Part 2: The Tools For Shapeshifting
In part one we looked at how shapeshifting differs from weight loss, and what its foundations are.
Now let's see what our toolbox consists of: exactly how to do it.
In the foundations section, I mentioned setting 60-90 minutes a day aside for your shapeshifting goal. This is not a universal rule, but it does get you to sit up and be realistic about this. The actual time needed depends on you and what your circumstances are, what you are already doing right now from the list below etc.
Here are the 3 core things that need attending to regularly to allow you to shapeshift:
#1 Menu planning, grocery shopping and cooking/food prep
#2 Physical activity
#3 Slow eating (ie make enough time for meals so that you can eat slowly)
These are essential and non-negotiable.
I am going to include an optional #4 here that I and many of my clients have found really helpful, especially with the resistance they feel to doing #1, #2 and #3!
#4 Optional extras: meditation, theta work, scripting, decluttering
It may be that you are already doing some of the activities/jobs listed above. You may be lucky enough to have someone to cook for you. You do not need to do everything listed every day. But they need to be in place regularly enough.
The above 3 core habits are not cast-iron guarantees of shapeshifting. The field of eating psychology is about uncovering the hidden factors of weight gain, such as perceived protection, unprocessed trauma.
Menu Planning, Shopping and Cooking/Food Prep
The process of menu planning, shopping and meal prep I have found can be optimised so it does not feel like such an extra time suck. For example I use the post its menu planning method and do my online grocery order every Wednesday night. I do most cooking in the morning between 6.45 and 8.15 while I am getting the kids up and nagging them, running round sorting dinner money etc anyway. This may not suit you, so think about how you prefer to cook: batch cooking while listening to an audio book on a Saturday afternoon might be perfect for you.
I always have something home made in the freezer for can’t-be-bothered-to-cook days.
Extra resources: Menu Planning
Have you set up a routine for this area of your life? If not, get your diary out and decide when you will attend to it.
I have found this to be the most noticeable way that I have had to shift other things around and de-prioritise elsewhere in my day.
The theory I am working with is this:
We are focusing on physical activity not for the calories it burns, but for the physical and mental resilience it creates in you.
Physical resilience = turning fat to muscle, the strong message to Cavebrain that you can handle any threats (see The Body Confident Project for more on this). If Cavebrain perceives that you are working with it, not leaving every stress up to it, it will relax and let YOU relax into life.
The mental resilience is just as important.
In this work, we are putting food out of the job of managing your life.
You still need a way to deal with your stresses, not to mention any resistance you might have to the shapeshifting process itself! Dontcha just love the irony eh!?!
Physical activity becomes that life manager.
At the time of writing, I have recently experienced a break down of a major relationship in my life. It got so hard that a few weeks ago I realised I needed to make a big change. I started upping my gym visits from 3 times a week to 5 or 6 (I am still experimenting with the best schedule for me that is not too much for this 48-year-old body!) purely so that I could deal with the pain. It has been absolutely transformative. I also started increasing the effort (Katie Face).
I am having to de-prioritise certain things like work projects but as I see it, I have no choice. The gym is how I cope with life at the moment.
I am finding that the effect is preventative: when I get up in the morning, I feel OK to good, whereas before I upped my gym time I had a very depressed brain (and tearful, blotchy face) to try to drag into the day.
As you know, prevention is better than cure.
If you are busy (as we all are!) I imagine that prioritising increased exercise time may be the hardest thing to get your head round in this whole process. The solution is to experiment. Take a week and make the gym or swimming or training or aikido THE most important thing. Plan ahead your activity times. Email people and say you cannot do X. Imagine this is doctor’s orders.
At the end if the week, reflect on what you have learnt.
Slow eating tells your body that you have time to digest your food. It puts you in the relaxation response, which is the breeding ground for increasing muscle, ramping up your metabolism, burning calories and more.
Slow eating is one of those things where the concept is simple; implementing it is not. I find I have to constantly recorrect and work at it. The inanimate object passivity of stress (see below) is always calling us to eat like Roadrunner. I have no time to eat is one of the most persuasive lies we have ever told ourselves.
When (and where) do you most need to pay attention to your eating speed?
What slow eating game will you try the next time you eat?
If you remember from this page on sumo wrestlers, eating rhythm is the fact that generally your metabolism is more efficient and burns more calories, is better at building muscle earlier in the day. You want to focus on getting most of your nutrition before mid afternoon.
See this page
In a nutshell: get more protein and make sure you include a limited amount of healthy fat.
Macronutrient balance when coupled with eating rhythm, creates an unbeatable combination for reducing your appetite and chaotic eating, especially in the afternoon.
I have a simple rule of thumb: I make sure that most days I include protein and healthy fat for breakfast and lunch. I do not do this 100%, but enough to satisfy my needs.
Challenging Stress and Embracing Eustress
This thing called 'stress' - this increase in adrenaline, this sense of pressure, this physical tenseness - is simply a fear-based readiness response that tries to activate and prepare you for change and unpredictability. It's a normal and healthy reaction. Trouble arises not from your stress response or even from the change or upset that triggered it; trouble arises when you lose your agility, your flow, your resourcefulness, and your liveliness, and become an inanimate object.The Language of Emotions
If you want to gain weight, a really good way to achieve that is to mishandle stress. The stress response is the breeding ground for reduced metabolism, comfort eating, overwhelm that leads to exhaustion which can so easily put the kaibosh on your plans for exercising. It also reduces your ability to burn calories and encourages excess fat to stay.
Therefore it follows that if you want to shapeshift, then you need to learn to handle stress.
The key phrase in the quote above is inanimate object. We are all encouraged to see ourselves as rag dolls being tossed around life by stress, as if stress was a being with a mind of its own.
#1 Take a recent stressful experience where you felt overwhelmed and passive. What could you have put into place to reduce the stress or prevent the issue happening?
#2 What de-stresses you? Are you doing that or those things enough?
#3 Think of a stressful experience in the past that was a blessing in disguise. How could a present-day issue be the same for you?
Eustress is positive stress. Would we ever sit an exam if there was nothing hanging on its outcome?
We can make seemingly unpositive stresses more positive. Yes, it's true!
Watch this TED talk about people seeing their stress differently:
The Game of Life page has more on reframing every single problem you don't want to deal with into an adventure, your hero/ine's journey.
The Body Confident Project
I believe that body hatred and shame are so embedded into culture that you need to constantly fight this toxic thinking if you want to have any hope of shapeshifting successfully.
The BCP is challenging. It will make you feel uncomfortable. It can also be one of the most liberating things you will ever experience.
Think back to the major positive events of your life. Can't you say the exactly the same thing about them: challenging and liberating? Taking you to a more powerful place, where life is ultimately easier?