The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I’ve been seeing a common theme with many of my clients over the past couple of weeks. It has to do with absolutes: Success vs Failure, All or Nothing. It has to do with the all powerful F*ck-It’s (my clinical term for allowing a minor veer off your goal path to become a total derailment) and the stories we tell ourselves.

Sophie is a brilliant, accomplished and successful woman. She has a young family, a full time big deal career and maintains a functional social life. And she is heavier than she wants to be. A few years ago, Sophie had success maintaining a much lower weight by committing to an intense diet plan and frequent regular exercise. She was happy with the way her body looked and felt, but maintaining it was feeling like another full time job.

Bruce is a brilliant, accomplished and successful man. He runs his own business, works out 5 or 6 days a week, has an active social life and travels frequently. He is heavier than he wants to be. A few years ago he was able to easily lose weight by changing his diet, but as the stress of his career crept up, so did his weight. And now, though he has changed his diet yet again, he is still struggling to lose weight.

Both Sophie and Bruce (and numerous others) have a common story: “In order for me to lose weight, I need to make drastic changes that I just can’t make.  I don’t want to live my life without pizza (or beer, or cheese, or chocolate, or steak), I can’t run 6 miles a day and so I’ll never be at the weight I want.”

And, in fact, that story is true. They lived it, they know it, it’s true. And life without pizza (or beer, or cheese, or chocolate, or steak) looks really bleak.

But one of the beauties of life is that many things can be true at once. It is true that Sophie is definitely not going to make time to run five days a week, but it is also true that one or two a week is beneficial to Sophie. It’s true that Bruce isn’t going to start making all of his own meals again, but he could make dinner 4 times a week. They may not drop 30 pounds, but they might lose 5. Or they might not lose any weight, but they might improve their insulin sensitivity or cholesterol levels.

Where we are right now is only where we are right now. Things will change in a month, a year, five years. Maybe what seems impossible now will feel good in a year. Maybe what seems fat to you now will feel fit to you in a year. Some of the work is objective but a lot of it is subjective. What is it going to take for Sophie and Bruce to feel successful?

The F*ck It spiral is seductive, but resist.  No one benefits from giving up. Every new meal, snack, fitness class, free hour is a new opportunity to make a good choice, to take charge and to feel successful. Every veer off is a learning opportunity if you listen to it.

Let’s rewrite the story. Let’s change it to: “I’m doing to best I can right now. I’m trying to move my body as often as I can in ways that feel good, I’m trying to feed myself nourishing, delicious, satisfying food as often as I can and I’m trying to focus on all the amazing things my body does instead of hating the size of my jeans and the roll of my belly.”

That story can also be true.




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