One of the most important things to embrace in the process of any change we’re trying to make, but especially weight loss, is to meet yourself where you are.
We create a goal for the future based on who we want to become. We have a vision of our future selves. We know what we want our bodies and lives to look like after, but we’re not there yet.
We are not yet the person who listens to her hunger and satiety and governs her food choices based on what feels good in her body.
We are not yet the person who chooses to take care of herself no matter what is happening in her life or where she is.
We are not yet the person who has space in her brain because of the absence of food chatter. We are not yet the person who’s free in her mind and her body.
Yet, most of us are making our food plans as if we are that person.
We are creating these perfect-looking plans that our future self is all about. She’s only eating vegetables; she’s never eating cookies. But we are not considering where we currently are and what we’re all about now.
We are setting goal timelines as if there’s a magical fast track that will get us to our future self ASAP, with no consideration of who we are currently, what we are capable of, or what skills we still need to build.
We’re looking at our bodies as a nuisance on the way to the perfection that they will be when we see the “right” number on the scale, with no connection to what it feels like to be us now.
The opposite is also happening. We’re so in the now, so bogged down by all the “negatives” we see in ourselves, that we have no future perspective and no hope. We can’t see past the struggles and the obstacles that we currently face to the future possibilities.
Now, you may be asking, “Isn’t the first future-focused example the right one? Aren’t you always talking to us about our future selves?”
Yes! The problem occurs when you ONLY see your future self and plan as if you are already there.
Without consideration of your current capability, you are setting yourself up for a fall.
Willpower and rebound eating
For example, I have clients who come into my program and see that I recommend that they start limiting sugar to rebalance their digestive hormones. So they go all-in on that, cutting all sugar out and banning themselves from ever eating it again. That’s what their future self does, and so that’s what they will do starting today.
Isn’t that phrase so familiar? “Starting today, I will…”
It’s like a diet mantra golden phrase. The problem is that, for some of these clients, they’ve been mainly eating sugar most of the day. It’s a part of their day-to-day routine. They love it and they are afraid to have to give it up.
These clients that try to give up sugar cold turkey usually do well for one to two weeks. But when they reach the end of their willpower stores, they start eating. They eat all the sugar they can get their hands on for days, or sometimes even weeks.
I call this rebound eating. We’re restricting and using willpower to pull the rubber band tight and hold it. Then, when we finally release the tension, that band snaps back, usually into the pantry.
This is what happens when we plan for the future without regard to where we are now.
The growth zone
You may be asking, “If we’re planning for where we are now, how do we move forward? How do we become our future selves while still considering our current selves? How do we create success now that will get us closer to the person we want to be?”
That is where the growth zone comes in.
I want you to imagine a Venn diagram. One circle represents our current selves or our comfort zone. The other circle is our future selves or our uncomfortable zone.
When we’re focused on the obstacles, challenges, and failures of now, we stay in our comfort zone. When we are eating by default, because it’s what we’ve always known and it’s what is comfortable, we are standing solidly with both feet in the comfort zone.
When we are solely focused on our future self and being as “perfect” as she is and eating what we’re supposed to eat in the future, we jump from our comfort zone into the unfamiliar, uncomfortable zone of the future. We can only handle it for a minute before bouncing back.
That’s what we see happening when we’re planning to eat kale salads only but want chocolate. When we push down the desire and resist it, we eventually have to get back to that comfort zone.
We want to create lasting success and change by standing in the middle where the two circles intersect. That is where there is a mix of the comfortable and uncomfortable—the growth zone.
If we are used to eating treats all day, but we want to move towards eating treats once a week, we need to stay in the growth zone by moving gradually toward our goal. This might look like scaling back initially to one or two treats per day, then one treat every other day, and then one treat twice a week.
We push ourselves out of our comfort zone just enough to hang out in the growth zone, but not too far that we get into the uncomfortable zone and end up quitting or falling hard.
I’m not saying going cold turkey with sugar doesn’t ever work for anyone and is never a thing you should do. I just want you to look at your past attempts. How did it work for you?
If you found yourself at the end of the package of Oreos at some point on the rebound, you may want to consider finding your growth zone.
We want to push and challenge ourselves for sure. That’s how we evolve and change and become our future selves.
We just don’t want to push so hard that we go off the edge. We want to keep our future selves in view while we accept and honor our current selves.
A roadmap to success
We always want to know where we are and where we want to end up to create a map of how we will get there. This requires a lot of love, compassion, and understanding for the current you.
Ask yourself, why do you do what you do? Why do you choose what you choose? Why do you eat what you eat?
As we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the growth zone, we want to be conscious of what comes up. That’s a big part of this process and why I think it’s so much more doable than trying it all at once.
It gives you a chance to look at your brain’s complaints one at a time, to hear its arguments in small doses, rather than the full-on tantrum that happens when we jump into the uncomfortable zone all at once.
Pushing yourself slowly and deliberately out of the comfort zone, listening to the resistance that happens in your mind as you do this, addressing the complaints that come up, and allowing the discomfort of growth is a recipe for success.
That’s how we move from our current selves to our future selves and stay there.
Only you know what your comfort zone, your uncomfortable zone, and your growth zone are. I gave some examples here, but this isn’t what it will necessarily look like for all of you.
It might look like pushing yourself into the growth zone in a new way every day, or it may be hanging out in the growth zone in one area at a time.
Think about where you currently are, where you want to end up, and what it would look like for you to push yourself into your growth zone—one thing at a time, small doses, baby steps.
If you’re searching for a realistic, permanent weight loss solution that will actually work this time, learn more about my weight loss coaching program.