If you’re like most people, you probably think that the things that happen to you create your feelings.
If you do really well at work, you feel proud. If you have a baby, you feel happy. If someone dies, you feel sad.
These are some of the emotional responses we think we “should” feel when things happen in our lives. But this doesn’t leave much room for the times our emotions don’t go according to plan – and it isn’t a very empowering model, either.
In today’s episode, I want to talk about how our thoughts create our feelings, rather than what happens outside of us. Any time you have a feeling, there is a thought behind it – and once you internalize that concept, the whole world will open up for you.
Another example: When you step on the scale, your feelings about the number you see are a result of your thoughts about the number. Not the number itself. That’s a crucial distinction!
We’re going to explore this idea in depth today, and we’re going to talk about why we think food creates our feelings, too. This is a big part of why we think of food as a reward, when some foods are anything but.
Finally, I’ll wrap things up by offering you a couple of questions you can ask yourself to dig into these concepts.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode three.
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.
Hey everybody. It is a lovely day here full of sunshine. It’s the kind of day that just draws me outside. I left my sliding door open to let some fresh air and some of the warmth in and I walked my puppy out to the grass with bare feet, and it’s February. It’s not typical.
There were birds chirping, there were kids playing outside, and the high temperature here today is a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is maybe not what you expected me to say, right? Probably 70 based on my description of being outside and being barefoot.
This is an awesome example of what I want to talk about today. This idea that nothing outside of us actually creates a feeling inside of us. That in reality, we create our feelings and the experience of our lives with our thoughts about it. If it were September and the temperature hit 50, down from 70, I would be thinking it was freezing and pulling out a sweater and making hot tea and probably turning on my fireplace.
But since it’s 50 up from 30, I think it feels amazing. It’s like spring in February and my family has crawled out of our den after a long winter. My son is washing his dirt bike in the driveway and my kids took the dogs to the dog park, and my daughter and her friend went on a walk outside in short sleeves to go find the cat.
50 degrees, even though it’s the same temperature either way, feels different, depending on the thoughts we choose about it. Our perception of it. The same is true for our weight number. You look down, you stand on the scale, look down, see a number, and you have a thought. Maybe your thought is, “I’ve never been this big.” Maybe your thought is, “I’m doing so well.”
Whatever your thought is will determine how you feel about that number. I mentioned in a previous episode that your current weight is someone’s goal weight. That number you hope you never see again, they can’t wait to see on their scale. It’s not the number.
I had two clients recently that stepped on their scales and had each lost half a pound, but they had totally different feelings about the half pound loss. One felt disappointed, and one felt excited. How is this possible? They each lost the exact same amount.
Well, simple. Because one saw the half pound loss and thought, “I worked so hard, it should have been more.” And the other saw it and thought, “Yay, I’m a half pound closer to my goal.” Makes perfect sense. Disappointment, excitement.
This is contrary to what most of us are taught and therefore believe. We collectively agree that there are just some things in this world that create certain feelings. Most of us agree that a brand-new baby is a miracle that creates happiness and we think that someone dying creates sadness.
And we think that winning a trip to Hawaii creates excitement, and losing an important game creates disappointment. But just because we collectively agree doesn’t make it a fact. When my first child was about three weeks old, I remember sitting there awake at 3am with him, for like, the 15th night in a row, trying to get him to go back to sleep so I could go back to sleep, to no avail.
I remember looking down at him and feeling nothing but frustration. Totally exhausted, totally overwhelmed. Not feeling a shred of happiness. New babies do not create happiness on their own. If we feel happy when we look at our newborn, it’s because we’re thinking thoughts that create that feeling for us.
Now, obviously this is with a caveat here that excludes women who are experiencing postpartum, which I do not think you should just think your way out of, just to be clear. But whether we experience postpartum or just felt less than happy or less than loving toward our newborns at times, we all likely felt guilt and shame about not feeling happy or loving because we had the thought, “I’m supposed to be happy and feel love. I just had a baby. Newborns create happiness, right?”
Our judgment of ourselves for our thoughts and our feelings is a whole other subject for another podcast someday. So let’s get back to our thinking here creating our feelings. We think that someone dying is what makes us sad, but it’s our thoughts like, “I can’t believe I will never hear her voice again,” or, “I will miss his hugs,” or, “She was too young to die” that creates that sadness.
If you are afraid to fly and you win a trip to Hawaii, excitement is probably not the emotion that you will feel. And losing is only disappointing if you’re thinking thoughts like, “This was such an important game.” I’ve lost at UNO plenty of times to my children and felt totally okay with it. Not disappointed at all.
One of my favorite examples of this in my life is Disneyland. I love Disneyland. It’s one of my favorite places. It is in fact commonly referred to as the happiest place to earth. But if you have been there, even if you feel happy, you can look around and see other people who are not feeling that way.
Kids who are whining about how their feet hurt and they want a sixth churro, and parents looking annoyed because their kids are whining at the happiest place on earth. Teenagers who are embarrassed to be seen with their mom in her Minnie ears, and grandparents who wish they could take a nap on that small patch of grass that says please keep off.
Disneyland doesn’t create the happiness for you, no matter how much money you pay them. You have to do that with your thinking. We think that when we get to our goal weight, we will feel confident. That when we are living in our natural weight, we will be happy. We also think this smaller body will help us avoid feelings we don’t want to feel.
Like we won’t be self-conscious or worry about what other people are thinking anymore, we won’t doubt ourselves, we won’t feel anxious. But I bet if you think for a few minutes, you can come up with examples in your own life or even celebrities who weigh more than you and are happy and weight less than you and are miserable.
It isn’t the size of their body with the number on the scale creating their feelings. It’s what they are choosing to think about it. Everything we do is for a feeling we want to have or avoid. And for a lot of us, everything we eat is too. We think food creates feelings for us.
We look to food to do the job of fixing sadness or creating joy. Or even relieving our stress and rewarding our hard work. And based on our brain’s physiological response, we do feel a little lift. We get a dopamine reward, which tricks us into thinking the sadness was fixed and the stress relieved temporarily.
But we all know when the dopamine mist clears, the stress and the sadness are still there. Not gone or fixed. Just postponed until later, just muffled for a minute.
So let’s unpack one of these jobs we often assign to food, that of rewarding us for our hard work or getting through a full day or doing well on our plan. I hear my clients say this all the time. “Food is my reward. How will I reward myself without this particular food?”
I used to feel this way too. At the end of a big project being completed, I would reward myself with a dirty Dr. Pepper. This is a thing you may not have heard of before but I don’t drink alcohol, so instead of a dirty martini, I would go get a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper with coconut syrup and fresh limes over pebble ice. So much sugar. It tasted amazing.
The bubbles and the sweetness and the zing of the lime juice just made my brain go crazy. So many feel-good neurotransmitters just dumping into my system. Totally tricked my brain into feeling like this was a reward. But did it actually feel rewarding after the fact? Did my body feel rewarded? Not so much.
There’s actually so much collateral damage with a reward like this. It’s kind of like the opposite of a reward and is instead more of a punishment for our bodies. What is truly rewarding isn’t just pleasurable in the moment, but contributes to our overall satisfaction and moves us forward.
Oftentimes, the things that we find truly rewarding aren’t even necessarily pleasurable in the moment. Sometimes they’re challenging. But ultimately, they allow us to grow and evolve, which is in and of itself its own reward. I think of giving service as an example of this. Exercise also fits in this category for me.
And learning how to choose what I want most, over what I want in the moment when it comes to food and my schedule is also something that feels hard in the moment, but I’m so glad I did it at the end of the day. I truly feel rewarded after the fact.
I’m going to leave you with a couple of challenges to try out. We learn that our weight number can’t create happiness for us, and food can’t create it for us, our body can’t create it for us. Disneyland can’t even create it for us. One of the ways you can test this theory out for yourself is to think about some of the things you believe create happiness, sadness maybe, outrage, loneliness, joy, excitement, fear, any of these emotions for you.
And take each one of them and see if you can come up with an example of someone on earth who might believe the opposite is true. Imagine how they feel. This gets you out of your capital T truth thought and into the realm of maybe some optional thoughts that also might be true for some other people.
Another question you can explore for yourself is when you are the weight you want to be, what will you think of you? And how will you feel when you think that? That’s what will create the happy or whatever feeling you’re looking for, for you. Not the smaller body or the number on the scale.
And lastly, I want you to get really honest with yourself just for a minute. I want you to think about your definition of rewarding, and then think about a good you consider to be a reward for you right now. Is that food actually rewarding you?
Most of us want to pretend that peanut M&Ms or a pint of Haagen-Dazs or nachos or whatever is rewarding us. But really question this. Is it? Okay my friends, don’t forget to head to iTunes and subscribe, rate, and review the podcast.
I’m going to be rewarding a few of you who do those things, subscribe, rate, and review with some truly rewarding gifts. $100 Amazon gift cards and for one lucky reviewer, a pair of AirPod Pros. They are my favorite. They are noise-cancelling and super comfortable. I use them to meditate and to go on thought walks, which are two activities that I find incredibly rewarding. Imagine that.
Visit itbeginswithathought.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how you can enter. I’ll be announcing the winners on the show in an upcoming episode, so stay tuned. 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.