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