Making Peace with Food & Your Body: New Year’s Intentions 2o13

I received a group email from a friend, inviting us to join her in a weight loss challenge. I always have mixed feelings when I hear that someone is starting a diet program after the New Year. Not because I don’t think it’s a good idea to release extra weight we may have put on during the holiday season food spree. But too often, it sets up a familiar pattern of dieting, followed by frustration, discouragement and returning to other familiar overeating habits. If you have a pattern of yo-yo dieting, I’d like to share some thoughts that you might find helpful this time around.

1. If  you have been on many food plans but gave up on them, be curious about why. Were they:

–        Too restrictive?

–        Too unrealistic?

–        Not a plan that worked for your lifestyle but you forced yourself to do anyway?

–        Did you need more support to maintain it?

–        Did you give up because you weren’t losing weight fast enough? (If you judge your success only by the scale and not by how much energy you now have or by how in charge you feel in your life, it’s easy to become discouraged.)

2 Did you give up when you relapsed? Expect to backslide on occasion. We all do. But if you’re curious about what happened and compassionate instead of berating yourself, you’ll figure out why you fell back into the old habit and be better able to make a plan to help you get back on track. It is crucial that you have a support network. I suggest to clients that they email me when they’ve relapsed with their plan (or questions) for how to get back on track.If you think you relapsed because you were weak-willed and this time you’re going to have more willpower, it won’t work. Willpower rarely lasts indefinitely because it gets worn out (or if you do continue to operate strictly from willpower, it will make you obsessed and miserable). Very different from willpower, even though it may look similar, is operating from Inner Strength.   Think of someone running a marathon. He or she could never endure the pain and discomfort simply through willpower or even discipline.  It takes a vision of what they want, powered by the inner stength that they can feel in their core.  My mentor, Richard Moss, calls this building a “container” in our bodies that we can come back to when our mind pulls us into fear and doubt and disappointment.

3.   So, what makes a good plan? One that works for you. One person may benefit from a structured diet, knowing what he or she will eat at a given meal. Another wants more flexibility. Some know that they won’t be able to resist their sugar cravings until they have detoxed off of sugar for 5-7 days. Other people, who are afraid of feeling deprived, do better when they add things instead of taking them away. My colleague, nutritionist Claire Mandeville (www.clairemandeville.com)  encourages her clients to start with adding more water. And, if possible, more greens. For myself, I simply have to get off the couch. When I read too much, spend too much time on the internet or watching movies, I feel lethargic and depressed, which makes me want to eat. Sometimes I’ll set a timer for an hour, a reminder to get up and move. It’s OK to start small. One small step that’s successful makes the next step easier.

In a previous newsletter, I mentioned a very helpful book by Charles Dughigg called The Power of Habit, which I recommend highly for anyone interested in understanding and changing their habits. Duhigg ends the book with a quote from William James about the role of habits in creating happiness and success: “Water is the most apt analogy for how a habit works. Water “hollows out for itself a channel, which grows broader and deeper; and, after having ceased to flow, it resumes, when it flows again, the path traced by itself before. ”

I find this imagery helpful in not blaming myself when I fall back into a less-than-constructive habit pattern. I also find it helpful to notice that I have a number of different habit patterns, along with the sub-personalities or parts of me that arise with each pattern. I have my “meditator” pattern, where I meditate and do my yoga every morning, listen to my spiritual teachings, plan my meals, do my tasks and eat healthfully every day, encouraged by my “organized part”, my “spiritual part,” my internal “loving mother” who prepares my meals and sometimes the “disciplinarian who warns me that I don’t feel good when I don’t eat well and move.  And then I have my “lazy” pattern, complete with a cast of characters, like the “adolescent” who just wants to lay on the couch and read, the “rebel”  who doesn’t feel like cooking and just wants to eat cashew butter, the “critic” who yells at me for being lazy and the one who tries to cajole me into getting up and doing some movement or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).  (What movement and EFT do for me is move my energy that gets stuck when I just lie around).   I have lots more habit patterns but these are 2 of my most practiced ones.  You get the idea.  We have different habit patterns and when something triggers one off, just like the water following its path, the pattern just unfolds until something stops it – something external or something inside ourselves.

I invite you to become curious about your habit patterns.  It has helped me enormously to recognize that it is just a habit, that it is not who I am, not how I always behave or will always behave in the future.  And that I have the power to change it.

I wrote about how you can change these habit patterns in an earlier newsletter.  If you don’t have it and would like me to send it to you, please email me at barbara@barbaraholtzman.net.

One of the reasons that I write this newsletter and that I do my workshops (including my newest one on February 9, “Transforming Your Emotions; Transforming Your Life,”  based on the work I learned from Richard Moss and am practicing on myself   http://allthatmatters.com/classView.cfm?classID=1024&insID=298)  is that by teaching, I am reminded of how I am trying to live.

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