In my work as a weight loss coach, I see a phenomenon happening again and again with my clients. They use tools like the scale or planning their food as weapons against themselves instead of the useful tools they have the potential to be.
They attack and harm themselves with these things rather than engaging with them as tools that can allow them to build the skills that will help them lose weight, keep it off, and grow in the process.
It keeps them stuck, spinning, and suffering. And it’s not necessary. Let’s talk about these weapons and how we can turn them into useful tools.
1. Our evidence from the past
One of the most dangerous weapons in this arsenal is our evidence from the past.
We have lots of experiences and examples from our past of how we haven’t been able to lose weight successfully, how we can’t keep commitments to ourselves, we don’t follow through, we quit, we give in, we lose motivation, we mess up, we always end up eating off plan, we struggle on the weekends, we get thrown off by a holiday or vacation, and the list goes on and on.
All of the evidence we see and catalogue is evidence of our past failures.
The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of this evidence or ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen.
We have lots of evidence of what didn’t work or went wrong. So we can instead use that evidence as a tool to figure out how we want to do things NOW.
Now we just need to ask ourselves WHY? Why didn’t it work? Why did we eat the cookies when it wasn’t on our plan?
Your brain will probably suggest thoughts like:
“I had to eat the cookie my coworker made so I didn’t hurt her feelings.”
“I didn’t want to miss out.”
When we get curious about the WHY, we can then start deciding what we want to do differently in the future.
2. The scale
Another destructive weapon we use against ourselves is the scale. We see that number on the scale like an arrow to the heart. We make it mean we are unworthy, inadequate, lazy, disgusting, helpless, hopeless, broken.
We hide from it, avoid it, curse at it… desperate to protect ourselves from what that number means about us.
But the scale can be a super versatile and useful tool: First, it can help you assess whether what you are doing is working or not. That number is a reflection of what you are putting in your mouth and its effect on your body. It’s three totally neutral digits. It’s information. It’s data.
The process of healthy weight loss is a scientific experiment that helps us learn what works for our body and what doesn’t. And the number on the scale is a metric that we use to evaluate if the things you are eating work for you or not. That’s it. There is no AND next to the number. There’s not a little = sign that pops up that says “lazy” or “disgusting” after it.
That’s just your brain offering you unhelpful thoughts that sling arrows to your heart.
The scale can also provide an opportunity everyday for you to build the skill of observing your thoughts and choosing thoughts deliberately. When you step on the scale, you have a choice of what you make that number mean about you.
You can make it mean your plan isn’t working, or you can make it mean you are going to keep working to figure it out.
You can make it mean you are fat, or you can choose to believe it is just the effect of gravity on your body that day.
One feels terrible and makes you want to eat a milkshake, one doesn’t. It’s totally up to you.
Planning may not seem like an obvious weapon, but I see my clients torturing themselves with it daily–simply because of how they are choosing to think about it.
They choose to believe that planning is hard, that they don’t have time, that they never stick to it so it’s a waste of time, that it doesn’t work, that they have to plan because I told them to.
When they believe these lies, they feel hopeless, frustrated, and resentful.
Many of them still make plans, but when you are creating with obligation fuel or frustration fuel, it feels like running underwater. It’s so much more difficult and painful than it needs to be.
The truth is: planning isn’t hard.
It’s literally lifting up your hand enough to write words on a paper. It doesn’t take all day, it takes less than two minutes.
You don’t have to do anything I say, or anyone says, you can do whatever you want.
So why do you WANT to create a plan?
For me, the answer is simple. Because you want your adult brain to be in charge. You want the decisions about how to take care of you and your body to come from love for the future self you want to create, not from the in-the-moment toddler brain who can’t see past the cake to what’s on the other side.
Planning is one of your most valuable, loving, goal-affirming, success-guaranteeing tools.
You may consider sugar to be a poisonous weapon. You may not see any possible way that it could be a tool instead. It is your enemy. It is your sabotage of choice. But let me offer you another way to look at it.
Sugar provides a unique physiological effect that can mimic and muffle emotion. When you eat sugar, you get a flood of feel good neurotransmitters released in your brain. Your brain mistakes this for feeling better, for relief, for comfort, for a fix or escape from the uncomfortable emotion you may be feeling.
But it isn’t real. It’s temporary. The stress or overwhelm or inadequacy you were feeling is still there, you just can’t hear it over the noisy party of sugar. But it will just scream louder when the party is over.
So here’s where the tool part comes in. Your brain creates an urge for sugar to escape that feeling.
But the feeling itself isn’t a threat, it’s your teacher.
Through allowing it, you increase your capacity to feel and tolerate discomfort. Through questioning it you learn why it’s there in the first place and what incredible power you have over it.
When your brain offers you an urge for sugar, you can ask:
- Why do I want this?
- What am I trying to create or escape?
- What am I looking for?
- What happens if I don’t?
- What happens if I do?
In the space between the desire to act and the action itself is where all the answers and all of your power lies.
What about overeating? Eating past full or eating a lot of different foods in one sitting, or eating a lot of the same food in one sitting?
Overeating is like an atomic bomb. It is destructive in the moment, but then has some pretty insidious after effects as well. Because after the overeat comes the judgment. And our judgment of ourselves for the action of overeating can in many cases be as bad or worse than the initial action.
The mental and emotional beat down we inflict with our thoughts about what the overeating means about us as humans creates the painful experience of shame, hopelessness, disgust, guilt, regret, frustration, or despair.
It’s no wonder the judgment leads us back into the cycle of more eating and judgment that we feel powerless to get out of.
Overeating doesn’t have to lead to this pain though.
Our action of overeating is part of a bigger picture. Much like with sugar, we are overeating to numb the experience of some emotion in our body.
A full body is a numb body. If you think about a glass full of water versus an empty one, if you were to tap each one with a spoon, they would vibrate differently based on their contents.
The same is true for your body. The emotion you are experiencing is a wave of chemicals vibrating down through your body. So it will feel different if you are full of food and focused on that sensation instead.
Once again, it comes down to understanding what we are feeling and what thoughts are creating it. And learning to make the deliberate decision to do something different.
This AFTER moment, after we overeat or after we eat off plan, is a critical one. It’s a moment of learning or of looping. You can learn more about the three pivotal moments in your weight loss journey here and use an awesome exercise I created to help you turn this “after moment” from a dead end to a path forward.
The last weapon I see my clients using is a sneaky one.
Imagine the scene in the Wizard of Oz when they wander into the poppy fields. They are taken by the beauty of the poppies and then without knowing what was happening, rendered powerless to the enchanted, sleep-inducing flowers.
That’s what I see happening as my clients attempt to use our most powerful tool: questions.
Normally, questions are my favorite. But some of my clients’ questions are not.
Their brains are offering them poisonous thoughts disguised as questions. Questions that appear helpful and useful but are rendering them powerless.
They ask questions like:
- “What’s wrong with me?”
- “Why can’t I figure this out?”
- “How will I ever be able to do this?”
These questions do not produce helpful answers that move us forward.
When we ask “What’s wrong with me?” what we are really thinking is “Something is wrong with me.” And the list of things we find “wrong” in answer to that question goes on and on and does not serve us. It is problem-focused rather than solution-focused and will therefore set us spinning in circles.
You know your questions are useful tools when they get you looking for the solutions.
- “What’s going on with me?”
- “Why did I make that choice?”
- “What am I thinking and feeling that is creating that action?”
These questions get you answers that focus on the solution and actually move you forward.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started working with me as your weight loss coach, learn more here.