by Sarah DiPerna
The New Year is here, along with the all too familiar call of starting a diet. If you have tried this before, you already know that diets don’t work. Yet we try time and time again, in vain, to diet away those extra pounds!
So why is it that diets don’t work? They set up a pattern of restricting and binging that leaves us feeling deprived, and then causes us guilt and shame when we “cheat”. Then, we turn to food to soothe our negative feelings, and the cycle begins all over again!
Maintaining a healthy weight requires consistently taking in the appropriate amount of food to fuel our body and then putting down the fork. So, why don’t we do that? The truth is, in our busy and frenetic lives, we have lost touch with the internal wisdom that lets us know when we have ingested sufficient nourishment to fuel our body. Truly finding freedom from the battle with the scale is about finding our way back to connection with ourselves.
Strive for weight “release”, not weight “loss”. When we “lose” something, our instinct is to find it! When we “release” something, we truly let it go, along with all the emotional baggage that goes with it. Change your language to set your intention to release weight once and for all!
Identify the experience you really seek and use this as your motivation. Why do you want to be at a healthy weight? We get so focused on the physical body or the number on the scale that we forget the real gifts we are seeking. Is your goal to enjoy participating in activities to feel more connected with others? Do you want to have more energy so that you feel happy as you begin each day? Are you seeking to feel comfortable to move freely? Do you want to feel a greater level of confidence in social situations and thus feel more relaxed? Do you want to participate in certain events or travel with a greater sense of ease? Identify these goals and use them as motivation. This will help you stay committed and feel excited about making healthy choices.
Listen to your body’s satisfaction gauge. Our physical bodies give us messages about our hunger level. Imagine that you have a gauge inside you that goes from 0 to 10. At 0 you are the hungriest you have ever been, at 10 you are overly stuffed. At 5, you are comfortably satisfied. Begin tuning into this gauge. When you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself where you are on that gauge. When our gauge is at 2 or 3, it is time to eat. When you reach 5, it is time to stop eating.
Enjoy your food. Eliminate distractions. Turn off your TV, computer, tablet, and phone and allow yourself to really be present to the experience of eating. As you take each bite of food, put your utensils down and really experience the taste and flavors of the food. Check in with your satisfaction gauge throughout your meal. When you are eating slowly and with consciousness you will give yourself the space to be able to identify when you have reached a 5. For fun, try eating a meal blindfolded!
What are you really hungry for? What if you are at a 5 on your satisfaction gauge and you keep eating anyway? If you continue to eat, it is because you are seeking something. Connect to yourself and identify what it is you really want. Are you tired and seeking energy? Are you unhappy in a relationship and seeking love or connection? Are you feeling bored or lonely and seeking pleasure or comfort? Are you eating because the clock says it’s time to eat even though you are not hungry? Are you eating because there is food left on your plate and you learned to associate punishment and shame with not finishing everything on your plate? Are you eating because someone invited you to dinner when you aren’t hungry but you wanted their companionship? The list goes on and on. However, once you get clear about what you are really hungry for, ask yourself what alternative behavior would satisfy your need. Can you pick up the phone and call a friend? Can you go for a walk or make a plan to meet a friend? Can you take a hot, soothing bath? Once we know what we are trying to fill up on, we can seek more effective ways to take care of our needs.
Find ways to be active that bring you pleasure. If you are seeking companionship, make your activity a social event. Set up a time to walk with a friend, or go to a class. If you love to dance, make dancing your activity. If you love music, use your active time to listen to your favorite music. If you are very sedentary, begin with just five minutes a day. Stretch in front of the television everyday for a week and observe the impact on the way you feel. If you haven’t laughed recently, bounce on a trampoline and remember what it feels like to be a kid. Above all, MAKE IT FUN!
Tune into your sources of stress. Notice the moments or areas in your life that are causing you stress. What are the thoughts that you play over and over in your head that keep you in this stress state? Where in your body do you experience this stress? Take a few deep breaths, imagine that stressed-out part of you as a child, and offer reassurance and love as you would to a child. What would you say? Offer some positive statements and reassurance. Say those things to yourself and, as you take them in, notice if shifting the thoughts relieves the discomfort in your physical body.
Identify the beliefs you have about food that have allowed you to manage emotion and conflicts. We all learned about food as children and created beliefs that inform how we eat. They may be beliefs about food, and they may be beliefs about the self. For example, I am not lovable. Food is love. Food fills my emptiness. I am powerless. Food gives me control. Food manages my feelings. I am not safe. Food keeps me heavy, which keeps me safe. These beliefs, formed in childhood, are often the source of emotional eating. As children we may not have had alternate ways to get our emotional needs met. However, although we sometimes forget, as adults we have many choices available to us for love, nurturing, recreation, safety, and physical comfort. Connect to the wise adult within you and write down some new beliefs that will serve your physical and emotional health. For example, I am lovable and I experience love in my relationship with my children. I am nurtured when I care for my body.
Using these techniques, you can release the extra weight you are carrying. Diets don’t work; connecting to yourself does. Enjoy the journey!
Sarah DiPerna, PsyD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Master Clinical Hypnotherapy Trainer, Kundalini Yoga Teacher and owner of Healing Hearts Center. See ad page 9.