A Client Guide
The paradox with the desire to change your weight is that the energy behind it (shame about your appearance) that has been promoted by culture and the diet industry is counterproductive and generally leads to weight gain in the long term.
This shame, along with its henchman - the scales - may work temporarily, but cannot beat the power of The Inner Food Rebel (IFR).
The IFR triggers chaotic eating, then inappropriate guilt and shame.
Then The Metronome swings into action, and unless you do and think differently, you veer between deprivation and the rebellion of chaotic eating. That’s your life.
The first job in coaching is to help you still that metronome.
But what if you also want to shed weight?
What if you have legitimate health reasons for doing so?
Great question. It is absolutely possible to tackle this issue in an empowered way. Here are my guidelines:
#1 Find a Better Reason Than Body Hatred to Change Your Size/Shape
Sometimes I am contacted about collaborating with businesses in the diet industry. I explain that weight loss is fraught with the psychological tripwires of shame and other factors. I say that I cannot work with people who promote this body shame.
“Oh, but we are all about health” they often reply.
I then ask them if they have before and after photos on their website. The answer is always yes. I thank them for their interest and end any further discussion.
The truth is that whatever anyone (including you) may say to you about weight loss for health, it has been so hijacked by fat shaming that you always risk setting off your IFR and The Metronome when your focus is to lose X pounds. (That is why before and after pictures are a no-no).
Shift your focus. Here are some powerful reframes
I want to be able to tie my laces easily/ be free of joint pain
I want to feel stronger and more resilient
This year, I am going to run a half marathon / cycle to ........ in less than 3 hours
I want to relax in my body
I want to be free of my ....meds
I am determined to live to an older age than my father/mother did
Do you see how weight loss is nothing more than a side effect of these goals? That they connect you to deeper more meaningful and 100% positive reasons that see you through the times when you just don’t bloody feel like making the effort.
How can a number on a scale compete with that!?!
#2 Treat Your body As a Rebellious Teenager
You need to ask your body to be a partner in this change. You have to stop ignoring it. You have to accept it as the only one you’ve got.
A person cannot be hated into change, and the same applies to your body.
Work or live with a difficult teenager? Do you think ignoring them will work? How about connecting with them differently, accepting who they are, while helping them optimize their behaviour.
You have most likely treated your body badly for a long time, putting it on the naughty step every time your Inner Food Rebel said NO to the deprivation.
Now your body has had enough, and is a rebellious teenager.
We get on better with that teen by using grounding exercises and other strategies. In my 2019 online programme The Body Confident Project, I described one of the two components of body positivity as acceptance.
#2 Replace The Scales With Your Clothes as The Measure of Change
Throw those scales away. My bet is that you have invested too much power in them. They trigger too much shame to be of any use whatsoever.
Now a pop quiz!
What burns 95% of the calories in your body?
And if muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less room, if you gain muscle, is there a chance you look better AND weigh more?
#3 Move More
One important benefit of exercise is that you can switch from relying on sugar highs and junk food to manage your life to using endorphins instead.
The dietary changes that you implemented at the start of your coaching combine with the endorphins to put food out of the job of emotional life manager.
If you truly want to either change your shape and/or reduce fat for health reasons, you are probably going to have to move more.
Spend more time exercising.
Exert more effort.
Are you willing to put up with the discomfort of lengthening and intensifying your exercise? What are you willing to give up to prioritise this?
There is a certain level of discomfort that must be embraced. I am NOT talking about go for the burn or the extremism of many fitness programmes (especially those aimed at men). I am talking about doing the hour workout when you would rather go home at 45 minutes. Getting bored planning your week to fit in an extra swim session when you really want to watch TV. Meal planning around the extra run you now do on a Thursday when it used to be takeaway night.
Apart from the psychological benefits, more intense exercise builds a feeling of physical resilience. And resilience is the second element in body confidence.
#4 Eat Slowly
Slow down. Allow all your cells to get the nutrition you work so hard to give yourself.
You will have the same challenge as with exercise - the discomfort. The 30 minute lunch when you’d much rather eat it while finishing that report. You’d rather wolf it down to avoid being with yourself.
Slow eating is incredibly powerful, incredibly inconvenient and an act of rebellion against the do it now, get it quick, overworking, scroll down your newsfeed at 100mph culture that is being served up to you daily.
The choice is: are you Biff or are you Marty?
#5 Eating Rhythm
Get most of your nutrition in the first half of the day. After that, your metabolism tails off.
Like slow eating, this is inconvenient. What if a big evening meal is the only way you know how to wind down? The main way you and your family bond?
The key here is to experiment. I am currently experimenting with intermittent fasting, which means that my last meal of the day is between 3 and 4pm.
Right now, are you doing an impression of Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now at that prospect? “The horror, the horror”
Why are you assuming this has to be 7 days a week, and that it is out if the question? Have you actually tried it?
I have found a way to have dinner with my kids at 6pm while 100% respecting my 4pm deadline.
And I did it through experimentation.
Intermittent fasting - as long as your eating window covers the first half of the day - is such a powerful approach to health and possible shape change that if you are serious about the reason you started reading this page, then it must be at least considered.
NB intermittent fasting is a very individual choice. Many of my clients are not ready for it - their IFR is too much on high alert. On the other hand, I have seen great results in terms of health, weight change AND ending compulsion in some clients.
Sustainable weight and shape change and being healthier runs so counter to the ultra convenient, over-pampered, hyper-technological age we live in that it necessarily involves discomfort. Because we have been sold a lie that life should be comfortable.
Yesterday I was shown a machine that not only bakes, mixing and cooking, but also has a display that connects to a website with 60,000 recipes.
Why bother with the awful hassle of reaching over for my ipad and googling a recipe there? Or even a recipe book???
If someone is trying to sell me on the idea that opening a recipe book is too much trouble, then you have to decide that embracing discomfort and deeper reasons for your shape change is not only a good thing, but ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to your freedom.