If I asked you what you would wish for if you could have anything, I’ll bet you’d say to be thin or to lose weight or to have the perfect body. Maybe you would say all three.
But in light of the fact that you’re probably knee deep in New Year’s resolutions right now in an effort to make at least one of those wishes come true, let’s face one very important fact. You may say you want lose weight — but that’s actually not what you want.
Really, it’s not.
What you’re really after is the feeling you’ll have once you lose it. It’s the life you imagine living once the weight is gone.
This is a very important distinction because once you make it, everything falls into place.
What you’re probably living now is a half-lived life. I don’t say that lightly, because I used to live that life, too. If you’re focused on losing weight — especially to the exclusion of all else — your life isn’t the fulfilling, joy-filled one you can and should be living.
But the problem is that a half-lived life is one where you continue to engage in habits that keep your body out of alignment with health. Living this life keeps weight on your body. It makes your skin dull and lifeless. It makes you feel tired and worn out.
Then you feel desperate to eliminate these things. But unfortunately the weight, the bad skin, and the exhaustion are only symptoms. And feeling desperate makes you search for quick-fix solutions like diets, expensive face creams, and drugs, which are alleviating your symptoms but never solving the real problem — trying to fill an internal void.
But here’s the irony: the void wouldn’t exist if you were living a fulfilling, joy-filled life. A life where you’re pursuing a dream or a goal that gets you inspired and excited.
In other words, the life you imagine living when you finally lose the weight.
This kind of life naturally supports healthy habits and makes bad habits no longer compelling. In this kind of life, there’s no need for binge eating, binge drinking, putting yourself to sleep artificially, or wasting hours of your life zoned out in front of the TV.
In this kind of life, weight is no longer an issue.
So how do you go from the half-lived life to the one where you’re fully alive?
You have to go through No-Man’s Land.
No Man’s Land is the place where you train yourself to let go of the numbing devices that on the surface feel satisfying but in reality are keeping you stuck right where you are. It’s the desert you have to walk through while you do the inner work it takes to figure out why you’re engaging in these destructive habits in the first place.
The first thing you have to do is commit yourself to patiently work through this tough phase. You can’t skip over it, and there are no shortcuts (in other words, diets).
Here are some strategies to help you transition:
Focus on how you feel, not on how you look. It’s such a waste of time to obsess about how you look, and hating your body is the perfect way to stay stuck in the diet downward spiral.
But stopping to get in touch with how you feel helps you understand why you do what you do and do figure out what’s pushing you to engage in bad habits. That’s what needs to change. You have to treat the actual problem rather than the symptoms of it.
Changing how you feel is easier because it helps you relax and get in tune with yourself, which we hardly ever do because we’re so busy beating ourselves up and hating what we look like (which causes resistance, which pushes you to do the things you shouldn’t do). It takes time, but it is possible.
Turn a bad habit into a good one. Stop trying to quit engaging in bad habits. This doesn’t work. Instead, slowly turn a bad habit into a good one.
Engage in the bad habit for a week without shame or judgment. Figure out what you’re thinking and feeling while you’re doing it. Make small, sustainable changes to the habit until you’ve got them down. Eventually, this habit will morph into something better.
Don’t try and quit bingeing on chocolate in front of the TV every night. Take your chocolate to the table and eat it there. Switch to dark chocolate instead of your kids’ leftover Halloween candy. Portion it out and gradually decrease the amount. Eat a slice of apple in between bites.
Pretty soon, you’ll have a changed habit — and you’ll realize that the old one wasn’t that satisfying anyway.
Make new associations. Change what you say to yourself when you engage in bad habits. What you want is to make those habits no longer compelling, but you can’t do this as long as you’re telling yourself the wrong things.
I used to associate having a glass of wine at the end of a long, hard day as “relaxing.” And by constantly telling myself how long and hard my day had been, it was even more desirable.
Now I focus on being grateful for what was good instead of how irritating my kids are and how sick I am of cleaning the house and how no one appreciates anything I do. And as a result, I no longer feel like I “deserve” to have a glass of wine. It sounds Pollyanna, but it really works.
Pull the better life toward you. Start living the life you envision in small ways now. Remember, this is what you’re really after, the life you’d live if you could only lose weight.
If you dream of wearing fabulous clothes, go buy a new pair of designer jeans and wear them on your next girls’ night. If you dream of European travel, book a weekend getaway close to home. If you fantasize about having your own business, read an inspiring book about entrepreneurship.
The positive energy and joy these kinds of things generate shifts your focus away from how stuck you feel and keeps you too busy to sit around and figure out what else you can eat.
And for the love of God, just bite the bullet and get yourself a journal. I know every fiber in your being resists sitting down and writing about how you feel. I mean, don’t you have enough to do without adding that to your plate?
It feels so challenging to sit still and take the time to journal. And it feels like you’ll have nothing to write about. But I swear, once you do this, you will not believe the stuff that shows up on the page.
And to my point about the false narratives we tell ourselves: you can’t change them if you can’t spot them. And journaling is the best way to accomplish this.
You will never learn anything if you mindlessly go through your day, skipping from one task to the next. Once you sit still and process what’s going on inside you (as opposed to what has shown up on the outside), you’ll be on your way to a changed life.
If you make only one resolution this year, make it to buy a journal and commit to using it!
This year, decide that you’re willing to do the work it takes to become a better version of yourself — the one you truly are on the inside — one baby step at a time, one day at a time. Plan to work your way patiently through No Man’s Land in 2020.
As the saying goes, a year from now, you’ll wish you started today.
Happy New Year!