Beliefs About Body Image

Spinning requires good form. In order to get the most out of the workout, and to avoid injury, holding positions (correctly) on the bike really matter. When COVID hit, I moved away from my gym membership and bought a Peloton. I love my bike, it gives me as good a workout as I got at my local gym. Although, my gym offered a terrific community and I do miss the people. But that is a post for another time… I tend to select classes with explicit instructions for form, and I realized that I needed a mirror to help me make sure I was keeping my back flat, and my elbows bent. The mirror helped, and my form is much better these days. But now, I also get a full view of my profile sitting on the bike. There is a definite disconnect between how I am feeling on the inside, “Go me! I am keeping up, even though it’s really difficult!” and how I look on the outside, “Is that what I really look like?” Then I knew that today’s post had to be dedicated to beliefs about body image.

Ugh… Body image can be a challenge for most people at some point. The other day at work, some friends were talking about how hard weight loss is, the sentiment of the conversation went like this,

You know that you’re doing so good, and it doesn’t show for such a long time. It takes so much work before it starts to show. You feel so good inside but then you look the same. It’s so discouraging.

a lunchtime chat

I was thinking about what my friends said, as my internal critic was hammering my appearance. I put my hands on my abdomen and I actually started feeling sorry for my poor body. This is the body that carried three beautiful human beings into the world. This is the body that made it possible for me to get my degree. This is the body that gave my mother a shoulder to lean on when she was sick. It has served me so well, and I have neglected it so badly and allowed myself to gain back weight. Although I’m not starting completely over, I didn’t gain it all back, it’s difficult just the same.

This is hard, but hating on my body image isn’t helpful. Hating my body is an unforgivable, petty thing to do to myself. I am truly grateful for my strong, capable body. I am trying to be worthy of it by giving it the care and attention it needs so I can continue to live my life. No matter where you are on the journey, I encourage you to love your body and to allow yourself to flood it with gratitude for all that it is to sustain your life. Be patient, stay the course, and just be good to yourself every step of the way.

Clicking and Sticking

There comes a point in most weight loss journeys when habits start to become automatic, they are “clicking” and start happening with little effort. It is very important to be self-aware of this phase. With that self-awareness comes room for better decision-making and confidence, and these are two essential qualities for long-term weight loss success. When we recognize these qualities in ourselves, we know the process of weight loss is (you already know where this is going) “sticking.”

Many people give up on their weight loss journeys because they failed to reach this poing. Finding your way to that pivotal phase when habits begin to click so weight loss starts to stick can be very difficult. Here are three helpful tips that have been helpful to me.

Habits Reveal your True Identity

Who are you? Chances are good, that if you’re reading this blog, improving health and weight loss are important to you. If you identify as a person invested in health and weight loss, consider whether or not if the habits you keep make it so. Our habits are the actions we take day in and day out. A habit tracker can keep you honest:

Every Habit Needs a Home

James Clear writes extensively about the role one’s environment plays on the successful acquistion of habits. He asks us to consider our relationships to the objects around us and to use these objects as a cue to engage a habit. That really captured my thinking. I like the idea of having relationships to objects. I have begun to associate objects with particular habits. Meeting my daily water goal – my water bottle is home to that habit. Take a look:

Reflect and Refine What’s Working

Keep an open mind, and monitor how well your habits are serving you. If your happy with your progress, and your habits are proving to live up to your preceived identity, then great don’t change a thing. However, if this is not the case, do not be afraid to change things

If you’re not sure about how to build some momentum start with these tips. Before you know it you’ll have a whole system of habits that will help you to grow into the person you want to be. Thanks for reading.

Of Willpower and Whirlpools

Do you ever blame yourself for not having enough self-control? You think, “If only I had enough willpower and resolve, I would be able to push through this and stay on track.” For those of us who are working to improve our health, it can be very confusing when it comes to willpower. Sometimes a challenging situation will arise, like bagels in the breakroom, and it is easy to navigate that situation. But then, there are other situations that completely deplete our reserves of willpower and bad habits take over. Driving us backward, and then comes the dreaded vortex of shame, “I can’t believe I did it again!”

Let’s start this post by saying, falling into the groove of a bad habit is normal, and should not be received as a source of shame. I hope that by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what is really going on when we (all) fall back into bad habits from time to time.

Sometimes habits become encoded in the brain, and they are activated by a situation. If I am attending a holiday with my extended family, I will eat and drink much more than I would at home. That response is an encoded habit for me. If I go to the movies, I’ll want popcorn – another encoded habit. Think about yourself, what situation would activate an encoded habit? You find yourself in a situation, and internal forces wake up to trigger a response. The situation and the habit work together and suck you in as if you were in a whirlpool on the ocean.

Imagine the rotating current is the encoded habit. The opposing arrows represent a situational cue that puts the habit into action. Willpower is no match for that amount of force.

Top 5 Strategies for Breaking Bad Habits

  1. Avoid the situation – if you don’t want to eat the bagels don’t go into the staff room.
  2. If a situation can’t be avoided, make a detailed mental story – if I’m going to a wedding I will wear an outfit I feel great in, I will eat 3 hors d’oeuvres and my entree, and spend the rest of the time socializing and dancing.
  3. Create a network of others to draw strength from, I am going to face a challenge next weekend like going to a winery, so I will talk about it with my weight watchers community to help me focus on what I really want.
  4. Disrupt a situation by inserting a new cue – I come from work and sack out on the couch but no – my workout clothes are there waiting for me to put them on. I work out instead.
  5. Find new rewards that will develop healthy habits – Instead of rewarding myself with a latte for a job well done, I put the money in a jar and let it collect there as a reminder of all I am accomplishing. Then spend it on something bigger and better.

Beware, bad habits. Steer your ship away from those insidious whirlpools. For they have no choice but to suck you back into the old lifestyle you are trying to escape. This journey is all about making the most of the situations you find yourself in, avoiding unhelpful situations, and building momentum for the good. You are the one who decides how this will go – never doubt that you are powerful! We got this.

Just for fun

Remember when we were all watching videos of sea chanties?

If you’d like to learn more about Whirlpools, this is a great video:

Make it Obvious

Pretend you were able to walk into the home of someone you didn’t know. Once inside, you decide to look around. You walk into the living room and there on a chair in the foyer were some workout clothes folded neatly. You looked down at the coffee table and you see a half-filled habit tracker and some colored pens. In the kitchen, you see a food scale, and a bowl of grapes cleaned and trimmed into little bunches. Down the hallway off the kitchen and to right there is a small alcove and scale. A 64-ounce (pink) water bottle sits on a table, and it is almost empty. All of these objects tell a story about the person who lives here – this person is living a healthy lifestyle.

Environment is the invisble hand that shapes human behaviour.

James Clear Atonmic Habits

Are you making it easier or harder to achieve your weight loss goals?

Leaning Into Weight Loss

Last night was a total “fail: for the implementation intention I set to work out. I wasn’t home by 8:15 pm and then it felt like permission not to do it by the time I did get home. Maybe that’s a dark side to the technique or maybe I was just too tired by then to do it. I have been thinking about it today, and it is possible that I might sneak in a workout tonight, but I’m not willing to commit to it because I want to keep my options open.

Now is the time when I need to fully dedicate myself to the weight loss goals I have set for myself. I say that because I need to hear the message. My weight is fluctuating and it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. When I look back at my data I see that there is a pattern: I have a loss followed by two days of slight gains. Right now is an important moment in my journey. It’s time to be consistent and maintain my resolve. Here is my mantra:

I am strong! I am smart! I have the skills I need to be successful! I can do this but only if, I don’t give up. I will not give up on me.

March 10, 2023

If you had to write a mantra for yourself, what would it be? Let’s inspire each other to keep going. We don’t even fully realize how amazing we truly are yet. That day is coming.

Weighing in…

I am part of the Weight Watchers community, and lots of members are talking about the company’s decision to partner with another company called Sequence. Now members will have the option to use pharmaceuticals to help them lose weight. Some members are having a hard time with this decision because they feel it is contradictory to the beliefs of the organization.

Dealing with obesity takes a tremendous toll on the health and well-being of many people. It’s not for me to judge anyone’s choices. I just want to support my friends who are on the journey. As for me, right now, I think I am learning a lot about myself on this journey. My plan is to keep working the program and to reflect on my process. So far today has been a good one on plan. I made time to sit and eat breakfast in the morning. I packed a low-point lunch and snacks that I ate during the workday. I did not eat any candy, even though I spent the day with that candy bowl. Instead, I ate a clementine, it was quite refreshing and sweet. And, I’m going to set an Implementation Intention to work out later this evening here goes;

I will use the Peloton for 20 minutes at 8:15 pm in my bedroom.

Jenn Hayhurst 3/9/23

The only thing I feel a bit discouraged about (not always but sometimes) is that on the inside, I know I’m making big progress but it’s not showing on the outside. It’s not rational for me to get upset about something I can’t control. The weight will come off because I am making all these smart choices. Every choice I made that gets me closer to my goal brings me joy, and that is what I am choosing to focus on.

Planning Ahead

What if instead of focusing on how challenging weight loss can be, we focused on how the journey can be a testimony of our inner power and strength? How would that other narrative make us feel? Who is telling your story? Is your story being written by others, or are you the author of your own life? I say your life is your story to tell. I am tenacious. I will perservere. I am optimisitic that I will acheive my goals. Who do you choose to be on this weight loss journey? Think on that for a moment.

Weight loss is a complex issue, and unfortunately, there are many people out there who think it’s as simple as not eating so much. This is (in my opinion) a mean spirited and very unwelcome message the world sends out on the daily. It is especially hard for those of us who are giving so much care and attention to weight loss goals. If it were so simple it to lose weight, the weight loss industry wouldn’t have a projected a market share of 3.8 billion for 2023. Incomprehensible!

So here is a tip to keep you working your healthy habits. In the book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about “Implementation Intention” this is a percise plan about the behavior, the time, and the location. Does that really work? Could it be that simple? I don’t know but I’m going to give it a go. Here is mine, and I promise to let you know if it worked or not:

Here is a weight loss tip I can share that I know for sure works, it is planning ahead. My husband and I went to the movies to see Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Movie popcorn is very, very delicious. Many times, I have gone to the movies and said, “I will tough it out. I just will not have any popcorn because it’s too many points.” I can tell you, that doesn’t work for me. So instead, don’t tell, I made popcorn and home and snuck it into the theatre. I would buy air-popped popcorn at the theatre if they sold it. Maybe they should since we Americans are spending 3.8 trillion on weight loss! My husband and I snacked on the popcorn, and I remained true to my goals for the day. Win-win!

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.”

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.

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.