Sunday, January 15, 2012

Undefining Who We Are

“Resilience is the difference between making _______ one part of your story and [allowing it to be] your entire narrative.” Robert Wicks, author of “Bounce: Living the Resilient Life

As January wanes and the newness of shiny bright resolutions fade, many people are asking, “How do you stay motivated to lose weight?”

Yesterday, while working out on the elliptical, I was reading an article on resilience and I thought how almost everyone I talk to about weight loss has lost and gained weight more than a few times. It’s as chronic as disease. Everyone’s looking for that key to permanence.

The word in the blank in the quote above was “arthritis,” since the article was published in “Arthritis Today,” but “weight” works, too, as it defines so many of us.

I’ve written before and still believe that you can’t lose weight permanently unless the core of your intent is you, your health, your future, and your peace of mind. Once you believe that you are worth every moment you will spend cooking, eating, and living a more healthy lifestyle, you will succeed. It’s only through that true, heart-felt belief in yourself that you’ll “get it.” That no matter what life throws at you, you won’t let food or excuses dominate your life.

I’d like to tweak that philosophy just a bit by adding “resilience.” When it comes to losing weight, motivation comes and goes. But resilience asks us to stop allowing one issue to define who we are. Only when we see ourselves three-dimensionally, enveloping all our strengths and weaknesses, can we venture outside the box we’ve called home and roam about freely, making better decisions for our well being.

Easier said than done, I know. But I found the article’s tips on how to build resilience to be helpful in how I define myself as arthritic. So with all due respect to the article’s author, Camille Noe Pagan, I offer my adaptation for tips on how to build resilience in the contemplation and/or act of losing weight:

1.  Focus on the upside. “The more hopeful you feel, the more resilient you’ll be. Boosting your optimism requires you to ‘reframe your experience so that you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive,’ says David Hellerstein, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.” Ask yourself three questions: Does weight loss provide new opportunities? Can I look at weight loss differently? Is there any good to come out of weight loss?

2.  Learn from experience. If you have lost weight in the past, you’re already more resilient than you probably give yourself credit for. When you’re dealing with setback (“I’ve gained half my weight back! I have no motivation!”), ask yourself, “How have I dealt with this problem in the past? What strategies worked and which strategies should I skip this time?”

3. Expand your knowledge. Ask lots of questions when you’re online or at a Weight Watchers meeting or talking with your doctor or dietician. Read all you can about weight loss and health. “Learning boosts resilience,” says Dr. Hellerstein. “The more you learn how best to [lose weight], the more control you have. Control as well as resourcefulness give you the confidence to move forward in the face of adversity.”

4. Find your bliss. Make time to find and do things you love. Resilience researchers at the University of California, Riverside, found that “emotions like joy, satisfaction and interest…provide individuals with a sort of ‘psychological time-out’ in the face of stress and help them perceive the ‘big picture’ of their situation.”

5. Get  moving. In addition to its physical benefits, exercise “decreases anxiety and depression, improves sleep and increases the levels of mood-improving chemicals,” says Dr. Hellerstein. As many of you know, I didn’t start exercising until I’d lost over 100 pounds. If I knew at the beginning of my journey what I know now, I’d have started much sooner. Slowly, to be sure, but the freedom I found in the act of walking even a few blocks was so liberating that it spurred me on to lose more weight.

6. Seek support. I don’t need the article’s help on this one. That you’re reading this blog right now means you have or are looking for support. I can’t say enough about the Weight Watcher 100+ To Lose message board while I was losing weight. The people I met there (some of whom have become BFFs and maintenance partners) were key to me reaching my goal. I am forever indebted to their knowledge, support, and ass kicking.

7.  Count your blessings. Researchers at UC Riverside found that individuals who expressed gratitude or wrote in a gratitude journal several times a week felt more connected, autonomous, optimistic and happy – traits that contribute to resilience. “Gratitude makes you think about what you have, which in turn keeps you from focusing on what you don’t have,” says Wicks. “When you feel blessed, it’s easier to keep going – no matter what you’re up against.” Here’s my two-cents again: When I view my own personal adversities (arthritis or weight gain) as a gift, something I can learn from, I am definitely more optimistic and am better able to act accordingly. Also, when I sit in metta meditation and simply repeat, “May I be happy” or “May so-and-so be happy,” I am sitting in gratitude for viewing myself as a person who is worthy of giving and receiving love, not a person who is in pain or not at some ideal weight.  

So…what word or words do you allow to be your entire narrative? How will you undefine yourself and discover that you really are more than your issue?

12 comments:

the slims said...

Lynn I came across your blog as I am also trying to work out a way to loose weight... I have been there and done it atleast two times and reading your post I felt it was something that you had written for me specially. I have saved your pointers and will read them daily or try to atleast.

I had to start on the weight loosr binge when my daughter had a stroke and I have to be motivated and keep her motivated too.

Loved yout post

the Bag Lady said...

This was a terrific post, Lynn! Much food for thought, and perhaps exactly what I needed to get me back on track again.
Thanks!

Chubby McGee said...

Without the support I've found here on Blogger (and without being able to read how YOU completed your journey and continue along on the second leg of it), I would not have made it this far. I've been eating healthy and exercising for over a year now.

I owe it all to support and perseverance. Thanks, Lynn! You've helped me come far.

Lyn said...

Mine used to be 'helplessness.' It is taking a long time to get my power back.

Jody - Fit at 54 said...

Saw this on Carla's FB page. A really great read & thank you for your perspective on this! It can help many! I think we all come from our own place in weight loss - some very similar & others different BUT hearing what other people do & how they get thru this can be that one thing that makes it or breaks it for another person.

Lori said...

Good post. It's funny as I read the title I was thinking more along the lines of redefining after we lose weight.

I think that would be a good topic for you to write about...hint, hint.

I needed to read this as I am struggling a bit right now.

DebraSY said...

Thanks, Lynn. The only precept I find troubling is number 1:

“The more hopeful you feel, the more resilient you’ll be. Boosting your optimism requires you to ‘reframe your experience so that you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive,’ says David Hellerstein, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.” Ask yourself three questions: Does weight loss provide new opportunities? Can I look at weight loss differently? Is there any good to come out of weight loss?"

The thing is, there's never been any counter argument here. The media and cultural mythology have NOTHING but positive things to say about weight loss. The big ugly secret, as you and I know, is that once you've lost the weight, there is no realistic and broad-based support system in place for maintainers. There's just an assumption that "of course, you're going to maintain your weight loss. The medical, physical and psycyological rewards are so great." Well, darn it, yes we all intend to maintain our losses, but so few do because there is a denial that it's difficult and that there is any down side to it, begin with. So advice to "concentrate on the upside" sounds weird to me.

Let's pull that paragraph apart:

“The more hopeful you feel, the more resilient you’ll be." I'll accept the premise. No change.

"Boosting your optimism requires you to ‘reframe your experience so that you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive,’ says David Hellerstein, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.” Okay, with weight-loss maintenance you have to go through a phase first where you acknowledge that there is a negative side to it, an unfairness and difficulty about it that NO ONE seems to want to talk about and few are prepared for. They want to deny it, actually, skip straight to the optimism without doing the work to earn it. There's this attitude that, "if I'm just super positive, I won't be one of those lazy slobs who regain the weight (like I was in the past)."

Actually, as I look at that sentence, it's a nonsequeter to the one that precedes it. The first sentence is about hope and the next one substitutes "optimism." They're not the same. So let's just change the sentence: "Boosting your hope requires you to ‘reframe your experience so that you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive,’" says ... well, me, I guess, since the doctor didn't. Hope is VERY different from optimism. People in hospice have hope -- for a meaningful death, for a peaceful end to suffering and (for many) an exciting afterlife and new chapter. They are not, however, optimistic. They have accepted their mortality, but they will choose to make their final chapter meaningful. That's hope. Very different from optimism. Next sentence.

"Ask yourself three questions: Does weight loss provide new opportunities? Can I look at weight loss differently? Is there any good to come out of weight loss?" Well, pffsst. All the women's magazines and Special K commercials gush about the opportunities and good things to come from weight loss, but they're naive. Change "weight loss" to "weight maintenance after loss," and then you've got a meaningful and challenging sentence.

My thoughts for today.

Anonymous said...

i re tweeted this. You are on a roll these past posts of yours have kicked ass girl. I am grateful I am grateful I am grateful!!

blackhuff said...

I love what you say here: "Once you believe that you are worth every moment you will spend cooking, eating, and living a more healthy lifestyle, you will succeed. It’s only through that true, heart-felt belief in yourself that you’ll “get it.”
This is so true. This whole thing has to come from you and you need to do this for you and no one else.
I'm a new reader to your blog :)

Annie ~ Slim By Fifty! said...

Wow! Your pictures are amazing! I am new to your blog and can't wait to read it all! I live in Warwick England xx

Niecy said...

I stumbled across your blog and love it. I'm following you, baby!

I have fought weight since I was 8 and have been up and down, but I swear this is the end. I am on a mission for a permanent lifestyle change and I feel very confident I'm on the right path.

I loved this last entry. So inspiring!

Kristen said...

Great post! As someone who has lost and gained and lost and gained, this really resonated with me.