Are you that person that is fed up with the way you look and feel physically? Were you one of the resolution makers only to now be experiencing the letdown part of the cycle where you have given up on the idea of new healthy habits or a new body?
Many people (about 65%) of Americans are overweight and as a result feel lowered energy, and /or battle health problems related to their weight or obesity. These issues are also often exacerbated by the obesogenic environment we are engulfed in.
In spite of that, what if instead of loathing how you look and feel, OR, resigning yourself to “this is just the way it is,” you chose a different mindset? Instead of engaging in the ongoing debate about whether excess weight makes us prone to lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, what if we thought about all of this in a very different way?
If you are and have been struggling with the health and/ or appearance of your body, and ready for something different, keep reading. Note: this blog won’t be offering any new “diets.”
First, let’s get real with what we are talking about. No judgment, just the facts. As you read on, may I suggest that you read this information thinking compassionate thoughts about yourself and others you know who have this struggle.
The science tells us that excess adipose tissue is active tissue- it functions like an active endocrine gland pumping out toxins and causing inflammation in the body. That physiological process moves us in the direction of lifestyle diseases. That translates to a lot of additional stress and misery for people and their loved ones; the potential for a reduced quality of life, loss of mobility, increased ongoing medical issues and sometimes early death from things like heart disease complications of diabetes and more.
I know personally the distress of watching people I love go from one addiction that they “conquered” but replaced with a food addiction which robbed them of quality of life, mobility and joy for many years of their life. They were caught in the vicious cycle of gaining too much weight, low energy and hurting joints that kept them from moving their body which led to depression, more carb consumption…
The switching of going from one addiction to another is common. We are glad when someone refrains from substance abuse, and we hope they won’t smoke and use food as a substitute. That’s where treatment can make a big difference. Addiction aside, we all have a brain that screams, “what will bring me pleasure”. We are all in need of comfort at times. Sadly, in our highly processed, fast food, sugar addicted nation, there is no shortage of places to get the kinds of food that make us temporarily feel better.
Carbs have a chemical reaction that boosts our brain’s release of serotonin – a feel good neurotransmitter- which is why we crave donuts, ice cream and cookies when we are feeling lonely, annoyed, helpless or stressed. If we eat for those reasons, our food is acting as a drug.
By now you may realize you are not alone in the carb craving community, and in good company with people who struggle with cravings, and a brain that has come to depend on them to feel better. This behavior also gets “normalized” when we are regularly in the company of family and friends who also use food as a drug. We often get stuck in these habits and conclude that there is nothing we can do – we tell ourselves a story that we are helpless against these habits.
What if we shifted to loving ourselves JUST AS WE ARE TODAY, while striving towards the goal of moving towards our best health now and for our future self? Here are some mindset shifts that may help.
No 1 MINDSET SHIFT- TUNE IN TO YOUR INNER THOUGHTS. WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
Instead of looking in the mirror and groaning, or engaging in negative self talk, give yourself an accurate message that sounds something like…” It’s true I would like to wear a size ___ jeans and today I will remind myself I am beautiful as I am AND I can choose to make choices today that nourish and move my body so I can feel my best. “
I call these Truth Statements and they are gold.
You might repeat one that sounds like, “it’s true I’ve gained 20 lbs. since I had my child and I’m not loving that, AND, today I will choose to eat healthy foods and take a walk.
Truth statements remind yourself of the truth of your situation without all the negative and loathing self talk that serves to do nothing but drag you down.
Stop the negative chatter. Replace with Truth Statements daily.
No 2 MINDSET SHIFT- EXAMINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD. Sadly, many of us have had an experience with food that at the time seemed innocent enough, that actually set us up to begin to associate feel good foods, in particular carbs, high fat and salt foods, with making us feel better.
I once had a client who at the age of 10 shared with her grandmother about her big, awful bad day at school. Being the loving grandmother she was, she wanted her granddaughter to feel better so she took her to a fast food restaurant, bought her a large cheeseburger, fries and a shake, and then asked if she felt better. After she finished all that, grandma offered her an additional shake, with the comforting words “see now don’t you feel better?”
These seemingly innocuous events can set us up for a lifetime of looking to food essentially as a drug- a way to feel better on those big bad awful days when life is not going as we planned. For some, especially kids and adults who experienced trauma or otherwise tumultuous childhoods, sometimes food was their only constant companion. If this is you, you might pause here to have some compassion for your younger self.
It’s never too late to visit your own story and expand the ways you can feel healthy, safe, empowered and in charge of your choices. You are not stuck with the habits that you have had, even if you have had them for a lifetime.
No 3 MINDSET SHIFT- REMIND YOURSELF YOU ARE WORTH CARING FOR.
Your value and worth ought not be tied to your jean size. Or what anyone else thinks or says about you or how you look for that matter. What do YOU want to see when YOU look in the mirror? How much energy do YOU want to have in a day? What kind of health do YOU want to experience? Remind yourself daily, no matter where you have been, physically, emotionally, mentally or relationally, you can start today to think differently. You can remind yourself you are worth caring for. I am valuable, vulnerable and precious, is a mantra to chew on.
No 4 MINDSET SHIFT- VISUALIZE WHAT YOU WANT MORE OF AND WHAT YOU WANT LESS OF. Visualize what you want more of and then consider one action you will need to do to move you closer to what you want. Picture these things daily. You may choose to make a vision board for you to look at to have that tangible reminder of what you want and why. Your future self will thank you as you look to identify what actions move you toward your goals.
Lastly, these 4 mind shifts can take time and practice. Write them down. Journal daily how you are doing at loving your present self just as you are, while striving to live your best life, including having the health and body you desire.
Think about the strengths that you have already built that you may take for granted. Maybe you drink a good amount of water, great. Build on that. Perhaps you are already walking or hiking twice a week. Great, add another day. When the negative self talk comes in, start to practice noticing it and then replacing it with a Truth Statement. Your body and brain will thank you and your mood, energy and sense of hopefulness just may begin to show up putting all that negative self talk to rest. Then you are well on the journey of making peace.