When someone is ready to lose weight, they usually start with taking action. But my approach is a little different. I believe that the most important aspect of weight loss is your brain. We can try just changing our bodies successfully, but our brains come with us!
When you change how you think about your identity, you can actually achieve the lasting weight loss you’ve wanted for so long.
Your weight identity
For most of us, when we decide we want to lose weight, we immediately focus on the number we want to see on the scale at the end of the journey — how much we want or need to lose.
You have a pretty solid idea of that number for you right? Some of us hyper-focus on it. It haunts our dreams. The 50 pounds, 110 pounds, 75 pounds… whatever it is.
It’s fun to think about that destination, isn’t it? Especially at the beginning of a program when we are feeling motivated and hopeful. We fantasize about the clothes we will wear, how confident we will feel, how easy life will be when we get there.
It’s fun because it gives us a chance to escape how we currently feel and see ourselves.
But here’s the thing. When you get ready to go somewhere you haven’t been and you open up Google Maps, you can’t just put in your destination. You have to know your current location in order to know the most effective way to get there.
If we ignore our current weight identity in order to focus only on the fun of the goal, we will take our current identity into the future with us, and end up sabotaging our success and gaining the weight back.
And I am not in the temporary weight loss game. We are not about that life anymore. We want permanent solutions, not quick fixes right?
When I became “a big girl”
I was a happy, confident little girl. I didn’t ever think twice about putting on a swimsuit and running through the sprinklers in my front yard. My body provided hours of fun, got me where I needed to go, and held my baby sister.
And then I woke up one morning when I was 10 years old and I felt like my body was not mine. All of the sudden, I was 5’3”, had hips, and needed a bra. Okay, in reality, it was obviously a more gradual change than that, but for me it felt like I left 4th grade as a little girl, and walked into 5th grade as a woman.
And my girlfriends at the time did not come with me on this womanly journey. They were still little girls with knobby knees swapping their junior size clothes and jumping on the trampoline with nothing jiggling. It was the first time in my life that I felt like there was something wrong with my body and I definitely needed to figure out how to fix it.
At that moment in time, I had an identity shift. I went from thinking I was a regular girl, to thinking I was a big girl.
I wasn’t necessarily overweight at the time, just bigger than most of the other girls around me, but in my brain I had become a big girl. It felt totally out of my control. It had just happened to me.
And seeing myself that way changed how I felt, and what I did. I went from confident to self-conscious, from carefree to obsessive about fixing my big body.
For the next 20 years I would go through bouts of restricting my food, eating according to extreme rules, and trying to exercise the weight away, which just caused me to feel terrible and overeat when I had the chance and ultimately gain much more weight than I lost. I became a big girl.
What’s your current weight identity?
So what is your current weight identity? Do you label yourself as big-boned? Do you refer to yourself as a food addict? Do you joke that you’re the fat friend? And how does that identity affect the choices you make when it comes to food and your weight?
I want you to think about how you would describe yourself in regard to your weight (your weight identity) in one sentence.
You probably believe this sentence about you is just a fact. That based on the number you see on the scale, this sentence is just an observation of what is true.
But truth is relative.
I defined myself as a big girl based on the fact that I was taller than my friends and couldn’t fit into their clothes anymore. But by many definitions, I was a small girl. I’m only 5’3” which is not big by most standards, and at the time I was average weight.
What does the number on the scale mean about you?
When you see the number on the scale, you make that mean all sorts of things.
Maybe you make it mean that you are weak.
That you can’t resist the urge to eat 3 bowls of ice cream every night, even though you are trying to lose weight and know ice cream doesn’t help.
Maybe you make it mean that you are out of control.
Maybe you make it mean that no matter what you do, you will never figure this out.
The sentence you believe about you, based on that number, is your weight identity.
Now I want you to repeat that sentence in your mind, and think about how you feel when you think that about you.
What emotion do you feel?
My guess is the feeling you feel isn’t proud, motivated, or strong. There is probably some pain and shame that come up when you identify yourself this way right?
And one thing I know about shame is that it likes to hide in the pantry and eat chocolate chips straight out of the bag.
Which just reinforces your weight identity: that you are out of control, weak, a food addict, whatever, and keeps you stuck in the cycle you are in.
But here’s something I want you to consider: that number that you wish you didn’t see is someone else’s goal weight.
There is someone, or probably many someones in the world right now that would be overjoyed to wake up and see the number you see, on their scale. It’s the number they are working toward. The number they are dreaming about. Their goal.
This is how we know that the story you are telling about your number is not a fact. Not everyone on earth would agree with your story about it. And if it’s not a fact, that means you have the power to change that story.
What to do now that you know your weight identity
So what do we do now that we know our current weight identity? One thing you will learn from me is that I want you to question EVERYTHING.
Question everything you have been taught about weight loss, everything you believe about your size, everything society has told you that you should be.
ALL OF IT.
So let’s question your sentence you believe about your weight identity. Ask yourself:
- Is it helpful?
- Do you want to keep it?
- Is it getting you closer to the person you WANT to be?
- Why do you identify this way? What’s the story or circumstance this identity came from?
- What are the benefits to identifying this way?
- What are the drawbacks to identifying this way?
Once you question your current weight identity, you open the door to permanently shifting from current you to future you.