Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

I happened to turn on the TV while in the kitchen yesterday morning and chance to hear actor Chris Hemsworth discussing what it took to lose thirty-three pounds for his role in The Heart of the Sea. He said that gaining weight to play Thor in The Avengers movies was fine—You eat a lot and lift weights,” but to lose weight, it made him feel desperate.

Describing his weight loss regime: “That was underfed, which led to a pretty moody existence and inconsistent emotions, and so on. In order to do it justice (the story), we had to suffer in some way. And we did. There wasn’t a whole lot of acting required. We were desperate.”

GMA Host Robin Roberts asked, “You were truly suffering? You had, like a celery stick, or something?” Chris replied, “Like a boiled egg and some salad, nothing much. And you know, you play all sorts of games: ‘If I eat this, then maybe I don’t eat that.’ The insanity—it was nuts.”

Listening to him describe his experience made me stop what I was doing. I just stood there in the kitchen, thinking about the mental craziness we women have put ourselves through in order to lose weight. He’s an actor and lost weight for a role, but that did not spare him the mental backlash that is biologically driven when our bodies go into starvation mode.

With January and the New Year’s Resolutions fast approaching, maybe this year you’ll make a resolution to address your weight issue in a different way. Instead of combatting overeating with (temporary) under-eating, why not focus on figuring out why you are overeating in the first place? There is always a reason. And once you understand that reason, you become empowered to make a permanent change.

If you need help, I offer a comprehensive self-coaching guide in my book, Love Yourself Lighter: How to End Your Weight Struggle by Changing the Way You Think. Click here to get your copy. I am also taking on new coaching clients in the New Year. If you think one of those spots is yours, click here to schedule a chat with me and claim it!

Let 2016 be the year you put an end to your weight struggle by learning how to treat the cause, not the symptom. The cause is always going to be the way you think. And once you change out those old tapes in your head, then holding on to the weight struggle no longer remains necessary.

How Diet-driven Scarcity Thinking is Backfiring on You

Anyone who has been on a diet (or like me, a hundred diets) knows all too well what a “perfect” meal plan for the day is supposed to look like.  Here is a typical example:

Egg whites (cooked with pan spray)
½ grapefruit
Black coffee or plain tea

Salad with grilled chicken and lemon wedge (no dressing)
Plain iced tea

Broiled fish
Steamed cauliflower
½ cup rice

Totally depressing, right?  Unfortunately this is the type of diet plan we’ve been told to follow for years, and one we think we should follow still in order to get results.

Well, those who keep going back to restrictive diets like this are getting results—just not the results they intended.  Quite the opposite, actually.

I see this with new clients all the time.  Though I don’t offer them a diet to follow, right away my clients’ food journals start off looking like the meal plan above.  But then it’s only a matter of time before they crack and the overeating (especially of sweets) starts to fill their food journals.  Most of their overeating happens at night—after they have struggled all day to “be good.”

Once the food frenzy is over, they tell me about the shame and guilt they feel for overeating and tend to get down on themselves for having no willpower.  I am quick to offer relief by helping them see what’s really going on.

A common theme I have noticed in most of my clients is that in their diet history, they have previously adhered to a diet plan that was so restrictive it caused them to become obsessed with food to the point of uncontrollable binging and/or hiding food and eating in secret.

The experience of extreme deprivation and subsequent rapid weight gain was so traumatic for them that their internal alarm bells go off the minute they put themselves back on any kind of regime that resembles a diet.  They instinctively rebel by overeating.  It’s not a lack of willpower—it’s a protective reflex.

When I look at meal plans like the one above, the first thing I notice is that it’s not that much food.  I also notice that it’s plain and boring.  For many, just looking at a diet plan like this brings up feelings of scarcity.  That feeling of scarcity is the very thing that drives overeating.

And let’s be clear: they are not sneak-eating grilled chicken and broccoli.  They are choosing foods like candy, cookies, chips, or ice cream.  They eat the very foods they tell themselves they can’t have. Does this sound familiar?

If this is resonating with you, let me share with you what I teach my clients:

  1. Start with a clean slate. Leave all those past diet-y meal plans in the past.  Those meal plans were never your meal plans anyway. They were created by someone else and do not take into account your personal likes and preferences.
  1. Focus on NOURISHING your body.  Dieting equates to the removal of food choices (scarcity), but the act of adding in nourishment feels abundant.  You know your body best, so build your personal meal plan based on foods your body thrives on.  Be sure to incorporate your favorite fun foods, too!  Knowing you can have them feels good and eliminates the need to fixate on them.
  1. Eat luscious food.  Luscious food is the kind of food that not only satisfies your need for fuel, but that also satisfies your palate. When you eat boring, tasteless food, it’s not long before you are rummaging through the cupboards for something else with FLAVOR.  It doesn’t matter if you are not hungry; you want to feel satisfied.  By eating luscious foods to begin with, you end up eating less overall than if you ate junk food on top of diet food.

Switching from a scarcity (diet) mindset to an abundant (nourishing) mindset will take some practice and the transition is not meant to be perfect.  You may still overeat from time to time as you are figuring this out and that’s okay.  When this happens, I invite you to be kind to yourself and remind yourself that this is a process.  Just keep moving forward, focusing on abundance and nourishment.

Did your body relax just now when you thought of abundance and nourishment?

Mine sure did!

Beware the Before and After Photos

Let’s face it:  Before and After photos sell.

They sell the promise of a slim jawline, thin thighs, and a flat stomach.

They sell the promise of never-ending happiness and a successful life.

But they don’t always tell the whole truth.

Beyond the good lighting, spray tans, and oil-glistened skin, you have no idea what it took to get that body—or what it will take to keep it.

So, before you go comparing yourself negatively to someone’s “After” photo, consider what that particular “look” may be costing that person.

Does it take extreme restriction to get that flat stomach?

Does it take enduring constant hunger to get that slim jawline?

Do they suffer from self-hate, telling themselves that their thighs still aren’t thin enough?

And what will happen after the cleanse is over, or they stop taking the pills, or stop drinking the shakes and go back to eating real food?

You and I both know what happens.  We know because we’ve been there.

Keep this in mind the next time you notice yourself being seduced by Before and After photos.  Keep in mind, too, that there is little room for that promised happiness when restriction, constant hunger, and self-hate are your daily companions.

Instead of the usual kinds of photos we see, I wish we had images celebrating the vibrant energy of those who have succeeded in cultivating a healthy relationship with food and with their body after years of diet hell.  Sure, they may not always look like the hard-bodies in the glossy photos, but they radiate with the glow of genuine happiness as they enjoy the long-term results they continue to create from a place of truly loving themselves.

I would much rather have that any day.

How about you?


If you long to have a peaceful relationship with food and your body, but you need help ending the “Binge-Diet-Binge” cycle, contact me here and let’s talk! I have some coaching spots available… is one of them yours?