The fact that people continue to smoke cigarettes defies logic, given the enormous amount of harm it does to an individual. Similarly, people who are overweight continue along their current path despite the frequent new studies about the dangers of being overweight. There is an obesity epidemic in America -- clearly there is more than just too many french fries going on for these individuals.
"Agreed," say life coaches Lauren Zander and Meredith Haberfeld, principals of the Personal Evolution Group (www.personal-evolution.com), who spoke with me about why people are not dealing with the very real danger that excess weight presents. According to them, the situation of too many pounds isn't a matter of yet another diet. "It isn't about cheesecake," said Lauren. Rather it is about individuals who do not feel proud of themselves in general, be it their bodies or their station in life, which in turn makes them feel like they cannot control their lives nor do anything to change the situation. Lauren and Meredith work with their clients to help them understand that they indeed are the only ones in control of their bodies and their lives and they can lose weight once they understand what is driving them to eat unhealthfully in the first place.
LEARN THAT YOU CAN TAKE CHARGE
Having what you want in all areas of your life is about integrity, or doing what you say you will do. Food is just one measurable example of the bigger picture. Interestingly, learning to keep your word with regard to what you do or do not eat and whether or not you control your weight is a building block to all of your other dreams. When you learn to honor your body you will also learn to honor the other hopes and dreams you have in your life, since, as you will see, being at a healthy weight is simply another item on a person's list of hopes and dreams.
The first step in losing weight, therefore, is to take ownership of your choice to lose weight and of your body. There is some number on the scale and an image you want to see when you look in the mirror that will delight you. This is not based on what other people think -- it is the number on the scale and the way of looking that makes you happy. Not achieving these goals holds back your self-confidence.
Step two, says Lauren, is for a person to accept the body that he/she was given -- and work with it. "Many people actually separate themselves mentally from their body because they feel they "got stuck" with the one they have, rather than having had a choice in getting the one they would have preferred," explains Lauren.
The problem is exacerbated by a more general resentment about being stuck with life and having had no choice or control about that either. The way these "victims" express their resentment is through resistance, breaking rules like teenagers who act out. You hear this all the time in attitudes of "who cares," "have another drink" and, for our purposes here, "but I like doughnuts." By numbing themselves through thoughtless eating, people further separate themselves from their bodies.
MAKING THE SHIFT
The question to ask yourself, then, is this: What number and picture do you carry in your mind? Remember, that number is the number that makes you feel great and confident -- it is not about being a cover model. It's crucial when you answer this to be absolutely honest -- no attempts to deny or justify why you aren't there. Then, once you have your number and image, it must become a part of your life, much like brushing your teeth is a part of your life.
This is not about dieting, it is about making a promise to yourself and learning to keep that promise. Making promises to yourself and keeping them is the foundation for having what you want in every area of your life. Food and diet is a relatively easy and visible place to practice making these promises to yourself. This is not a superficial gesture, Lauren emphasizes, because reaching your weight goal shows you that you can meet your own ideal.
In fact, weight loss is a particularly dramatic act because it is such visible evidence that shows change is possible and that you can affect it. So, each day you brush your teeth and you follow your food promises. If you break your food promises, look at the excuses you told yourself as to why you chose to eat dessert or have a second helping and then go back and reaffirm the weight you intend to be and how you are going to get there.
Of course making these promises are easier said than done. It takes considerable focus and effort and many find they are better able to do this by working with a life coach or other professionals who understand food addiction and weight issues.
In particular, Meredith explains that successful weight loss also requires investigating your dysfunctional relationship with food. All overweight people have a personal history with food that they've turned into a running saga, she says, a character-filled drama that goes back to childhood and sticks in memory with perpetual thorns.
Your task now is to dislodge these thorns, watching for how you connect other people to your food choices, which in turn gives it disproportionate power over your life. As an example, rather than admitting that you are choosing to eat oversized portions, you may connect eating with being safe.
By seeing the saga you have been living in, you can then see that you are not just a character in your drama -- you are in fact its author. And, most important, you are now free to construct a new life for yourself. You can dismantle the old stories that were never true and create new ones about the role food plays in your life, creating positive associations with the right foods and no longer "medicating yourself" with the wrong ones.
Once you accept and embrace being the one in charge, you are ready to get down to the business of reaching your weight-loss goal. Lauren advises starting small. Set a few new rules each week. For the first week, for example, you might limit bread and desserts to no more than twice a week. Next you might eliminate them completely and add in more fruits and vegetables, and so on.
Throughout, however, keep a list of what you are eating. This will make you more mindful about your choices and help you spot potential problem areas. People who have more than 20 pounds to lose may need to get a coach or join a group such as Greysheet, a branch of Overeaters Anonymous, says Lauren. She recommends it as an excellent, though admittedly intense, way to overcome personal food addictions.
Being in charge of being in a body you love is win-win in every way. Lauren reports that people find having accomplished it makes everything get better. Besides improving your health, it energizes your confidence and understanding that you can do well for yourself. Once that is in motion, she adds, it carries over to the other areas of your life. If you start to measure how much you suffer because you don't love your body, you understand this is about happiness, not dieting.