Weight Loss & Waiting

We finally got our first significant snowfall, it came just in time to say goodbye to February 2023. Although it arrived late into the season, I think it’s safe to say, that we Long Islanders are just happy it made it before the spring. It’s kind of a relief to see that familiar white blanket because it confirms our expectations – it’s winter, and in the winter it snows.

When it comes to waiting, everyone can relate to feeling frustrated. Especially when what you’re wating for is something you really want… like ahieving your weight loss goal. Here is the thing you’ve got to consider, there is only so much energy you have on any given day, how do you want to use your energy? You might be thinking, “I can’t help it, I am frustrated because weight loss takes so… l o n g!” All I can say to that is, “I hear ya!” Let’s take a moment just to appreciate that weight loss is hard.

You can do hard things. There are lots of ways you can help yourself along the way. So just in case you need a word of encouragement or some tips to keep you going here is what I have to share:

  • Anticipate the best-case scenario, you will reach your weight loss goal.
  • Appreciate the journey by giving yourself well-deserved props you’re doing this!
  • Set small goals as you go and don’t diminish your joy for accomplishing them.
  • The benefit of practicing patience is perseverance and perseverance increases feelings of gratitude.
  • Shift your focus from “the work” to self-care it conserves energy to keep going.

Now I want you to think to yourself, “I got this.”

Adjusting Expectations

When the habits start clicking and the weight starts coming off it feels really great. In the beginning, it is very hard to get into the groove of living a healthy lifestyle. There can be many false starts (as I know so well). There is an amazing feeling of confidence, when the inner voice says, “You got this.” and you really believe you do have it. As with so many things in life, there is another side to this story. On the flip side, you may feel impatient with the process. A rift can form from how you feel inside and the progress you make with the rest of the world.

It’s no small feat to get these networks of habits working in your favor, and for that reason, it is completely understandable that you would feel great about being able to get to that place. The productive place where you are able to do the work of weight loss and feel good about it at the same time. But as with all complexities to life, there is another side to this experience. Since weight loss requires quite a bit of work on your part, it’s easy to see how frustrating the speed of weight loss can be. Sometimes we have these expectations that in reality, cannot be achieved as quickly as we’d like. As we know, if something is deemed too hard – the habit can be broken.

Unreasonable expectations are a weight loss journey’s enemy. They thwart all the good work and can set you right back to the beginning if you’re not careful. So here is my advice:

  • Appreciate your amazing qualities that have gotten you this far you’re great
  • Don’t put happiness on hold appreciate exactly where you are on the journey now
  • Have faith that the process is working just as it should and focus more on what you’re learning about yourself rather than what you see in the mirror

The more I learn from having been on this journey, the more I think that weight loss has the power to teach us about ourselves. It can deliver this intrinsic discovery that shows up to the world in our appearance. Losing weight matters, and learning from the experience of weight loss matters even more.

Long Lasting Weight Loss: It’s All in the Way You See it

What does this featured image reveal? If you’re the kind of person who learns more through quiet reflection that works – or if you learner who prefers to engage, feel free to leave your answers in the comments below. There are no right or wrong answers. How you interpret this image has to do with your perception of things. Our perceptions are shaped by knowledge and lived experiences. One person may look at this image, and it sparks a sense of accomplishment; another may see only drudgery; while still others may not have any response to this image at all. How you perceive something will lead your brain to make predictions about what happens next.

I was looking for a fun image of Newton’s Law and found this one which happened to be from of all people James Clear. Channeling him today!

Will this day be one defined by accomplishment? Will this day be one of drudgery? My point for today’s post is that (more often than not) perceptions either get in the way of or help to establish the helpful habits that will contribute towards long-lasting weight loss. It’s not difficult to do – but it does require a bit of reflection work on your part:

Your prediction will guide any additional reflection work that needs to follow. If you (honestly) see this behavior as a positive – your brain will naturally start making predictions to amplify positivity. I am suggesting you engage those thoughts and name the prediction: “I drank a glass of water. It was a small simple thing, I predict this is going to be a positive day for weight loss because I achieved one of the healthy habits I am working to cultivate.” If that captures what you really think – great! If your thoughts are negative, treat it like an inquiry: “I wonder why I am thinking negatively about drinking water. Why is this my reponse?” It’s worth the effort because your negative thoughts are likely to lead you towards a negative prediction which may contribute towards to a negative outcome on your weight loss journey.

Give it a go and see if it helps. If nothing more, it will make you more present in the now which is worthwhile in and of itself.

Make a List

Are you the kind of person who writes lists? For some making, a list can very helpful. A list may offer a sense of control and when you cross off an item a sense of accomplishment. I read about a strategy that involves lists in James Clear’s Atomic Habits (such a great read if you haven’t read it) this is how it works:

Make a list of all the habits you are aware of like so:

  • wake up
  • weigh in & record weight
  • drink coffee
  • fill water jug
  • play wordle
  • scrolling social media

Now it’s time to rate these habits, (=) neutral / (+) helpful / (-) unhelpful. A useful question to help to rate these habits is, “Does this habit cast a ‘no’ vote or a ‘yes’ vote towards my desired identity?

  • wake up =
  • weigh in & record weight +
  • drink coffee =
  • fill water jug +
  • play Wordle =
  • scrolling social media –

This is how I rated my behaviors. The helpful habits are worth pointing out – there is a lot of power in naming what is going well on a day-to-day basis. Here are some other things that went well for me today – I worked out, then I tracked all my food, and I also weighed, and measured all my food. Plus I hit my water goal early! I am really trying to keep my efforts focused on the present. What’s going well for you today?

The Power of Story

People tell stories of
things that happened to themselves or their
friends all the time as a way of explaining
their own decisions. The stories may not be
scientifically representative, the events may
be mistaken, misunderstood, or
misinterpreted. But all that aside, the power
of the story is to guide, often in a good way,
the decision toward one choice rather than
another.

Facione, PA, “Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts”

Do you believe that stories plant seeds for transformation? I do. We are writing our stories every single day, and we are telling them through our actions, by what we think, how we feel, and the intentions we set for ourselves. My story is one of resilience. What’s your story?

Get a Clue About Your Cues

What’s your tell? What is the thing you do that gives you away to others around you? Whenever I’m going to insert a little joke into a conversation, I give a little wink. My husband made me aware of that – he spots it right away because he knows me so well. Knowing yourself well has a lot to do with one’s success on a weight loss journey. So the focus for today’s post is recognizing the cues that trigger habit loops.

The Habit Loop

A habit loop is the brain’s way to conserve energy when problem-solving. Ever end up at work, and you don’t know how you got there? That happened because you’ve developed a habit loop. I started writing about habit loops very early into my weight loss journey (precisely on September 18, 2017, Day 15).

But today, I want to talk about a specific part of the habit loop – the “cue”. If you recognize what cues your helpful or unhelpful habits you can leverage them to your advantage. Spotting your cues can be tricky though because they may be triggered by the conscious or unconscious mind:

I’m still reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and it sparked a lot of thinking for me today. One thing he wrote about that was interesting to me was to frame the habit loop as a problem/solution dichotomy. Simple but pretty complex, cues can be extremely subtle (like a little unconscious wink). So I tried out a little tool I made, and I reflected on a habit I am more conscious of:

The origin story for this habit loop most likely extends from my going back to school as a working mother. In order to complete assignments I would stay up late so as not to take time away from my kids. I would snack to stay alert and the habit stuck. Doing this reflection work felt productive. I am grateful for becoming more self-aware.

Feel free to download this document if you think it would be helpful to you:

Predicting the Future

If the human brain were an appliance would have an extremely high-energy star rating. You’d see that yellow label hanging from it and you’d know you were getting a really good deal. The brain does all that it can to preserve energy. Whenever it encounters a problem it gets to work to problem solve and over time it learns how to deal with the problem, becoming more and more efficient each time. Eventually, it predicts a series of steps to take whenever the problem recurs. You do it without even thinking about it because it is now a habit:

There is a catch… the brain doesn’t care if it’s a helpful habit or a harmful habit – just so long as the problem is resolved. I find this fascinating as I reflect on weight gain or weight loss. We can literally predict our own futures – even if it is on a subconscious basis. But now that you are privy to this information, what will you do? How is your weight loss story going to go? Your habits will predict your fate.

Photo Credit for Cover Image: Joyce Cohn Bolz

Pleased to be Present

When it comes to weight loss, what happens today matters the most. Yesterday might have been the perfect day and it is old news. Although it may be well-intentioned to make plans to start your weight loss journey tomorrow it is not as powerful as beginning the journey today. Even if today was a total disaster, starting right now is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Falling in love with weight loss

Right now on Twitter, there is a conversation going on between educators about whether or not it’s important for children to love to read. Specifically, for those children where reading proficiency is hard won. Usually, I don’t involve myself with squabbles like these – I have my own point of view and it influences how I teach reading and it is working. But it felt like a teacher/researcher I admire a great deal was being misrepresented and I “chimed in”. I would totally understand if you were thinking, “I don’t care about teaching reading, I am interested in finding ways to motivate weight loss. Why is she prattling on about this?” Bear with me, I’ll get to the point.

More often than not (sadly) educators will refer to children with reading delays or difficulties as “struggling readers” or worse, just plain “strugglers”. For some, the approach to remedy reading delays involves drilling letters and sounds, and strict adherence to the kinds of texts children are allowed to have. It’s typical, in these models, for children to have no choices as to what they read, and teachers are instructed to “follow the script”. If I use this model to frame my weight loss journey here is how it would go: they would call me, a “struggler” and “Weight Watchers” would be the scripted program for me to follow. They would say, I cannot plan my meals, or shop for myself – clearly (since I’m a struggler) I’m not ready to do it on my own. They would tell me it doesn’t matter that I hate this process, it’s kind of like just taking my medicine, and that I should trust them and not myself. Intrinsic happiness and joy are inconsequential to my successful weight loss.

If this was the kind of energy that surrounded me in my weight loss journey I would weigh 600 pounds. I don’t think I could stand it and I know I would fail and be miserable. This Twitter conversation has helped me to make a powerful connection. I should do for myself what I do for my students. Here it goes:

  • I will acknowledge what is hard for me on this weight loss journey and I will find opportunities for love and joy to be present in those moments – because I am working hard to improve.
  • I will give myself lots of opportunities to find the best way to make Weight Watchers work for me. I will do this through ongoing reflection and engagement.
  • I will keep at this every day because I see myself as someone who knows how to lose weight.
  • I will continue to build myself up using a positive perspective because I am worthy of achieving my goals within the context of self-love and joy and not disatisfication and struggle.

There are many ways to be successful there is not “one” correct way of learning how to do anything. So how do you want your journey to go? Do you want limitations and restrictions or do you want empowerment and choice? I have chosen the latter and I think I am all the better for it.

Being Self-Aware…

“What do you really want?”

“I want to get to a healthy weight. I want to lose weight. That’s what I really want.”

“If what you really want is to get to a healthy weight, what do you need to do?”

“I need to restart the healthy habits that helped me reach my goal last time.”

“What were those habits?”

“So what is stopping you from making this happen?”

“Cookies.”

“Seriously?”

“It’s not about the cookies.”

“No duh.”

“I have a stressful life, and it feels too hard to get this started. Every time I get it going, something happens to thwart my progress. I don’t believe I can do it again.”

“Will your life be any less stressful if you give up on what you really want?”

Silence…

“Well?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Say what you mean.”

“Ok, no it won’t be any less stressful. Maybe it is more stressful because if I don’t do anything to help myself it’s probably going to be worse on me.”

“There it is. Now what?”

“Now I get to work starting right now.”