Have you ever noticed that you stay in a narrow range when you’re trying to lose weight? You start losing, but you never lose enough that you reach your goal weight. And when you start gaining, you don’t let yourself go past a certain point.
If you stop and think about it, this is really crazy. Why does this happen?
It’s because your goal is an outer goal rather than an inner one. Losing weight has to do with what you look like, not what you feel like. And you stay stuck because you try to achieve your outer goal (lose weight) with an outside-in approach (go on a diet). Here’s why working from the outside in doesn’t work.
You count everything. Losing weight means you have a numeric goal, and when you diet you’re constantly calculating to see if you’ve reached this number. You count calories, you weigh yourself — you use numbers to determine your success. When you have this mindset, your brain subconsciously goes into checks and balances mode; it makes you compensate for a debit with a credit, and vice versa. When you debit by cutting calories, you balance it by consuming more. When you debit by shedding pounds, you balance it by regaining them.
You judge yourself. Wanting to lose weight means you are judging yourself outwardly, and diets reinforce this. Dieting to lose weight so you can look better means that once you start to look better, you feel like you’ve achieved your goal — even if you’re not at goal weight. In the same way, when you start to gain weight, you almost immediately don’t like the way you look. So you go on another diet to lose weight. You lose weight, pull back, regain the weight, and do it again.
You use food as a reward (or a punishment). If you eat emotionally, you reward yourself with food once you start to make progress on your diet. You say to yourself, “Wow, I look so much better, now I can eat.” Then you go back to what you were doing before. In the same way, you restrict your intake when you start to gain weight. You say to yourself, “I look horrible. I need to stop eating,” and you start another diet.
The worst thing about the outside-in approach is that it keeps you stuck, perpetually trying to achieve this one sad goal. Which means that you’re not going after bigger goals. I put all my dreams on hold until I had lost weight — which I never did, for these very reasons.
When you change your mindset from outer to inner, you stop obsessing about how you look and start caring about how you feel. Instead of using food to beat your body into submission, you use it to improve your health — and learn to actually enjoy it. You get a peaceful feeling of acceptance instead of the resistant feeling that dieting gives you.
Dieting to lose weight makes you hate your body, is not remotely exciting, and narrows your existence to the point that you never get contribute to the world what you were meant to. But changing your perspective from what you see to what you feel turns everything around.
Working from the inside out won’t give you immediate outer results. But the inner confidence you get by changing what you focus on compels you to do more challenging and exciting things — and this ultimately compounds your outer results.
The funny thing is that once you change your inner perspective, you won’t care about the outer results. But you’ll get them anyway.
Change How You Think This Week
Go one or two days not counting calories, not weighing yourself. Be aware of how often you catch yourself tracking either. When you don’t track the calories in foods, does that change how you see them? Do unhealthy foods lose their appeal and healthy foods seem easier to choose? Does eating become more enjoyable than stressful or less of an escape? Does not weighing yourself make you feel relaxed and more loving toward yourself? Write down what you learn.
Change What You Do This Week
Think of a goal you have that has nothing to do with losing weight. It can be big or small. Write down three or more steps you can take to move you toward achieving it. Start with the easiest step and work on accomplishing it within the week. See how getting energized about something other than losing weight changes how you think about food and about how you eat. And, of course, write it down!