Hey you, stop trying to lose weight

If you’re trying to lose weight, stop it. The longer you try, the longer you’ll be trying. Which means you won’t actually lose the weight.

(I know…what the flip are you talking about, Heather?)

Let’s look at it this way. Imagine you’re standing at the altar, next to your beloved. When asked about good times and bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, you say, “I do.” Your partner says…I’ll try.

Why is this a problem?

Because “try” usually means we have little faith that we can follow through. Think about it.

“I’m trying to exercise for 30 minutes every other day.”

“I’ll try to get home by 6pm.”

“I’m trying to not eat sugar.”

What we generally mean when we say we’re trying is that we think we should be doing something, maybe we even want to do something, but we’re not sure we can do it. So, we hedge our bets. And at least we can say we tried. But deep down we don’t feel any better about it.

You often feel worse than if you hadn’t even tried. Why?

Because if you try and fail, over and over, you feel like a failure. But if you remove the word “try,” then you have to commit, which is scary. If you say you’ll do something but don’t, you feel out of integrity with yourself. But if you don’t commit at all, does that mean you’ll never reach your goals? Possibly.

If you catch yourself saying “I’m trying to lose weight” (or trying to do anything) ask what you really mean by that. Is it simply a turn of phrase that has little bearing on the outcome, meaning when you say you’re trying to exercise 30 minutes every other day that you’re actually following through? Or do you say it when there’s a 50/50 chance of doing it? Or a long shot?

If it’s one of the latter two, ask yourself why you’re “trying” whatever it is. Do you feel obligated? Maybe over-scheduled? On a scale from 1-10, how compelling is your reason for trying? Using that same scale, how committed are you to following through? Those two numbers will tell you whether:

  1. It’s really important, but you feel you don’t have space for it.
  2. You have time for it, but don’t really want to do it.
  3. Worst case scenario: it feels like an obligation and your calendar is packed with other more important things.
  4. Best case scenario: it’s really important to you and you have room in your calendar, but you still don’t feel like doing it. (Crazy, right?)

Whichever it is, stop trying. Determine the level of importance and ask yourself what you’re willing to commit to. Start small and follow through. Gradually build up the confidence in yourself, that you do what you say you’ll do. Even if the commitment is only to yourself.

P.S. If you’re seriously frustrated that you’re not following through on the things you know would help you drop the weight, let’s talk.

Weight Loss as a Happy Side Effect

It’s probably not what you want to hear. But once you believe it, and live it, you experience it. I promise.

You see, I lost 12 lbs. last year without trying.

At 51.

In menopause.

Damn.

How? I decided what taking even better care of myself would look like, gradually implementing new behaviors and altering old patterns. It sounds simple. And it was. Seriously.

I’m not saying to never have a weight loss or “size” goal. But if that’s the only thing you’re going for, it’s hard to stay motivated. If weight loss is the only effect, and not a side effect, it’s too easy to quit the minute your friend brings over cookies as a thank you for loaning her your car last week.

Or, if despite all your efforts, the weight isn’t coming off fast enough, or not at all, thoughts like “I’m not losing weight, so I might as well have another glass of wine” start traipsing through your mind.

And you’re back to square one.

What if instead you focused on non-scale victories. I asked a group of clients recently about the effects they were noticing and they said things like increased confidence. An ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings and not get swallowed up by them. A health problem was no longer a problem.  A quieted mind. Feeling like herself again.

Try it. Go ahead and keep the number goal, but focus on all the things. Imagine, you start exercising consistently. After a few weeks you can keep up with your best friend on your walks together. Two flights of stairs up to your office that used to wind you are now effortless.

Or you keep hydrated with water and remove sugary snacks, noticing you’re no longer jittery and on-edge at work.  Your choices give you steady energy that don’t mess with your blood-sugar.

Make a detailed list of all the benefits. In that way you literally build the case for your desired behaviors, as though you’re an attorney arguing the benefits of healthy habits.

Here’s the thing: the more short-term benefits you identify, the easier it is to keep taking the actions that will produce the results you want. Including the side effect of weight loss.

I lost 12 lbs. without trying. At 51. In menopause. But, my focus wasn't on the scale. Weight loss was a side effect of my actual focus.

Back to the 12 lbs. I didn’t try to lose it, but if you’d asked me back then I’d have said “I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds.” Had my focus been on the weight, I never would have lost the weight. Partly because I didn’t think I had it to lose (“this is just how my body wants to be”) and because it happened gradually. (I don’t weigh myself regularly, which I’ll talk about in my next post on “Are you using the scale wrong?”)

I focused on all the non-scale victories because they were truly what I wanted. I’d keep up with my habits with or without the weight loss. Because I’m stronger. Because all my blood work shows I’m in incredible health. Because I feel amazing. The 12 lbs. are a happy side effect.

Do you want to lose weight without trying? Let’s talk!

Are you focusing on the wrong things?

Ever notice that when you decide to lose weight things get in the way? You wake up Monday to a busted water heater, and your plan to begin exercising that morning evaporates. The CEO calls you into a lunch meeting and you’re starving. Your plan for a salad vanishes with nothing but croissant sandwiches in front of you. You had every intention of doing the right thing, and it felt like forces were conspiring against you.

What you focus on in those moments makes all the difference.

Focus on what’s going wrong and you’ll get more of it. Focus on what’s right, and you’ll get more of that, too. It’s like my 3 questions that stop you from losing weight: choose your focus to choose your result.

“Yeah, I’ve heard it before… think positively… blah blah blah.”

Trust me. It’s not about pretending everything’s awesome when it’s not. (By the way, it’s not supposed to be awesome all the time. It’s called life, right?)

It’s about focusing on what will get you the result you want. To lose weight you’ve got to focus on what will get you there. Not what won’t.

To lose weight and keep it off, look at where you’re focused. Is it on: What you shouldn’t eat? What you have to do? Shift focus for a better result.
Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

Our brains are wired to move towards what we focus on. It’s the neurological pathway. Our thoughts and beliefs generate feelings, which bring about our behavior. And behavior – ta da – produces a result.

Ever notice that if something unexpected – like the hot water heater – happens in the morning, it’s easy to let it ruin our day. It doesn’t even have to be that big of a deal. You can spill coffee on your blouse, misplace the car keys, and hit unusual traffic. You’re greeted at the office with “Morning. How ya doing?” and you launch into all that’s gone wrong so far.

You’re actually looking for more things to go wrong. We say things like “What next?” and “That sure got my day off to a great start (note sarcasm).” And most of the time, we get what we look for. And we readily retell the story.

So unhelpful!

To lose weight and actually keep it off, look at where you’re focused. Is it on:

  • What you shouldn’t eat? You’ll find that you want more of it. It’s like telling a kid “don’t touch that.” What does she do? Right.
  • What you “have” to do? We’re autonomous individuals and don’t want to “have” to do anything.
  • Kicking yourself for overeating? This leads to “what’s the use” and we continue the cycle.
  • Wondering why you gained a pound when you did everything right yesterday? The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

Instead, what if you focus on:

  • What you want to eat: Make a list of all the foods you love that help you lose weight and consider how lucky are you to get to eat these foods.
  • What you “get” to do: You are in full control. There is no rule you have to obey. It’s always your call.
  • What you really need: When you overeat, ask yourself why. Get to the core of what you really need. I promise you, it’s not food.
  • Changes you can’t see: When you’re taking positive actions, trust that your body is making changes at the cellular level. You can’t see them on the scale day-to-day. Focus on the action. If overtime the scale doesn’t move, re-evaluate. It’s just an objective number. Not a measurement of your worth. And it can’t discount your efforts.

If you’re focused on the wrong things, you’re white knuckling and struggling to take the right actions. If you’re focused on the right things, you feel a greater ease and enjoyment. No, I’m not promising unicorns and rainbows. But it’s so much better. That I promise.

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