Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting 'Out' of a Mindset and Adopting a New One

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a question a reader asked a few weeks ago: “What can I do to get out of the mindset of wanting to see immediate results?” I totally relate to that feeling and still find myself wandering into that mindset with other of my life journeys or decisions. Thinking about my answer has renewed my conviction that slower is better. Here’s why.

When I first started losing weight, especially the first 50 pounds, I was highly motivated. Almost too motivated. There were some days I felt so desperate to get the fat off that I’d chastise myself for the following: 1) putting on the pounds in the first place; 2) waiting so long to start doing something about it; and 3) not getting it off faster. I’d get this really anxious feeling throughout my body, like I couldn’t get the fat off fast enough, like a centipede was crawling up my leg. “Get it off me!” I screamed in my head.

I spent way too much time being angry and judgmental, too. I’m sure this will sound familiar: You get on the scale and see you’ve lost a pound or two, so you’re a “good” person. You get on the scale and you’ve stayed the same, lost “only” point something or, God forbid, gained, so now you’re a “bad” person. I still struggle with this. I’m “good” if I eat or exercise perfectly and I’m “bad” if I don’t. I’m always reminding myself that I’m on a lifelong journey of eating well and exercising, not just a day trip.

I’m not a bad person if I don’t feel like going to the gym. Rather than have that emotional knock down drag out and calling myself names, I’m learning to ask myself, “Why don’t I want to go to the gym?” The answer that emerges is never “Because I’m a bad person.” The answer is always something tangible like I don’t feel well or something is on my mind that is distracting me. Those are issues I can deal with. Calling myself a name does nothing more than make me feel worse than I already do. This also works when you see a number you don’t like on the scale. Instead of judging, ask yourself, “OK, what are some of the reasons this is the number I’m seeing?” Work with yourself instead of against yourself.

When Claire grabs something she shouldn’t put in her mouth, like one of the dog’s rawhides, I take it away and immediately give her something she can put in her mouth. She’s usually quite happy with the exchange if she notices at all. When she crawls toward electrical cords, I tell her “No” and move her to another part of the room that is safe. This often times makes her mad and she’ll turn around and head back in the direction of the cords. We go a couple rounds before I get her satisfactorily distracted with a toy.

That’s kind of how I view “getting ‘out’ of a mindset”. We have to replace destructive thoughts with tolerant ones. It takes a conscious effort to change our self talk from negative to positive, but being fully aware of what we are saying and how it affects our behavior will turn our weight-loss journey into more than just a “Get it off me!” race to some goal we think will make us happy. By being happy in the process of losing weight, by being accepting of our bodies and what they do for us, by appreciating that we’re taking good care of ourselves by eating well and exercising, and forgiving ourselves those times when we don’t, we’re learning to love ourselves as we are in the moment.

There’s a reason, other than the baby’s physical growth, why pregnancy is nine months long. It gives parents time to prepare for the huge lifestyle change that occurs when a baby joins the family. It’s like that with weight loss, too. Every milestone, sometimes every five pounds, comes with a change to our bodies, and we need time to adjust to and appreciate that change. I didn’t start appreciating those changes until I settled my mind down a bit after losing 50 pounds. I bought some new clothes because I was still wearing the old ones, and seeing my body in well-fitted clothes helped me enjoy the body that was emerging.

This journey takes a lot of deep breaths, a lot of patience, and a lot of attitude adjustments. By being your own best friend, by standing beside yourself instead of always running away from who you are in the moment or standing over yourself like some mean coach, chastising your mistakes, you can appreciate who you are and see more clearly who you want to become.

6 comments:

Morgan said...

Wow, Lynn. That last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. So poignant and true. I'm struggling with this right now, so I think I'll have to print out that paragraph and read it every day. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

thank you.

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

To Anonymous and Morgan....you're welcome ;)

Sarah said...

Not a day trip. SO true.

When I was losing I often reminded myself that it took a life time to put all that weight on and so it would figure that it would take some time to take it off. But, like you, when losing my first 50 pounds I found myself wanting the weight to come off immediately. The scale could kill my mood for the whole day if it was up even the tiniest bit. I was committed to the change I would think to myself, why couldn't I get results right now. Why was I such a failure!

However as the weight continued to come off and my body changed I began to realize that gradual change was best. I was only setting myself up to fail if I didn't address the way I thought about myself on this journey. There is so much more to losing weight than just whittling the size of your waist. Especially as I got under 200 pounds, life was brand new to me. I'm not sure that I would have been able to sustain my loss if I hadn't eased into it. The shock of the change would have been too great I think.

Learning to love yourself can be more difficult than passing on a cupcake imho.

Lesley said...

Great blog. How funny that the biggest roadblocks in losing and maintaining weight are MENTAL.

I find that I have so many more mental battles with myself related to my weight now that I've reached my goal than I ever had as a heavy person. How ironic.

Anonymous said...

You are such a good writer. (Coming from a former English teacher and a current advertising agency copywriter, that is not faint praise!) This one really got me. Excellent and insightful.