Could you use a map?
Dear fellow traveler on the weight & wellness path,
Sometimes we feel lost along the way. We don’t know what to do. Or we know what to do but just don’t or can’t do it. Or we don’t know why we eat the way we eat. Or we know why but still can’t stop.
I’ve spent more than 16 years and counting on this path of weight and wellness, personally and professionally. I would like to share a “map” that I’ve shared with patients and used in group visits over the past year and half. My hope is that it may in some small or large way help you move in the direction of your weight and wellness goals.
We begin at the end of the dead end road, with the natural, negative consequences of having become imbalanced. The following is a list of what actual patients have shared over the last 18 months:
Aches & pains, fear of death/die young, depression, medications, clothes (don’t fit/not comfortable), short of breath, low energy/tired, poor sleep, diabetes, isolated, reduced mobility, diseases, high cholesterol, knee problems, poor general health, feel like s*@!, anxiety, low self-esteem, cancer, bad mood, self-loathing, uncomfortable, hopelessness, confusion, despair, high sugar, arthritis, mental illness, prescriptions, high blood pressure, surgeries, bladder problem, slow suicide, health risks, loneliness, low confidence, being a spectacle, discrimination, discombobulated, pinched nerves, worry, defeat, addiction, irritable bowel, meaninglessness, irritability, weight bias, can’t do stuff, discomfort, gallbladder issue, left out, money, fatty liver, fat shell, brain clutter, teeth, stairs, obsess, heart, aggravated, yucky, flubber, envy, carb coma/sugar stupor/food fog, work is down, (can’t) keep up with kids, social, appearance, out of touch, feel fat, skin, sleep apnea.
Our desire is to back ourselves out of this dead end road. What happened in our body before these consequences? We accumulated excess fat, or inflammation, or we were sedentary.
Backtracking further… how does the body become inflamed? Lots of ways, but eating inflammatory foods like processed/refined sugar & flour, and also stress are two major causes of inflammation. How do we accumulate excess fat? It’s complicated but the primary way is by taking in more calories than we burn up.
Why do we do things that we don’t want, even after we have been educated that they cause inflammation, weight gain, and all sorts of problems? Why do we go down the road toward the dead end?
Let’s travel a step further back from the dead end: In the moment, as many patients say, we “give our excuses.” We can call these our rationalizations, justifications, minimizations, “cognitive distortions”. We find they are illogical, irrational, “sabotaging” thoughts. Here is a list of examples from patients, see which ones you identify with. My favorite one ever was “I ate Italian bread because it was St. Patrick’s Day”. A few of the most popular excuses were; “I will start tomorrow or Monday”, “I Don’t Care”, “I Deserve it”, “Holidays”, “Irrational/Illogical thoughts (tell ourselves crazy stuff)”, “I already messed up”, “I exercised yesterday”, ” I’m getting rid of it / Don’t want to waste”, “This will make me feel better”, “I lost weight”, “I’m fat anyway”. (For a complete list of “excuses” given see the attached list.)
Let’s travel one more step back down the road, away from the dead end: Where do these thoughts come from? What must have been happening in our mind right before we started having these thoughts? The truth is that in that moment, we simply wanted to eat/drink/sit more than we didn’t. We wanted the desired effect more than we wanted to avoid the undesired effect of the action. What did we really want? Was it truly food, drink, or being sedentary? Knowing the negative consequences? Here is what patients have said: We want/need (desire, crave, have an urge for): comfort, love, companionship, feeling good/better, satisfaction, a “fix”, numbing.
Let’s take another step back down the road…In short, if we wanted to feel comfort, we must have been feeling discomfort. In what ways might we be feeling uncomfortable? Physically we might feel pain, illness, too hot or cold, too tired or too sedentary, hungry, thirsty, too full, or any other physical discomfort. Emotionally we might have felt angry, sad, afraid, guilty or any other uncomfortable emotion.
How do we learn to go down the road less and less often? The answer goes by many names but learning to connect with a place inside ourselves from which we respond, rather than react to life, literally puts us on a new road. First we learn how to find this part of ourselves. It is sometimes called awareness, presence, consciousness, inner self, true self, higher self, being, essence, (some patients call it spirit or soul). Here we find new resources like self-reflection, the ability to be in NOW (Notice, Observe, Witness), wisdom, integrity, authenticity, acceptance, honesty, ease, power, strength, solutions, humility, truth, clarity, etc. From here we are able to move from old reactions to new responses that take the form of thoughts, actions and interactions. Through this practice of what can be called mind-body medicine, we find ourselves going less far down the road, less often, for less time. Sound too good to be true? This has been true for myself (and it’s a curvy, bumpy, windy road!) for over sixteen years. And it has been true for many patients who have chosen to take this “road less traveled.” I invite you to bring your questions and comments to your next visit!