Research shows that less than 1% of people who are obese will actually achieve a normal weight. A 2015 study published by the American Journal of Public Health states that “over a nine-year period, the probability of obese subjects attaining a normal weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women. The probability shrinks even further—just 1 in 1290 for men and 1 in 677 for women—among those considered morbidly obese.”
I am 1 in 677 women, and I can tell you that nothing I’ve learned about fitness and nutrition over the last several years is more important than realizing this:
Getting fit is a head game you have to play to win.
Whether you have 20 pounds or 200 pounds to lose, the battle to burn the fat will be fought in your brain. What do you eat for breakfast? What’s for dinner? Hard shell or soft? Should I order grilled or crispy chicken? I really want cookies, but should I? Drink an extra glass of wine, or no? Do I want whipped cream? What about the cherry?
Studies out of Cornell show the average person makes over 200 food decisions in a single day! Most of them are done mindlessly in our lizard, or “survival,” brains. Listen to a Podcast about this here.
I have been on a journey to health for the last several years. I have lost from a size 3X to an Xtra Small (but with muscles!). That means that, according to this study, I’ve made almost 300,000 decisions over these years about food. I made it to that 1% of people. Thankfully, the vast majority (but not all!) of these decisions have been pretty good decisions, or I wouldn’t have been able to go from morbidly obese to lively and thin. But how did I just all of a sudden start making better decisions, and even more, importantly, how did I keep making them after the new car smell wore off of my initial resolve?
- I slowly, over time, changed my relationship with food.
- I realized “lifestyle change” has just become a buzzphrase. I changed my identity instead.
Change Your Relationship to Food to Lose Weight
If we view eating as a relationship, mine with food was not a healthy one. It was like a romance in a bad thriller movie, honestly. I was the overbearing stalker character while food was the unassuming victim with a need for a restraining order. My obsession with food was out of control; dangerous; even downright abusive.
Prior to launching my health journey, I thought about food constantly. I had a crush on food and used it to fulfill all my needs. My running internal conversation with food sounded much different than it does today in recovery and it felt differently as well. It was indulgent, needy, desperate, anxious, and lonely. Like food was the only thing that could fix what I was feeling, help me celebrate, give me something to look forward to or soothe me. And I was living this while being really unaware of what was happening!
This also worked on the flip side as well, because compulsions and addictions thrive in extremes. At one point during my weight loss, I had become disordered in my eating; almost anorexic, with an obsession that swung to the other side of the pendulum. Body dysmorphia ruled my brain and food was either Enemy Number 1 or dangled as a reward for doing forty-five minutes of burpees.
We are designed for relationship, not isolation and not bondage. Everything we live about is within this context. Marriage, parenthood, education, work and self-care – everything in our lives comes down to relationship.
Bottom line: If you start to view food as a relationship, it will transform the way you see everything. It will begin to mold those “lifestyle changes” everyone raves about. It will have a domino effect that will drive a major paradigm shift in your identity.
Like we don’t already know, but we could all use a refresh:
What are the characteristics of a healthy relationship? It is:
- Safe, physically and emotionally
- Fun and playful
- Flexible and adaptable
So how does this apply to food?
This is something I help my clients work through, and I’ll give you a few examples.
- We nurture ourselves with other activities, but we nourish ourselves with food as fuel.
- We are honest with ourselves, our journals or trackers, and others (especially our coach!) about our food consumption.
- We are respectful of our bodies with what we input and hydrate.
- We accept our bioindividuality (we’re all different inside and out). We accept our imperfection and, instead, focus on progression.
- We don’t abuse ourselves with food, stuffing ourselves until it hurts, bribe or reward ourselves with, or withhold food as punishment.
- We forgive ourselves quickly when we get off track, because we know that shame puts the addictive cycle on repeat.
- We live in abundance and fill our plates with food we love and we allow ourselves to be creative and enjoy ourselves.
- We stay nimble and adapt our palates, our menus and our routines as life gets tricky.
Change Your Identity to Lose Weight
Becoming healthy isn’t just a fifteen minute activity you can add to a daily “To Do” list – it is a commitment to change who you are. I used to think it was a task or a series of tasks I could do for a temporary amount of time (diet). I had my well-ingrained routines, back when I lead a severely unhealthy lifestyle. I put everyone in my life before me and my needs, especially my children, did not get enough sleep, watched too much TV, ate too much food, lived off of fried foods and sugar and looked at exercising and eating healthy as something I could just “get to” later, like something to be checked off.
I also viewed health as a product, package or piece of equipment I could “buy”. I would think, If only I had enough willpower, I could’ve stuck with that Weight Watchers online subscription (that went unused after a few months of point counting). If only I had enough willpower, I could’ve kept up the fresh juicing and smoothies I did for a couple of months. If only I had enough willpower, I would have kept walking for thirty minutes in the evening like we did that one summer. If only I had enough willpower, I would’ve maintained the thirty pound weight loss I achieved with phentermine, an appetite suppressant, after my first child was born. If only I had enough willpower, I could’ve gone longer than a week on the HCG diet without the drops… If only….
I had been missing something critical during this time. All these lifestyle changes and habits I was trying to implement wouldn’t stick until I actually decided to change who I was from the inside out. I sat out on a grand adventure to transform every single thing about myself, from the way I talked to myself and others, the way I responded to life around me, the way I dealt with fear and anxiety – everything. Everything about me had to change, because the physical weight represented mental, emotional, and spiritual weight that I was carrying. It wasn’t fat, it was feelings. Years of covering up who I really was, years of “protecting” myself through layers of fatty armor. And in order to do this, I had to make myself Priority #1.
At first, my family did not like this. My extended family did not know how to respond to this either. There were eyes on me from friends and family that I suspect were probably judging me as a bad mother (at the time) for putting my meticulous meal habits, gym time and overall laser focus on myself and my health above everything else. Now they see it paid off for everyone, though! It doesn’t cost anything to stay where you’re at. It costs something to change. For me, among many other sacrifices I made, it cost time.
I even questioned myself, classic Mom guilt, for focusing too much on my own health and not enough on say, my son’s schooling. But I knew, deep down, that if I did not first save myself, from myself, that I wouldn’t be around to be with my children. So what had to be done, whatever that was, that day, had to be done in order to make time for mama, and you can, too.
You can be in that 1% by changing your perspective and getting your head in the game to win.
I teach my clients exactly what I did to lift myself out of the misery and darkness that being overfat creates in our lives and it is a lot of work! Becoming a new person on the outside is not a fast process than can happen in a microwave. I work with clients whose readiness to change is off the chain, who are ambitious and willing to actually do what it takes, just like I did, to shed the weight. Most clients will take six months to make solid identity changes and repave old neural pathways, and many will take more.