Lasting Results Come from Sustained Behavior and Behavior Change is a Skill You Can Learn
So many chronic dieters are frustrated with the fact that even if they manage to restrict their calories and engage in exercise, they find that their weight-loss results are short-lived. Many of them gain back all of their lost weight, plus more. They despair of ever having a positive relationship with food and their bodies. Many turn to one diet after another or pay for weight-loss program after weight-loss program in the hopes that the next diet will offer the “solution.”
Have you ever stopped to consider that if diets worked for long-term weight loss, you would have no use for even the second one, much less whichever one you are on now (if your history is anything like mine, you have likely tried dozens). You are blaming yourself for failing, when perhaps it is the method (dieting) that has failed you.
In my book, Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating: Psychological Strategies for Doctors and Health Care Providers, co-authored with acclaimed eating disorders therapist and 7-time author, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., we discuss in detail the reasons that diets fail to result in sustained, long-term weight loss for the vast majority of people. We highlight the experts and the research that explain what you and I already know from personal experience. Virtually any diet works for short-term weight loss, but if it is long-term health and vitality you’re after, diets are not an effective solution.
Perhaps the solution lies not in finding the right diet, but in developing the right skill set.
Yes, developing a LEARNABLE skill set.
When it comes to lifestyle behaviors, such as healthful eating, exercise, getting adequate sleep, stress management, avoiding exposure to toxins (including tobacco), and maintaining relationships, lasting results come from SUSTAINED (rather than short-term) behavior improvement. This involves both mindset (as in, “I am worthy and deserving of excellent self-care and self-kindness.”) and persistence over the long haul. It is persistence that allows us to attain and maintain our results, be it the healthful eating program, the daily activity regimen, the energetic body, the rewarding relationship.
Persistence is about self-regulation, or the ability to continue to act in accordance with what you value, even when (not if) obstacles arise, and even when (not if) the going gets tough. Self-regulation is the difference between giving up when you eat less than perfectly (“Oh, well, I ate three pieces of cake, the heck with it, I give up…”), and understanding that lapses and imperfect adherence to a healthful eating or exercise plan are part of life. So instead of throwing in the towel after eating more cake than you intended, your self-talk might sound something like, “I am disappointed in myself for eating more cake than my body needed, and even though I feel over-full and uncomfortable right now, I refuse to beat myself up. I wonder what I was feeling that caused me to overeat…” This type of self-compassion and curiosity actually helps us learn about our triggers for overeating, as well as about what we really want for ourselves.
The way you speak to yourself matters a great deal in healing overeating. Engaging in kind, constructive self-talk is a learnable skill. So is identifying the beliefs, mixed feelings, and thought patterns that keep you stuck in a vicious cycle of deprivation and overindulgence in food. The very first step is becoming aware of your current behaviors without judgment or criticism. Only then, when you are willing to accept yourself as you are in this moment, can healing and growth begin.
If you are interested in learning more or working with me,
My book, Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating: Psychological Strategies for Doctors and Health Care Providers, will be released January 19, 2017, and is available for pre-order through Amazon, Target, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, or Barnes & Noble. If you order through Rowman.com use discount code RLFANDF30 to save 30%. If you know someone who would be interested in joining the conversation, please share this with them and encourage them to sign up below!
Here’s to your deliberate life!
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