I attended a parent meeting with the principal of my sons’ school the other day. He was focusing on the pressures that high school students feel when it comes to grades. “If I hear a kid asking how they can get their grade from an 88 to a 90, I tell them that they’re asking the wrong question. It’s like a football player asking, ‘How can we beat Holy Innocents 14-7?’”
He explained that rather than focusing on numbers, the better approach is to focus on the process. If you want to beat Holy Innocents, focus on improving your speed, strength, and strategy. If you want to improve your grade, focus on writing a better topic sentence, studying with the TV off or reviewing your notes each night.
This is a perfect parallel to my work with clients trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, many of us have become brainwashed by the “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days” tactic of the diet industry. This approach feeds our desire for concrete steps to a specific goal within a prescribed time frame.
Truth be told, the process of becoming healthier (which may or may not mean losing weight) requires deeper, more gradual but longer-lasting changes. It took years to get to an unhealthy state; you can’t turn that ship around in 30 days.
Diet plans are short-lived and typically lead to weight gain in the long run. Key life skills must be integrated at a deeper level in order for real healthy permanent changes to occur… just as the kid who crams for the test and promptly forgets the material has failed to learn the life-skills that will lead to success.
Rather than counting calories and fat grams, shift your focus from your brain into your belly. Tune back into the subtle hunger and satiety signals from which you became disconnected years ago. I know. You’re thinking, “If I listen to my body, I’ll weigh 500 pounds!”
On the contrary, listening to your body means:
- Becoming aware of how different foods affect your digestive system, your energy level, your ability to concentrate and your mood (Surprise: healthy food makes you feel better on every level!).
- Stopping when your stomach is satisfied (not waiting until your taste buds say, “Stop,” since they have a less sensitive “Off” switch).
- Noticing when you are reaching for food out of boredom, stress, grief, or anger… and doing something else instead.
If you are overweight because you frequently eat unhealthy foods, stuff yourself past full and eat to soothe your emotions, I guarantee that following these three principles will result in weight loss. But the GOAL needs to be: “Learning to take better care of my body for the rest of my life.” Weight loss may be an added bonus (Just as that high school student’s goal should be: “Becoming a better learner,” rather than “Getting the A.”).
This change in focus may take time and effort, but be patient, my friend. Shifting the goal will lead to joy, health, and a lifetime of freedom from food obsession.
Isn’t that worth a little extra time and effort?