The New Year is a terrific time to take a look at the past year and decide to make goals and changes for the upcoming months. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is they are similar to any goal, in that despite good intentions, without a true change of self, they too will be temporary. To make a true change in self, we need enhanced self-awareness and personal understanding.
In order to develop the self-awareness necessary for lasting weight loss (or any healthy living goal)…
- Pay attention to your emotions:
- In my practice I see over and over again the difficulty individuals have with recognizing and understanding their emotions, and especially the way those emotions impact their behavior. The tendency to act on impulse related to an emotional experience is huge! (and unfortunately can get us off track in a hurry).
- Even positive coping skills and distraction techniques (which are certainly necessary in life) can be excuses to avoid our emotions, and this will only lead to problems down the road. We need to create the space to experience and understand our emotions!
- Exercise: Develop an awareness of your emotions. Rather than suppress your emotions (such as with positive or negative coping), take some time to sit without distraction and focus on them. How are you feeling? Name the emotion. Think about reasons why you may be feeling this way. What are you thinking? Have any situations occurred recently to impact your emotions (short-term or ongoing)?
- Slow down and think before you impulsively react with a coping mechanism or some type of distraction. Let your awareness tell you how to handle the moment.
- Pay attention to your body:
- Health and wellness is not about seeing how hard and how long you can push your body. Watch for signals and act kindly toward what your body is saying. If you feel terrific, push harder and test the limits; but if something hurts or you need rest, then modify or rest. Rest and relaxation is as much a part of this journey as is nutrition and exercise.
- The same is true with caloric intake, if you are starving, eat something small before you lose control and overeat/binge!
- I sustained a difficult knee injury toward the beginning of my weight loss journey, and the old me would have given up and turned the wrong way. But, with my new mindset in place and my drive to get this weight off for good, I kept going! I did upper body, abs, leg lifts with straight legs, physical therapy, and I slowly changed my diet. And the weight slowly came off!
- Now, some days I am SO mad at my body when I am feeling a pain and know I need to stop! But, I always do stop… because I know injury will only set me even further away from my goals, and that is unacceptable!
- And I eat when I am truly hungry, or else I am bound to find myself in an all-out binge! Somewhere along the way I learned to listen to my body, and that when it says eat, it means it! Otherwise you will find me moody, I won’t sleep, and I will feel irritable and out-of-control.
- Pay attention to the mind/body connection:
- The more you begin to think about your thoughts and feelings (mentally and physically), the better you will be at knowing when to act in accordance with them, and when to act contrary to them.
- Sometimes excuses or low energy leave us wanting to quit or avoid our goal – this is a time to push yourself and go against those thoughts.
- I cannot tell you how many times some situation, thought, or emotion in my life has left me wanting to quit and give up!
- Sometimes we have pain or are truly tired but tell ourselves we need to keep going – this is a time to modify and/or stop and rest. Injury will only lead to more time away from the goal.
- Often in the gym I notice people noticing each other, seeming to race with the stranger next to them or adding weight beyond their limit to engage in a private competition. Comparison is great toward pushing ourselves to the next level and past our comfort zones, but it takes a strong person to stop exercising after only a few minutes because they are listening to their body signals. Many people cite embarrassment as the reason they keep going, worrying others are watching them and they cannot stop or will seem weak. Someone who continues despite pain or injury exudes less confidence in themselves than the person who understands their mind/body connection and values themselves enough to listen to their body and stop.
When we understand our emotions, and how situations, other people, events, etc., impact our emotions and in turn impact our behavior, we can learn to change our behavior and act more in accordance with our values, versus impulsive reactions to heightened emotions. Understanding the mind/body connection, and how we feel and react to various situations, is an important step in learning how to control our behavior and act in healthy ways, even when times get tough. Things will come up, moods will flip without warning, and life will feel out of control. Having the self-awareness to deal with life’s challenges will ensure lasting behavior change and lasting weight loss.
And remember to be patient! Developing this level of self-understanding takes time and repeated trial-and-error! Learn to enjoy the process!