If you’ve been reading this series then you know I’m opposed to dieting. Whilst I don’t believe our bodies should be treated like projects or problems to be fixed, that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to wanting to lose weight. I just don’t believe that quick-fix diets work in the long-term. I believe incremental lifestyle changes are healthier for both body and mind, and we should look beyond food and exercise and consider the relationship with have with our bodies… among other things.
It’s that time of the year when the diet industry goes into advertising overdrive. Conversations turn to New Year’s Resolutions, which often include – yet again – losing weight.
The result of all this, which is what I really resent, is when – yet again – we repeat the cycle of “failing” at dieting. It breaks my heart to think of a woman feeling like a failure when she hasn’t failed at all, because I’ve been there myself so many times.
So I’m sharing part one of how you can actively participate in your transformation. It’s about letting go rather than holding on tight to the very things that have kept you stuck for so long.
If you don’t actively participate and aren’t willing to try a different approach – rather than a different diet – then nothing will change in the next 12 months. You will continue to feel like you’re “Always going to be this way.”
1. DECIDE EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT
Far too often we’re striving for what we think we should want without stopping to name what we really want. Be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s time we got comfortable with naming what we want.
I used to think I wanted to reach a certain weight… the same weight I’d been unsuccessfully trying to diet down to for years. But when I did this exercise I realized what I wanted more than anything was to stop hating my body and to stop feeling crazy around food. Suddenly those things became far more important than a number on the scale.
Now, ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to get what I want?” I realized I had to give up yo-yo dieting and weighing myself if I was going to heal my relationship with my body and food. Because I wanted to heal so badly, I was willing to try a new way of doing things, difficult as it was.
In many ways I felt relieved when I made my decision, but I also felt a sense of shame. We’re programmed to believe we should want to be a size 0 and constantly dieting. I wondered, “Did giving up mean I’m fat and lazy and no longer care how I look?” Of course not!
While it may feel that way at first, treat your decision to quit as a rebellious act. You’re giving the finger to an industry that makes billions each year telling us we must beat our bodies into submission, because they’re not good enough unless we do.
If you’re feeling unsure of what you truly want, try these two exercises:
Start a journaling practice to unlock and capture what you consciously and subconsciously long for. Each day, for at least a week, simply answer this question: “What do I truly want?” There’s no right or wrong way to journal, but prepare to be surprised by how much you learn about yourself. Remember… You must be honest with yourself!
Create a vision board using magazine clippings of images and words that resonate with you. I don’t mean photographs of models with perfect bodies. My vision board contains images of friends eating together, beautifully styled food, a woman standing on top of a snowy mountain with her arms raised in triumph and words like, “Fall in love with your body,” “The art of food” and “Swimming for pleasure.” Even if it feels childish at first, it’s a great way to unlock subconscious desires.
Take your time with this exercise and don’t censor the images and words you’re attracted to… They’re trying to tell you something.
2. TO MOVE INTO YOUR FUTURE, LET GO OF YOUR PAST
If you’ve yo-yo dieted, there are probably a lot of limiting self-beliefs and self-doubt lurking in your mind. It’s time to start fresh!
First, surrender, and by surrender I don’t mean give up. I mean surrender old ideas about what you think you “should” do, and dare to trust yourself instead. Surrender is a permission slip to release something that’s no longer working; a way of being or doing, an idea about who you are or a story you’ve been telling yourself that isn’t really true.
If you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over and getting nowhere, then maybe it’s time to surrender.
Surrender is powerful. It allows you to turn away from old ways of doing things and to consider new ways instead. It creates an opportunity for your intuition to guide you, for obstacles to become stepping-stones. When I finally found the grace to let go of my need for control – when I surrendered – things didn’t turn out how I expected… They turned out better!
For me, one of the most damaging things about yo-yo dieting was that my inability to stick to a diet had eroded my confidence. So not long after I quit dieting, I listed every single diet I’d ever been on. I went into very fine detail, making note of the disappointments, the perceived failures and all the times I’d felt particularly bad about my body.
And then I forgave myself and let it all go.
I frequently share this exercise with clients I coach because it’s so powerful. You may have to spend some time doing it, even repeating it several times. It doesn’t matter. Do it as many times as you need.
That’s not to say you won’t think about past experiences, but now you’ll have a powerful reminder:
You’ve made the decision to let go, and granted yourself permission to move on.
Forgive yourself for past failures, real or perceived. You were simply practicing for the next step of your journey.