My clients often say they “fell off the wagon.” I love my clients, however I really dislike that phrase! Here’s why:
You didn’t fall off the wagon. THERE IS NO WAGON. No track, no road, you’re not “out of the groove” or “off the rails”, “up a creek” or any other metaphor we use to say we’re struggling. You’re where we ALL ARE: living a real life, that comes complete with easier time and harder times. That’s where you have always been and where you always will be.
The wagon symbolizes perfection, or your idealized standard of where you “should be”. And it’s not real.
There is no standard timeline for getting healthy, for changing your life, for growing, and if you expected a steady rate of linear change, let it go. There’s no wagon pulling off into the distance.
Whether you’re struggling a lot or a little in this particular moment … If you’re struggling, you’re TRYING. You’re putting in effort. That’s good, it means you’re alive.
We’re all struggling together, in our own journeys with our own resources and tools. But no one out there is immune to it, no one is getting a free ride on some wagon. So use your support network, ask for help, and help yourself where you see it’s possible.
Screw the wagon, you don’t need no stinkin’ wagon.
Like hundreds of other people who picked up my book last month, Etana is cruising through Habit 1 in Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss! But she had a great question. In our Facebook support group she posted:
“What a relief it’s been this week, to have “no snacks.” I do fear that after a few weeks instead of “no snacks” becoming a habit, I will lose my resolve and start sneaking snacks in my day. I start off really good, but after 2-3 weeks it doesn’t feel like a game anymore, and I get sloppy…Then I’m snacking carbs & sugar, feeling lethargic, gaining again. So what will make this habit 1 an enduring habit?”
Hi Etana! You sure are wise to what your pattern has been in the past, which will help you change it this time! You’re right, this isn’t a game, and the “shiny new program” element wears off rapidly. What you’re describing as your history (but not necessarily your future) is introjecting a behavior you’ve gotten from an outside source, and trying to CONTROL yourself into doing it. If the habit doesn’t become part of your sense of self or sense of values, it’s short lived.
Introjection is kind of like finding a book on the sidewalk, leafing through it, picking it up, and sticking it on your bookshelf. You have it, but it’s not something you really feel is yours, and you don’t think of it as part of your identity. You figure you’ll toss it eventually or pass it on to someone else. No biggie.
People who are motivated naturally do to something long term more often have integrated the behavior (habit) into who they are and see it as a natural expression of what they value. Natural expressions are easy, even effortless! How hard is it to smile when you’re happy or hug someone you adore? Pretty easy. Following the Lean Habits can be just that easy too, as can any truly integrated motivation. In my analogy above, integrating a habit would be like if you took that book and read it and really got into it! Integrating would be like discovering you had connection with the message and voice it was written in, felt like it was part of you. If it speaks to your true sense of self and really resonates, you’re less likely to toss the book on a shelf or pass it on to someone else at the next garage sale you have. It becomes part of you and what you know, and how you live your life.
So with each chapter in Lean Habits, consider if the health or weight loss benefits I explain fit with who you are and who you want to be. If eating without snacking feels like something you intrinsically value and enjoy because it feels sound and appropriate to you (not something you are doing just for a reward, or money, or just as a transaction for weight loss) then you will be more able to sustain it and you will be less likely to WANT to do anything else.
I get it, you might think weight loss is all you want. But there’s a reason why you want to lose weight I bet, because it frankly isn’t all that thrilling to exert less gravitational pull on the universe. Your weight probably matters to you because you care about how you feel, not just physically, but emotionally, too. You care about how confident you are, and you value taking care of the only body you got more than you want to run it into the ground before you’re old. You want to trust yourself more and disappoint yourself less. You want to feel capable, competent, and successful. All of those reasons are intrinsic values which are supported when you practice healthy eating habits.
That’s why I spent so much time explaining the rationale and benefits of each behavior. That is what you can use to determine if you want to do this or not. Don’t want to? Don’t do it. Most people find that having clear information about what food habits are optimal for appetite management and long term health is pretty appealing to them to want to take action. But you don’t have to, ever. If you’re going to do this (or anything else) please do it because you have a genuine desire and it feels right.
If feeding your body well and caring for yourself doesn’t fit with your values or sound appealing on it’s own, you might not want to try my approach. If you value deprivation and suffering, self-abuse and self-sabotage, there are plenty of diets out there which will be better suited than my work.
I haven’t met anyone that fits that description, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Most people want to act in ways that express their values of physical health, enjoyment, and balance, not just “achieving a low weight at any cost”. We are naturally motivated when we feel empowered, free to make their own choices, and supported by a community of people we can relate to.
So right from day one, if you’re working through my book, I encourage you to think about your values other than weight loss, and if the system fits them. That’s the best indicator of all that you can and will do this forever, and enjoy the process!
I leave you with one more quote, a couple lines from someone else in our Facebook group who is just getting started, and is connecting with these habits on many levels deeper than weight loss.
“While cutting out snacking hasn’t caused any fat loss, it has caused me to worry less, about hunger and fear that I will forever be 10 lbs. more than I want to be.”
If you haven’t joined our free community yet, come on by: Lean Habits Community
The early reception of my book Lean Habits has been utterly overwhelming and I am so grateful to every person who has purchased and recommended the book to others. Your reviews, emails and Facebook notes about it have been so touching and I love every single one! Thank you and keep them coming!
But we’re just getting started.
In the Lean Habits Facebook Community (which is free by the way, swing on by!) one of the discussions today was a fantastically honest post from a member who was successfully practicing the first habit of eating only 3-4 meals without snacking between but didn’t feel so great about the way she was eating. Specifically, she was considering eating ice cream for a meal, and noticed she felt compelled to grab snack foods or desserts while her meal was heating up while thinking, “If I eat these NOW, I’m technically still following the rules and I did such a good job so far today.”
I know what you’re thinking. I could totally think that way.
Okay, so maybe you didn’t think exactly that, but if you did I wouldn’t be surprised. Lots of people in our group coaching program have expressed similar thoughts and behaviors during the first habit. Some urge to “get it all in before it’s taken away”. I played plenty of those games when I was dieting, restricting, or living under self-imposed food rules. Yeah, make super rigid food rules myself to limit my intake, then see how much I could get away with eating without breaking the rules? That just doesn’t make sense. But we do it! Why?
Because that’s a normal response to being controlled.
You NEVER have to do any of these habits, and they sure aren’t rules! Giving ourselves rules works fairly similarly to how we react when someone else gives us rules – it kills how much we personally want to do the thing, and we either do it (compliance) or we don’t (defiance) but either way we have lost our personal choice in the matter.
Food rules and absolutes don’t fly here, and I don’t want anyone to be controlled. (And that might be the most absolute thing I can recall writing). Not in my group, not in my book, not in my coaching program. These are autonomy building zones! I have faith that you are completely capable of choosing healthfully when you have enough information and support to help you, and I also believe that you have some internal motivation to get healthier and eat better because it means something to you. Let’s not squash that beautiful spark of WANTING TO MAKE THESE CHOICES by stomping on them with “have to’s” or control. Let’s fan the flame, maybe for the first time in your life.
Recap: Control leads to compliance or defiance, but it squashes internal motivation. Acting of free choice is what will make your behaviors changes permanent, a part of you, an expression of your values.
The name of this game is that we choose to practice healthy habits (most of the time) because they are personally meaningful to us and congruent with our values – or we choose not to. If you catch yourself wanting to cheat the system, rebel, break the rules etc., that’s a great clue that you’ve made rules. So if that happens, just come back to knowing that you are autonomous, if you do this, do it because you want to. Because you sure don’t have to.
Millions of people are obese and overweight and that’s absolutely allowed and fine and their right to choose. Some of the people I love most are obese, I accept and honor that. If someone tells you you HAVE TO lose weight, (even if it’s YOU) please remind them that it is your choice.
I’m very passionate about empowering people to fight back against their own rule making tendency. (Because I have escaped that prison, and baby it’s worth it!)
So if you find yourself working through Habit One, and notice you’re eating high calorie foods in larger amounts than ever, or eating until you are painfully overfed at meals, it’s okay. You’re not crazy, you’ve got some rule-based thinking to recover from.
Would you say your values support getting in as much food as you can while not “breaking the rules” so you can get a checkmark (knowing that the calories still count)? Or might it feel better to relax and just try to eat what feels good for now while you’re practicing only improving one area of your diet? If that includes some treats, fine, but eating them out of fear and desperation or rebellion is very different from, “I think I’d like to enjoy some ice cream”. Most notably the Ice Cream of Desperation tastes lousy and is gone in seconds.
Reminder: when it comes to deciding how much you want to include treats in your eating pattern down the road, you’re going to be the one deciding. No one is showing up at your door to take them away. You never ever have to do anything you don’t want to. Reassure yourself as much as you need, “I never have to do ANYTHING in this book I don’t want to!” Say it ten times.
So if anything in any chapter seems mind-boggling, tear-provoking scary and hard, don’t worry. Come talk to me and others about it. You never need to do anything that feels unsafe or scary. I’ll never push you there.
How is your Lean Habits practice going? I’d love to hear about it so post to my Facebook wall or join the Lean Habits Community and fill me in! (Guess what, we’re all experiencing a mix of struggle and victory, so if that’s you, too, perfect!)
A question for the breastfeeding mommas out there… I managed my pregnancy really well: had no cravings, gained about 20lbs and came home from the hospital the same weight I was when I got pregnant. Unfortunately, I had gained about15 lbs trying to get pregnant (lots of drugs and hormones), and now I’m trying to lose that 15lbs. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep and breastfeeding has left me in an uncontrollable sweet-craving machine like I’ve never been before! What do you recommend? Not having sweets around is not helping as I find myself going out to buy them instead. Any sweet treats that are “less bad”? THANKS! -Megan
Sleep deprivation can really do a number on appetite and cravings. But I know as a new mom “get more sleep” is about the most ridiculous advice you could receive, so let’s see what REALISTIC things might be worth mentioning.
Is your weight holding steady or dropping? A slow weight loss is fine but quick drops could mean you aren’t get enough calories to maximize milk supply, so I wouldn’t rush for those old jeans, take some time to get back there.Are you eating fruit, grains, starchy veggies etc to get enough carbohydrates a day? If you haven’t been, I’d include a source of carbohydrates with each meal, which can go a long way to preventing sweet cravings, and make sure your meals have protein and fat in them too. Since cooking be rough with a new baby around, just think basic: sandwiches with lean meat and some lettuce leaves = perfect and not going to get cold and unappetizing if you have stop and change somebody. Salads with protein and cooked grains on top. You can make a huge salad up once every 5 days or so, and keep it in the fridge; just add dressing when you are ready to eat it. Also, cooking big batches of brown rice or quinoa can last for days in the fridge and weeks to months in the freezer.
Once you’ve satisfied the balanced meal part of the equation, if you still have the sweet cravings, rather than trying to resist them, you can find less-caloric ways to satisfy it. Frozen fruit like sweet cherries or grapes are wonderfully refreshing and sweet, and you can also try fresh fruit, fruit smoothies with protein powder (hello, no cook meal!) single serving gelatin or pudding cups, or single serve ice cream treats can help you stay satisfied for only the fraction of the calorie price tag of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Less intense sweet tastes like oatmeal with peanut butter, or flavored yogurt can help tame the sweets monster as well. A cut up apple or pear with a drizzle of honey can feel indulgent for a quick-prep dessert anytime that helps you get some nutrition and fiber, too. A handful of sweet fortified cereal can also help an urge for crunch and sweetness, plus gt you some iron which you may be low on after giving birth. Personally, I find that crunching on breakfast cereal dry no problem for portion control, but if I start eating it with milk and a spoon, I can put away a bit too much. 😉
Hope some of these ideas help you out, and remember the most important thing is enjoying this special time in your life, not cutting calories to the bare minimum or worrying too much about making weight loss happen rapidly.
With Love, Coach Georgie