about willpower and she’s been told to rely on it to lose weight.
It’s not her fault that she may have inherited genes that make her have a hard time feeling full and other genes that make her want to snack all the time.
It’s not her fault that we live in a society where most of the meaningful reasons to move have been engineered out of our lives.
It’s not her fault that people are actively developing super-addictive distractions like smart phones, Facebook, Pinterest, and Netflix.
But before I could grasp what she meant, she was gone. I never got to explain to her why her weight wasn’t her fault, but there were things she could do about it.
I missed my chance with this beautiful woman to explain why we fail at weight loss and what to do about it. I don’t want to miss my chance with you.
It's the Dark Ages
So many of my clients come to me feeling that they have failed when it comes to their weight.
The predominant theory of weight gain that Corporate America sells the general public is that it’s a personal failing. Selling our weight issues as solely our personal responsibility is a brilliant strategy. This way companies can market their versions of “Eat Less, Exercise More” and get you to spend. Also, none of the food manufacturers or fast food companies are then liable for their addictive products and insidious marketing.
But, here’s the thing about weight loss in this Brave New World that we live in...
All of the obesity researchers and public health policy marketers are making it up as they go.
According to the writer, Michael Pollan,
“Nutrition science is where surgery was in about 1650, you know, really interesting and promising, but would you want to have them operate on you yet? I don't think so.”
That is why you get so much conflicting nutrition and weight loss information. Nutrition and obesity sciences are in their infancy. One decade, “All fat is the devil,” and the next decade, it’s just trans/saturated fats.
Who knows what the next decade holds? It’s still the Dark Ages in nutrition science and the gurus are still relying on “leeches and blood-letting” to heal us.
So because even the experts don’t know how to teach people to lose weight and keep it off in our society,
Why should you know?
I don’t expect you to know.
What are You Going to Do About It?
External societal pressures have led us to a weight crisis perfect storm. Obesity experts like Kelly Brownell of Food Fight fame recommends public policy changes like taxes on soda, limits on food advertising, and a national plan to increase physical activity and healthy eating, etc.
But until lawmakers can push the food lobbying groups out of the way and initiate real policy change, each of us has to take responsibility for ourselves and our families.
In my weight loss coaching practice, I take all the information from the diet gurus with a grain of salt, integrating multiple disciplines, and only sharing what has worked for myself and hundreds of my clients.
And ultimately, I get you to test what works for you. I help you come up with your own personal weight loss plan.
It doesn’t matter if Low Carb works for your next door neighbor. The only thing that really matters is if that strategy works for you long-term. Because if that strategy works for 5 million people, but not for you, who cares? We need to find what actually works for you.
Because we all have to come up with our own weight loss solutions, I have found it extremely helpful to teach my clients to view their weight loss journey as an experiment and to view themselves as scientists.
You are not going to get all your habits right the first time. Don’t expect yourself to. Have compassion and patience.
Kristin Neff, PhD, a leading researcher in self-compassion in her book of the same name said,
“We all face setbacks, disappointing moments, and frustrations with our apparent lack of progress. Your attitude toward these setbacks and yourself will be extremely important to your continued progress. Be kind but firm with yourself, and be willing to forgive yourself when you do not live up to your own expectations."
As I mentioned before, there are many factors at work influencing our weight. Be kind to yourself, and realize you aren’t going to get your weight loss habits right the first time.
It’s going to be a process.
The Goldilocks Lens
I have found it helpful for my clients to frame self-compassion as seeing yourself through a “Goldilocks” lens. When thinking about your weight, be compassionate and remember Goldilocks-- not too soft, not too hard, but just right.
Let me explain. In the past, most of us have been too hard on ourselves about our weight.
We think that the reason we need to lose weight is that there is something wrong with us. We berate ourselves for our failures and lack of willpower. In our society, weight loss is framed as a personal failure and we believe it.
We believe that if we aren’t mean to ourselves or aren’t tough on ourselves, we will never lose weight. We are afraid to be self-compassionate.
But, remember, as Kristin Neff shared above, self-criticism isn’t helpful. It’s counterproductive. So, don’t be too hard.
I also don’t want you to be too soft. I don't want you to talk to yourself like you do your best friend.
Because with your best friend, you’re probably a little bit too soft. We give our girlfriends a little bit too much leeway. “Your great. You’re right. You had a bad day. You deserve that. Go for the treat.” We are too soft.
I want you to be just right with yourself. I want you to think about how you might help your own daughter find her way through a problem.
You would say to her, “You’re right. Maybe you did mess up there. That doesn’t make you a bad person—just human. So what are you going to do about it?”
Be compassionate and remember -- not too soft, not too hard, but just right.
When you find yourself blaming and criticizing yourself for your weight, remember that there are many forces behind your weight struggle.
Notice your critical thoughts and then change them to “just right” Goldilocks thoughts--thoughts that propel you forward not stuck in blame and the past.
Until next time,
get the Guide to Losing Weight without Dieting!
What are the secrets of the most successful losers? After coaching hundreds of people, I found these 15 habits and mind shifts in my clients who lose weight and keep it off. Now I'm sharing the guide to losing weight without dieting with you. Get the guide here...
I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?
I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain.
I help you stop the health and weight loss struggles by understanding your brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach you how to put your personalized healthy habits on autopilot for results that last.
I believe that you deserve the health and energy to live your best life.