My girls hate math. I always excelled at reading and writing, so I’m not much help. They have math homework every night, and it’s a real struggle. (For them and for me.)
I try and help them through it by asking questions and letting them figure it out for themselves. But invariably, when I leave the room, I hear them say, “Alexa . . .”
They don’t want to sit there all night, learning how to do math. They want someone (Alexa) to do it for them. They want the answer, and they don’t care how they get it. They just want someone to tell them what to do and solve the problem for them.
I have met with so many clients and explained my philosophy and my approach, which is: it’s not what you eat, it’s the way that you eat it. I have patiently explained that emotional eating is the real problem, and weight is merely a symptom. I’ve talked about how if you keep manipulating the foods you eat without changing your thoughts and habits, you’ll stay stuck forever in a dieting downward spiral.
And even though they understand what I’m saying and wholeheartedly agree, more often than not the conversation circles back around to some version of “just tell me what to eat.”
Believe me, I totally get this. The allure of the magic pill is strong, and so is the concept that if you take these exact steps to get from point A to point B, your problem will be solved.
However, losing weight for you is different than losing weight is for me. Although it’s true that we have the same basic biological makeup and foods affect our bodies the same way, it’s not just about biology. It’s about psychology, and this is why diets don’t ever work. Diets are the ultimate magic pill, and even if you follow steps 1 through 10 and lose some weight, the weight will come back.
That’s because, once again, weight is only a symptom of the problem. The real problem is emotional eating. You learned to eat emotionally for different reasons than I did, and your current day-to-day life is different from mine — you have different stressors than I do, you binge on different foods than I do, and you have different motivations than I do for eating the way that you do.
So there’s no such thing as a magic formula. You have to do the inner work it takes if you want to solve this problem. I know you’d much rather me hand you a 10-day menu than tell you to go buy a notebook and start journaling, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way.
Even if I did tell you exactly what to eat for the next week and you followed it to the letter and lost two or three pounds, what happens when you go back to what you were doing before?
When you make your own changes, you learn what works and what doesn’t, you make slow and steady progress, and you start taking control of your life. The confidence you get from this is what eliminates the feeling of desperation you have to lose weight that pushes you to keep going on diet after diet — and staying stuck.
So, how do you get rid of your obsession for the magic pill? Here are a few ways to start:
1. Do something, no matter how small. We tend to think we have to make a ton of huge changes and stick to them no matter what . . . or we fail. This is Dieting 101, and it never works. Doing this is overwhelming, requires willpower, and isn’t sustainable.
Making one small change after another, however, is. And it gives you small wins that gradually build your confidence — and confidence is essential in solving any problem. And when you feel capable of doing something on your own, you’re less likely to look outside yourself for the solution.
2. Write it down. There’s tons of evidence that writing something down makes you far more likely to remember it and — if it’s a goal — achieve it. Get a journal and start making notes about anything related to food, eating, and weight loss. It can be anything that makes you feel in control.
I’m obviously not a fan of counting calories, but if recording your energy intake to get a baseline makes you feel good, then do that. Write down your thoughts before and after you eat. Write down how you feel after you binge. Write down how you feel after you have a good workout — or even how you feel after you skip one.
You’ll start to see patterns in what you’re doing, and writing down your thoughts gives you tremendous insight. You may think you know what you’re thinking, but it’s not until you write it down that you get the full effect of how you talk to yourself and what thoughts are driving you to do what you do. Awareness is everything, and knowing what you’re working with starts you on the path for real change.
3. Do it yourself. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen some infomercial selling the latest amazing, life-changing workout and thought, “I have to have that.” There’s nothing wrong with these workouts, but all too often I buy them with the feeling that this is the one that will change everything. (That’s how they market it, too.) But then I lose motivation, and the DVD and the weights sit on my floor for the next year, unused. And then I have to stare at all that equipment, feeling like a failure.
The thing is, I have about a thousand moves memorized that I could put together myself at any time to get a great 20-minute workout. You don’t have to do the exact routine, the exact same way, for an hour each day. You already know what to do. In fact, doing it myself takes the pressure off and removes the feeling of dread that “I have to.” When I know that I already have everything I need to do it myself, I get a sense of certainty that I’m in control — which means I don’t need anyone else to show me the way. So create a menu for yourself, come up with a workout routine, take charge.
By the way, I came up with this post in the first place because I was thinking, “Are these people sick of me always talking about changing how you think? I know they probably want me to just give them a list of things to do.” 🙂 But the truth is that the only way you solve any problems in life is by trial and error and making mistakes until you learn. And no one can do it for you.
Go ahead and make the commitment to taking one small step after another on a lifelong journey to becoming the person you were meant to be — which includes living in the fittest, healthiest body possible. You’ll be so much better off than if you continue taking the short-cut dieting path to being skinny and never getting anywhere.
You already know what to do. And as the saying goes, a year from now, you’ll wish you’d started today.