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September 11, 2012

If Only…

How many times have you repeated some variation of, “If only…” when it comes to body change and fat loss? Probably thousands, like me.

Here are some of my favorites from my personal history:

  • If only I could control my eating!
  • If only I could actually DO what I KNOW!
  • If only I could lose these last 10 lbs!
  • If only I could have her legs!
  • If only I didn’t love peanut butter!
  • If only I didn’t care what I looked like!
  • If only I didn’t do fitness for a living, I could eat whatever I want and not give a shit. <— Lol. My personal favorite :)

The bottom line for me it this, though…I want to do fitness for living, I want to be able to eat peanut butter without feeling guilty and I want to care about what I look like. Besides, I know that the alternatives of the above scenarios would not actually make me any happier. There would always be something else I would search for “out there” to make me feel better “in here” or inside myself. And whenever I look for affirmation “out there” it’s no doubt short-lived. So, the problem is not that I don’t have someone else’s legs or getting rid of those last 10 lbs.

The problem is that I need to get my mind right.

There is no separating mental fitness and physical fitness. There are examples of people who walk around at 12% body fat who hate their physiques with a passion. And there are examples of obese people who love the way they look.

Self-perception is subjective.

Is obese healthy? No. But I would argue that it is no worse than someone who is fit and lean but who can’t appreciate it and is constantly employing negative self-talk and poor body image.

The idea that we need negative motivators like guilt, remorse and depression to spur us to action is simply not true. And there are plenty of change psychology studies to show it (read ‘The Willpower Instinct’ by Kelly McGonigal). Using negative self-talk to “keep us in line” with our eating does not work in the long run. And in fact, the more negative feedback we use, the less motivated we are to keep going and the more hopeless we feel.

Simply feeling and saying out loud the words, “I suck at eating healthy” only affirms that we do and will indeed, continue to suck at eating healthy. That’s how much power your own words can hold.

Self-assessments are, by nature, subjective. And sorry, but most people are probably the worst judges of their own progress and current physique. With that being said, however, we can learn to speak a new body-assessment language that allows for us to find results while also being kind to ourselves.

This switch starts with understanding that we have a CHOICE about how we talk to ourselves.

We have a choice to NOT use negative reinforcement in order scare ourselves into dietary compliance. Though we think we need negative feelings of guilt, remorse and self-reprimands to stay “on track,” research shows that, in the long run, we are going to do what we’re going to do regardless of the nature of feelings we acknowledge. In fact, I would argue that it’s only when we stop with the negative self-talk that we can gain back our control over food.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
–Carl Rogers

When we allow ourselves to be driven by guilt and remorse around food, we give all of our power over. The scary part comes in when we stop employing negative drivers and think that we’ll just blow up as a result. NOT the case. Food simply loses its hold.

So, a couple questions for you to think about:

  • Could you start to become aware of those times when you are employing negative self-talk?
  • Could you “stop and flip” those feelings, allowing yourself to simple be ok in that moment? (scary!?) :)
  • Could you back up and see the fat loss process from a higher place–a place where you need and want to find a way to do it forever?
  • Could you be OK if you never lost 1 more pound?
  • Would your significant other stop being attracted to you? Would your children stop loving you? Would you lose your intellect or your sense of humor?
  • What would be THE WORST CASE scenario if you never lost another pound? Could you deal? (HINT: Of course you could!)

Related: Guilt: Is it as “useful” as we think?

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