The other day a member of our Weighless program reached out with an anxiety issue. They were convinced that despite all the progress they had made with their eating and exercising habits they would eventually falter and it would all end up being for naught.
The worry stemmed from the fact that they had done this many times in the past.
The cycle goes: Start a new diet > experience some success > temptation appears > willpower fails > weight is regained.
Sound familiar? Probably. Because diets don’t work in the long term… but I won’t get into that right now.
What I will get into is how we are working on conquering their current anxiety by examining what has changed.
Doing the Work
As I mentioned, this person is a member of the Weighless program, a 52-week-long lifestyle modification plan. We spend a full year developing the skills to become someone who weighs less – not someone who knows how to lose weight. Which is an important distinction to make because this person had previously become somewhat of an expert at losing weight but had never spent any time (let alone 52 weeks) figuring out how to create a lifestyle that reflects that of someone who weighs less.
This is how I responded to the email I received from our member:
You are doing great work. You are thinking through this worry really well. But I am going to ask you to do another exercise.
- Make a list of the tools you had at your disposal in the past when you were trying to maintain your weight loss.
- Now list the tools you have at your disposal now that allow you to be someone who weighs less.
I am sure you don’t even have to write them down to see what I am getting at (but I still think you should). In the past you were only given half of the equation.
Here’s an analogy for you:
In the past, you were like someone who was given the keys to fly a plane but had never been trained to be a pilot. So of course you struggled. It makes total sense.
But now you have read the manual, done the training, and are ready to do some solo flights. Sure, you may still make some mistakes, you will have moments of doubt, but you will not crash the plane.
Blaming your past self for not being able to maintain a particular weight is like blaming your untrained self for not being able to fly the plane.
Your past does not define your future. And, best of all, you are already collecting evidence that you have the skills.
You’ve got this!
The email I received back was enthusiastic, to say the least. I really hit a chord with this reminder that past failures were explainable and future success was too.
So, my main point here is twofold.
- If you are repeatedly getting the same outcome from an intervention, it likely isn’t your fault. It is much more likely that there is something missing from your chosen plan.
- If you do the work that you didn’t do in the past, you can create an entirely new outcome. You can learn from the past failures, fill in the gaps in your knowledge, and succeed.
You’ve got this!