A new year can feel like a fresh clean slate—just like a new diet. Flipping the calendar creates magic pixie dust! Poof: changing the stubborn parts of yourself is suddenly easy. Your meals are mapped out. You’re excited to give this paleo thing a try. The blogs even say, “This isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle.” You found a workout buddy. You have a green smoothie recipe you can’t wait to try.
In my dieting days, my new year initially began on my October 1st birthday. That lasted about two weeks, and I’d look to the January 1 New Year. When that didn’t work, I eagerly awaited the Chinese New Year, usually in late January or early February. Then spring, nature’s New Year! With each “re-launch”, I genuinely believed things would be different. I was the opposite of the Doomsday Preppers. But sadly, equally delusional.
The reality? You never start fresh. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with food, your body and your self-image. To think that your obsession with food will fade once you lose the weight or you’ll magically find time to cook is like thinking that the special interests and corporations like Big Agriculture, Big Pharma and the NRA really are people (with souls).
So this year, whatever your weight loss goal, you have to start with defining the problem accurately. Coaching is a precise tool for this; it’s why I’ve spent four years getting a Master’s degree that involves detecting a different kind of diagnosis. Yes, get in your greens. Balance your blood sugar. But when you fall off-track, pay attention to that area of your life generally known as a “stress.”
Einstein said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.” So the question you must answer before you start any weight loss plan: Am I defining the right problem?
For example, mainstream media is finally acknowledging what we holistic practitioners, clients and independent researchers have known for years: high cholesterol isn’t the problem but rather a solution to inflammation, a root cause of heart disease. In essence, cholesterol increases because the body uses it to patch up the parts of the body burned by the real problems like sugar and processed foods.
Or consider the always urban and ever increasingly suburban concerns of guns. Underneath the multiple factors (i.e. guns being easier to access than mental health-care, the pain of isolation, declining mental health because of poor nutrition, etc.) are the special interest groups that have crafted a society that is for sale to the highest bidder. And this underlying pattern has infected not just our systems but also the collective consciousness of the types of rights to which people think they are entitled.
Many of my clients find defining the right problem liberating and healing in and of itself. Because instead of spinning their wheels, they can get to work in a new direction—and get results. To help you accurately define where to direct that weight loss yearning, you need to ask yourself, “ What do I lose when I change my reaction to (insert stress here?”)
The next time you work late or don’t take lunch, forcing yourself to skip your workout, see what ideas come up about taking the breaks required by every fully functioning human being. Afraid to look like a slacker even though you didn’t spend the first hour of the day talking about last night’s game? Are you over preparing because you doubt your ability to navigate the unpredictability of the big meeting tomorrow?
Or, say you travel for work. Instead of the continental breakfast all your colleagues have chosen, you need to order a protein-rich omelet off the menu. What do you perceive you’ll lose by ordering the omelet? Might you be perceived as “one of those people”? Will you have to feel the uncomfortableness of not going with the flow and the extra time required to prepare the omelet?
What you think you’ll lose, those feelings of safety, comfort and acceptance is a giant clue into your real problem as well as the doorway into a lighter life. For example, one of my clients had spent years planning a trip of a lifetime, criss-crossing the globe. After the first stop in Argentina, despite being far away from home, her emotional baggage showed up. She knew staying hydrated and eating at regular intervals were important to her feeling exceptional and as enthusiastic as she wanted to be for the trip. She realized though to do that, she’d have to trade in packing every moment with sightseeing in for a slower pace and tell her fiancé what she needed.
She’d lose the outward appearance of how a super cool trip “should” appear to all those following her travel blog. Another loss? The instant comfort that comes from agreement would be replaced with the unknown. Being this vulnerable in both her relationship and social circle was a risk. Until none of her assumed judgments materialized. She ended up having the trip of a lifetime internally (a lifetime high of self-acceptance) and externally (turns out less was more) and lost 20 pounds in the process. Most importantly, she developed a skill set based on a new definition of self-worth that travels to parties, work, vacations and family functions.
You may get instant psychological comfort from a statin, but inflammation will only become more acute, further scarring your circulatory system. A detox might help you lose a quick two pounds. But just like witnessing Karl Rove’s live breakdown on TV as Ohio was called for Obama, it’s a temporary high. The statistical side effects of not discovering the roots of your real weight problem are a 110% weight gain and a damaged metabolism. Scarier, just like special interests have turned the U.S. into a corporate dictatorship, your weight and sense of self are held hostage. Your internal dialogue sounds like this: “Once I lose the weight then I’ll get/have/be…..” Feeling powerless and insecure by your weight frustrations, you have significantly less confidence to apply to the original problem.
It’s easy to get swept up in the concreteness of pre-packaged diets and immediate compliments. But, just like the Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown’s 2012, $76.7 million Senate race cost more than the $67.1 million spent by the 2000 Presidential campaigns of Gov. Bush and Vice President Gore, the stakes and what you get enslaved to get higher for less power. Food rules become stricter. Binges inevitably increase. You sign-up for a ½ marathon despite hating running. You eat more from such exhausting workouts and the need for compensation from such a punishing routine.
Defining the real weight problem can mean embracing some challenging truths. But taking on this responsibility ultimately provides the empowerment and confidence you’re projecting onto weight loss. Dieting and lifestyle “gurus”, like pundits, will tell you it’s simple. Just “5 Top Tips!” shouted louder and less nuanced. Excess of these (sound) bites are why you and society continue to get weighed down.
Buying more guns and gun shields for a child’s backpack only makes the fear driving these thought process omnipresent. Trying to isolate and protect yourself from food behind diet plans and rules only increases food obsession and fears. That is no way to live. Answers come and go, just like how we define a new year or a fresh start. They change the more we understand the world. But the questions we ask define who we are.
To the radical idea of curiosity.
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