They Did It Their Way

Mar 8, 2012

They Did It Their Way

One day recently a client asked me if I had ever published “my rules”, since I constantly talk about creating your own, individually tailored set of guidelines (just like diet programs do for you), that allow you to keep yourself out of harm’s way.  So, I am going to do just that in my April Morning Musings.  But more importantly (since lists of diet and exercise tips are a dime a dozen and you can find them in virtually every health magazine – especially this time of the year) I am going to tell you why I made each rule.  My strategies may or may not fit your life.  But the process of figuring out what those rules need to be is the process that each and every successful long term weight manager has had to go through for themselves.  As far as I know, there is no lasting shortcut to this information.

Case in point:  After conducting a strategizing session with a client who was off to a villa in Spain with about fifty family members last Summer, I was congratulating myself and reflecting back on the conversation that we had both thought had been soooo productive at the time.  In my often overzealous effort to help, I had presented all the things that I could foresee would be a problem for me in those circumstances and made all these brilliant 🙂 suggestions as to how to deal with them.  Problem was, I had that whole process myself.  She simply listened.  To really be of help, I should have stepped her through the process of determining what would be difficult for her and helped her to come up with her own strategies.  I was like the tutor who writes your English paper for you instead of teaching you how to write it yourself.  Was it any real surprise that she implemented not a single one of my strategies?

Once you really get it that you are not going to just get over the food thing, and that every big aha wears off, then ask yourself this, “Do you want to make it harder or easier to manage your food?”.  If you practice anything enough, it becomes autopilot.  And that is the real freedom, isn’t it?  My food gremlins don’t argue with me about the things that I have practiced into non-negotiability.

Logically, if I practice bailing, then I get better at bailing.  So, if I am still really struggling with something, then it’s likely that the no-I-don’t-wanna-and-I’m-not-gonna is still getting a lot more practice.  In fact, if I am discussing it with myself at all, it is clearly still negotiable.  My bailing muscle must still be stronger than my staying the course muscle.  I have found that disgust doesn’t cement a healthy behavior.  Practice does.

For instance, you know how it is when you get a roll going at the gym?  You created that yourself – by not buying into your excuses not to go just often enough to create a sort of protective “seal” around the behavior.   It is sort of a critical mass of self-generated momentum from enough yes-I-cans in a row.  To this same point, that client who asked me about publishing my rules recently tested this theory by asking this die hard exerciser at the gym at 6 am every day what she says to herself when she doesn’t want to come.  She answered, “I don’t have that conversation”.  Turns out, she is successfully keeping off 80 lbs. – coincidence?

Notes of Caution:

1.  There seems to be a direct relationship between how hard something is for me to do and just how far I can push the envelope.  Not far, it turns out.  So, when something is hard to put in place (like eating my burger without fries, for instance), I only have to bail once and I am right back at square one.  Maybe a year (and many orders of fries later) I may cycle around to be willing to try it again.  Good to know.

2.  It is also easy to get complacent and think that now that I have nailed something, I can fudge it a little and slack off on the commitment.  With some things that might be OK.  But with others (like exercising in the morning or not eating baked goods for breakfast – for me at least) this has backfired big time.  I need to know what is fudge-able and what isn’t.  It doesn’t matter if you can get away with something or if something works for you.  It matters if it works for me.  It is critical to realize how precious and often fragile that magical commodity called motivation or momentum is.  It is generally hard won.  My blood sweat and tears are at stake here.  So, I have learned to honor it, to not throw it away.

Here are a few examples of key things it would be valuable to know about yourself:

  • What feels “legal” for you, what does not?
  • How far can you stray before you to say screw it and eat everything you have been denying yourself since you were 10?
  • Can you sit with people who are eating and not eat?   Really?
  • How many veggies do you need to eat before you can be relied upon to take human bites?
  • How long can you go without eating before you cave at the mere sight of a stale chocolate chip cookie?
  • How many days of exercise can you miss before you feel like you never want to go the gym again?
  • How many days do you need to be on track to feel like “you’re baaaaack”?

Figuring these kinds of things out is the key so that you can address the real lynch pins  for you and create your own rules.  Clients with a Weight Watchers history often complain to me that the points system doesn’t have enough rules for them.  I doubt that the message was intended to be that you don’t need rules.  I bet WW figured out that you won’t keep following any rules you didn’t make yourself for your own reasons.

Here are some clients telling you in their own words what worked for them:

Anne – The Perpetual Dieter

Margaret – Who Takes Care of Everybody Else First

Milt – Who Never Met a Vegetable He Liked

Chris – Cruisin’ Without A Bruisin’

A new client recently asked me, “And exactly what is your role in my treatment?”  Good question, I thought.  As far as I am concerned, I think the biggest help I can give anyone is to assist them in having this very process for themselves.  My own insanity about food has prepared me especially well for this.   As a seasoned bull*****er, think I usually see all the angles.  But ultimately, no one but the individual themselves can really figure this out about themselves.  Diet program “rules” are just attempting to address some of the broader, most common problems overweight people have – like not having a meal plan or not eating enough real food or enough veggies, especially during the day.  Programs can‘t possibly address the nuances of each individual’s psyche or life circumstances.  That is the individual’s job.  So a more valuable question for this client to be asking is:  What is my role in my treatment?”  Weight management is a self-help process.  True lifestyle transformation ultimately happens through self-empowerment.

Begin your final weight loss journey now…



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