21 micro habits that make weight loss stick #8: Give yourself credit. To the max.
In this instalment of the ‘21 micro habits‘ series, food psychology coach Laura Lloyd explains why it’s a lynchpin of your weightloss mindset to start being nice to yourself BEFORE you’re thin.
Your ability to celebrate your wins and appreciate yourself is the thing that’ll make weight loss exhilarating, fun, self-loving, empowering, and something you’re confident to maintain.
So stop punishing yourself, and wondering why your attempts always fail. You’re already succeeding, you’re just not seeing it.
Have you ever lost weight, but the voice in your head didn’t transform?
Of course, there’s around two weeks of people congratulating you, telling you how well you look, and you buying new clothes.
But the voice in your head barely says ‘Yay me!’ for a day.
Instead, it’s like:
I don’t know if you can hold onto this.
Something could throw you off track.
It could all unravel.
It’s going to be hard work to maintain this.
You’ve regained before.
I don’t know if you should spend £50 on those trousers, if you put on weight again it’ll be a waste and they’ll just sit in the drawer making you feel bad.
Your mum said ‘you’re looking awfully thin, it’s not healthy’, how dare she?
I don’t know how to hold onto my habits.
My husband still doesn’t want to have sex.
And on and on.
The voice in our head says the lines we’ve taught it, over and over.
If we don’t rewire it, it doesn’t matter what weight we lose, our brain calls the shots.
Thoughts of self-doubt, worry, unease, disempowerment, victimhood, blame, rejection, fear. They create feelings of anxiety, smallness, stress, helplessness.
When urges come to eat, and you’re thinking “I’ve regained before”, you’re halfway to giving in to the urge already, all helpless and pathetic. Plus, you feel stressed so the chocolate will take the edge off that. So, you’ll eat again. And regain the weight. And. Regain the guilt. And you’re back on the shame train.
Even now, I discover that the tone of the voice I use to talk to myself isn’t luscious enough.
An example from my own life:
The other day, I noticed I wanted to eat some unplanned food and wasn’t hungry.
To set the scene, I was due on a Zoom call THAT MINUTE. I remembered I’d planned an afternoon snack of some cake (I just crammed it in fast) and then simply wanted more.
I thought “I’ve already had cake, so a couple of squares of chocolate won’t hurt”.
Of course, I recognised this as the kind of rhetoric my brain uses to try to get me to give in to an urge. I tried to dissuade myself from going along with it for a split second. I said to myself: “This urge to eat is just neurological junk”, “Just walk into the bathroom and brush your teeth”, “You’ll be sad if you don’t stick to your plan”.
Well, those thoughts just made me speed up to try to move faster than I could talk myself out of it.
Now, you can see that those thoughts aren’t really openly punitive. They aren’t: “Stop that! That’s just greedy! You’ll pay for it later! I’m an idiot – why do I have to deal with this madness?” etc. They were more beige than that. Kind of naggy. Kind of like a mum who knows best. Snore.
Your brain will try to do things under the radar, if it thinks you’re going to nag, judge, or tell it off.
I needed to encourage myself. To love myself up. To calm myself down. To reassure and make the experience of not-eating the chocolate uplifting, because it would get me nearer to my greater wish for myself.
Why do we have such trouble to find a positive inner voice?
We are so scared that a kind, loving inner voice will just be a patsy. That we’ll walk all over it, it’s so permissive.
That’s kind of like imagining that if we love our children they’ll grow up to be disrespectful and disobedient.
In reality, we haven’t heard it yet. I haven’t fully heard it yet, and I’ve been working on it a while. I really need to receive those words.
I want you to think about this: What would it really sound like to hear words of encouragement?
Here are some tips:
- Use team talk. I like to use ‘we’. It’s like I’m addressing the team: Me, my body, my brain, my awareness. For example, My brain’s going to tell me to eat the chocolate, but we made choices this morning, and I care about them. Let’s look at our dreams again and choose to do something right now that brings those goals to life.
- Don’t focus on the results. Cheer yourself on through the process. Here’s what we did RIGHT today: Thing 1) …. Thing 2) …. Thing 3) …. Yay me!
- Celebrate awareness. We’re really waking up to what’s happening!
- Turn mistakes in to learning experiences. Silver linings to EVERY mistake. You’re either eating according to the choices you made before the day got hold of you, or you’re learning. Win-win.
Here’s why it’s not just ego-massaging to be nice to yourself, but a proven necessity:
You have reinforced a self-hate habit through your life. It’s a feedback loop, where you rewarded yourself with food every time you felt like you were a disaster, or had gone off the rails, fallen off the wagon, felt sad or ashamed of yourself.
You may have also rewarded your own perfectionism: For instance, worked yourself to burnout to get good grades, but then got the accolades as a prize.
Now, if you want to lose weight, that approach won’t work. Things won’t be perfect. As you’re figuring out why you overeat, and changing your habits, you’ll need to be free to make mistakes, so you can learn from them and evolve your new habits and new thought patterns.
Every time you attempt new thinking. Every time you create awareness before you overate – even if you went ahead and ate anyway. Every time you make a choice in the morning, and show up for it when the moment comes. Every time, you do the slightest approximation or nod in the right direction, you need to reinforce the hell out of yourself to create your new feedback loop.
Think about how praising yourself will accelerate your learning. Think about how it will cement in new behaviours.
If you still need convincing, imagine a child trying to learn at school without any encouragement or reward. It’s easy to see, they aren’t going to reach for the stars.
Many people look to a coach to provide motivation.
Of course, when we coach, I’ll love you up for all that you do. But the real magic is teaching you to be that voice to yourself.
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Just a little side note from me:
Self-judgment is never even slightly helpful, people, if you want to lose weight.
It will stop you in your tracks. Self-judgment creates inaction.
I mean, we think it’s failure that’ll stymie success. That’s not true.
As Brooke Castillo says, failure is not the opposite of success. Inaction is the opposite of success.
Essentially, feeling like a human car crash because you have a lot of thoughts that aren’t helping you, and a lot of habitual behaviours bothering you, just makes it painful to look at what you’re doing, and analyse it.
Which is why we put off leaning in and looking at what we’re really doing when we’re messing up.
But when we do look at it with curiosity, it’s SUCH a relief!
It’s your ability to go into ‘data analysis’ and 'I'm learning new skills' mode that takes the drama out of your weight loss journey:
Scale gone up? Just data – which habit or skill do I need to learn next?
Mum make a snide remark about how you’re ‘getting too thin’? Just data – how can you let other people’s opinions wash off you like water off a duck’s back?
Notice that you ‘can’t’ sit down to work without a road snack to get from the kitchen to your desk? Just data – what am I thinking and feeling about my work?
Go all-out on chocolate one day, and body feels sick and jittery afterwards? Just data – what was I thinking and feeling that day? Does this information from my body change how I think about ‘how much I love’ chocolate?
Self-doubt creates overwhelm. Overwhelm stops you starting. And, once again – that inaction is the opposite of success – not failure.
Failure is very informative. Failure means you’re trying things. It increases your probability of hitting on a solution.
21 Micro habits to make weight loss stick - read the full series: