We all have stories about who we are that we’ve picked up from our childhood, culture, experience, and general observation of the world. It guides us in how we should be showing up to fit in and belong, which is a huge evolutionary drive. But the problem is these stories have never been fact-checked or authenticated.
To change your habits, whether it’s feeling instead of eating, or daring to keep going instead of giving up when it gets hard, we’ve got to spend time investigating the stories that are no longer serving you. We have to let go of what has become a nuisance to us and stretch ourselves to believe new stories, and I’m showing you how.
Tune in this week as I offer questions to help you identify and let go of unhelpful stories so you can start creating new ones that serve you on your weight and health journey. I’m showing you why we don’t notice the stories that keep us stuck, and how to approach yourself with compassion and curiosity as you do this work.
This is Weight Loss Success, with Natalie Brown, episode 109.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.
Hello everybody. As I mentioned before, several times, I work out at Orange Theory Fitness, and I’ve been, I don’t know, probably for like six years so far. I love it for so many reasons. One of them is that I know every time I go, I’m going to get a full-body workout. In order to accomplish this, we use different machines, dumbbells, Bose balls, medicine balls, TRX straps, which are long straps of handles anchored to the wall about eight feet up. You can use them to do pullups, chest presses, low rows, all sorts of exercises using your own body weight.
The other day as I was doing low rows, in essence holding tension in the strap while I leaned all the way back and then pulled myself in and out. I thought if I let go, I would just fall straight onto my back because my feet are not underneath me as I do this. They’re in front of me, closer to the wall. I’m leaning back, relying on my strength and on these straps to keep me from falling. In order to let go, I have to walk my feet back underneath me so that there’s slack in the straps, and then I can stand up and let go.
This is what the process of letting go of old stories we’ve been telling about ourselves forever is like. We really have to lean in get our feet beneath us in order to be able to let go. If we try when there’s still truth and tension in the story, if you will, we’ll fall flat on our backs. We all have stories we tell about who we are and why we are that we’ve picked up from our childhoods, from our culture, from our families, our experiences, our observations of the world. That’s kind of how we shape our view of the world with stories.
We have stories about what a good daughter is, what a good mom is, what the right thing is, how we should behave in certain situations, what we should think, what we should do, look like, eat, want, have, be, weigh, all of those things. The stories we tell ourselves help us to know how to show up because one of the strongest evolutionary drives we have is to belong, to be accepted, to fit in.
So, if we do all the things we’re supposed to do and show up according to our stories, we believe we will belong, we will fit in, we’ll be accepted. The problem is our stories have not been fact-checked. They have not been authenticated. Not all of them are relevant or helpful, or true. Many of them contradict each other or are impossible or do nothing but cause us pain.
But since they’ve always just kind of been there, we don’t really question whether or not they should still be there. You know when you put a pile of mail somewhere that you’re definitely going to go through later. Then later never comes, that pile just becomes a part of the desk or counter or table it landed on? Or, maybe you’re familiar with this scenario, you put an empty laundry basket or a pair of shoes on the stairs for the child who owns them to take up with them to their room when they go so you don’t have to.
Then, it becomes invisible somehow, and the child never sees it or never takes it up to their room. So, then you take it upstairs, and you put it in front of their door, so they’ll have to put it away for sure, and then they just step over it for five days instead? No? Just me? Okay, maybe I have the laziest children around. It’s possible.
Here’s another example, I have a rolling whiteboard/flip chart easel that I use with clients on occasion. I have it near my desk so that when I need it, it’s easy to just get up and grab and use it. Because of where it’s situated, every time I come in my office to set at my desk, I have to kind of go sideways and sort of shimmy past it and step over it. And I’ve been doing that for like two years. No joke.
A couple of weeks ago, I was like, okay, why am I doing this? I use this board like two times a month if that, and it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal to go grab it when I need it if it was a little farther away and not blocking my path. So, I rolled it six feet further away, and now I can just walk around my desk and sit down. It’s so easy for these little things that are just slightly annoying or inconvenient to just blend into the scenery so that you don’t even notice them. However, they’re still there bugging you, unsettling you, causing anxiety, just under the radar.
This is what some of those old stories have become a nuisance, but a part of the scenery of our minds to the point that we don’t really recognize they are a play day-to-day in our lives. The stories about our identity, our value, our worth, our capabilities, our limits, our weaknesses; these are the stories we are holding the most tension on. These are the stories we feel that if we just let go of, we will fall flat on our backs because we don’t know who we are without them.
We don’t know what is expected of us and, therefore, how to show up the right way without them. This is why it’s usually wise to get some slack in the strap, to lean in with curiosity before we try to stand up and let go. Just as a side note, I use this term, let go intentionally here. I often hear people use terms like, get rid of, stop believing, or be done with when we are talking about stories that don’t serve us. Still, I really like the idea of letting go or releasing our grip versus stopping doing something. It feels different, more gentle, and more empowered.
Letting go feels like a choice, your choice, whereas stopping feels like being acted upon by an outside force. I always prefer the language to be a little more gentle and kind and compassionate, especially when we’re talking about the judgmental stories and critical stories and unkind stories that we like to see change the most. So, where do we even begin? Most of us are unaware of unhelpful stories that we are telling about ourselves.
So, if that’s the case, you can start by asking yourself some questions. Like, what is a good blank, and insert the name of any role you identify within your life. That will give you some important information about the expectations you have for yourself in terms of how you show up in each role and a pretty good idea of when you believe you are falling short. You can also ask questions like, what makes me valuable? What makes me worthy?
If you don’t believe you are either of those things, your brain will tell you that story, and then you’ll know what the story is. Am I good enough/smart enough/whatever enough? Why not? How can I be blank enough? How do I feel about my body? How do I feel about my weight? What does the number I see on the scale mean about me? Answering these questions will begin to reveal some stories you’ve been telling and believing that have been running in the background of your life, taking up space, complicating things, making it harder for you, creating tension.
Being critical and judgmental of our stories just increases the tension. In the example of me and the TRX straps at Orange Theory, I imagine that criticism or judgment is like me walking my feet even closer to the wall and even farther away from me. Right? Even farther away from my body. So, it’s making me rely more and more on the straps and my arms and hands and making it a possibility of collapse and pain even greater.
Compassion and curiosity are the antidotes to criticism and judgment. So, once you start to see your stories applying some curiosity and compassion to them, that’s how we start to create slack in the straps so that we can eventually stand up straight and move forward and create new stories. Compassion and curiosity sound like, what’s behind it? Why do you believe this? How long have you been believing this? Is it true? What’s the source of this information? Where did this story come from? Who says?
Why does this feel true or important? Is it helpful? How does this story make you feel, and what do you do with that feeling? Is it kind? Once we have an idea or a little background information and context for our stories, it’s a little easier to understand and start to create some space or some slack between us and these stories we always told about ourselves. I just read another awesome book from Jon Acuff.
He’s the author of Finish I’ve talked about before on the podcasts. This one’s called Soundtracks, and it’s about overthinking and how these stories or soundtracks obviously as he refers to them inform how we show up in our lives and as per usual with him he gives some practical advice as to what we do with our broken soundtracks with a bunch of humor. He’s just, his humor is right up my alley. I think it’s part of why I love him so much.
Most of my clients want to rid themselves of the stories that aren’t helpful. They want to turn off their broken soundtracks flip a switch so they won’t ever have to hear them again. Seems like this is most people, not just my clients, since Jon addresses this in the book. He’s in a confrontation with a friend David Thomas who says people want there to be a switch. It’s not a switch, though. It’s a dial. The goal isn’t to turn it off forever. The goal is to turn down the volume.
It’s going to get louder sometimes, that’s how dials work, but when life turns up, the negative thoughts we get to turn them down. Jon then writes when you live with a switch mentality, you set yourself up for automatic failure because it triggers the perfectionist soundtrack, right? Which basically has us believing that there’s a right switch and that the right switch is the answer. Then, we search everywhere for that perfect diet, exercise, book or breathing technique, or whatever that will make the soundtrack go away forever.
The alternative is learning how to turn down the dial on the soundtrack. Having a few turn-down techniques that you can use in a variety of contexts. They are things you can do to turn down the volume on your loud, unhelpful, unkind stories when they come up. It can be movement going for a walk or a run, doing some stretches while playing your favorite song, taking a shower or bath, or maybe it’s a change of scenery like going for a drive in the car with the windows down, or it could be doing a puzzle or something artistic or creative or learning something new about something you’re interested in from a podcast or a YouTube video.
The goal isn’t to distract or ignore the unhelpful, unkind stories but rather to disrupt the overthinking on repeat. I always like to turn down with the goal of getting some space from the looping thoughts in order to try on something else. So, it’s not just that I’m trying to get away in order to not think about this, but it’s like I want to put a little bit of space between me and those thoughts to try on some different things as well.
I like to try on new stories that I can also believe are true but are helpful and kind as well. Sometimes I look at the flip side of my story or the opposite. Jon says the flipside of criticism is curiosity. The flipside of saying no is yes. The flipside of declaring why it won’t work is discovering why it could, but keep this in mind notice I said try on new stories that I can also believe are true. We’re not trying to pretend we believe the new story.
As Jon says, you never beat an old lie with a new lie. Replacing a broken soundtrack doesn’t mean faking a new one. So, as you’re trying out new stories, make sure you can buy in somewhat, or it just won’t stick. Now, to be clear, telling yourself a new story will feel awkward anyway, right? It may even feel a little bit like a lie, but I love this insight from the book. You feel like a liar. It’s weird to say things about yourself that aren’t true yet. What’s funny, though, is that if you’re an overthinker, you’ve already done that exact same thing for years. You just haven’t noticed it because you weren’t saying them out loud.
So, for example, everyone is trying to take advantage of me is every bit as big a lie as I take pride in my appearance. Still, one has played a thousand times without me ever once calling it out because it’s hidden under the cloak of an internal thought. That, to me, is hugely helpful to think about. It may be a stretch or a challenge to believe a new story because we don’t have piles of evidence that it’s true yet, but how many of your old stories are lies too?
How many of them are things you have little or no proof of? I will never figure this out is one I hear a lot. It’s something you may tell yourself 15 times a week about your health or your weight loss journey, but there’s no way you can know that for sure because you can’t predict the future. So, who’s to say I’m going to figure this out, or I won’t stop until I figure this out can’t also be true, and how different does it feel to tell one of those stories instead of I’ll never figure this out. More helpful? More kind? For sure.
Once you’ve built up a small cache of new stories that move you forward, it’s just about practicing them on purpose. Noticing when the old stories come up and want some airtime, turning the dial down on them, and reminding yourself of the new stories you’re practicing. If you want some help finding your unhelpful stories and learning how to turn down the dial and create some new ones, that is precisely the type of important work my clients are doing every day.
Your stories are what have you eating instead of feeling. Giving up when things get hard or not daring to even start making changes even though it’s what you so desperately want. Head to itbeginswithathought.com/apply and hop on a call with me. We’ll talk about where you are. Where you want to be, and how my Love First Weight Loss Program can help you get there. I have a new group starting in May, and I’d love to have you be a part of it. So, hop on, apply, and I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.