Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self-Esteem: A Weighty Matter?

One of the questions I'm asked most often is, "How can I lose weight fast?" I'm sometimes tempted to answer this question at face value by saying, "Give your body exactly the amount of activity, nutrition, hydration, and rest it needs, manage stress, and overcome the effects of aging, medications, and other factors that affect your weight, and do this perfectly every day until you reach your desired weight." (Whew!)

Of course, I don't say that. It's not that I'm not in favor of people maintaining a weight that compromises their health. Rather, my observation, both personal and professional, has been that most of the time, the desire to lose weight overnight has its roots in something deeper than body size.
For many of us, weight loss has everything to do with self-esteem; that is, the belief that we are lovable. Many of us believe that our self-esteem is directly related to how we look. If we look good, we deserve to be loved; if we're not looking our best, it's our own fault we're not lovable, or loved.

It's true that these kinds of beliefs lend a false sense of control: "When I lose weight, then everything will be perfect!" However, they're not grounded in reality. In fact, self-esteem is entirely an inside job. As children, we turn to our parents and ask the question, "Am I lovable?" The way our parents respond guides our beliefs about our self-esteem. But once we become adults, we are free to decide. It's entirely up to you to determine if you're lovable, or not so much. Whatever you choose will become your reality.

A better, more inspiring, perspective is to look at the skills we need for successful weight management as tools to keep ourselves healthy and happy, instead of focusing on thinner and happy. So, here's your challenge for the week: Make a list of the things your body does right and well. Does your body get you from place to place? Make it possible for you to connect with others? Give birth? Digest your food? Write them down!

Then, the next time you feel frustrated with your weight, take a deep breath and remind yourself of what your body does well. Instead of pushing yourself to lose weight fast, what can you do to show some appreciation to your body for all it does for you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Affirmations: How Talking to Yourself Could Be Helpful to Your Health

Do you appreciate the power of your mind? Maybe you can't bend spoons or predict the future, but your thoughts are one of the most powerful weight management tools available.

Why? Because what we think matters. What we think influences how we feel and what we do. As the saying goes, Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right. This is just as true for weight loss and weight maintenance as it is any other area of life.

So, how can you harness the power of your mind to help you reach and maintain your weight management goals? Try experimenting with affirmations. Affirmations are short, positive statements that give you the encouragement you need to stay on track with a particular goal. Some examples of affirmations include:
  • "A little exercise is better than none at all."
  • "The world is my gym!"
  • "I eat healthy to nourish my body."
  • "I love to drink water!"
  • "I am learning to manage my stress without using food."
To make your affirmations really work for you, here a few tips:

  • Affirmations are best when they're short, and they focus only on one goal at a time. That way, they're easier to remember!
  • Focus on the positive as you develop your affirmations. Good phrases to use are "I will," "I can," "I like," and "I want." Avoid using won't, can't, don't, or shouldn't.
  • Be aware of the power of words. If the mere word exercise makes you cringe, don't use it; call it activity, movement, "me time," or simply call your chosen activity by its name--yoga, power walking, kickboxing.
  • Learn from others. One of the most powerful affirmations I've used was originally a comment posted by a student in my online weight loss class. "I love to drink water!"  
When you put SMART goals, reward plans, and affirmations together, the results can be remarkable. People do lose and maintain weight, but that becomes secondary to other, unexpected benefits: They see themselves as capable, find themselves enjoying the journey, and inspire others to join in with them in their healthy lifestyle changes. It may seem random at first glance, but it all makes sense: SMART goals provide a solid guideline for success. Reward plans make the journey pleasant. Thinking positively attracts others.

What do you think? Have you experimented with SMART goals, reward plans, or affirmations? Do you have questions about how to make these tools work for you? Let us know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SMART Goals, Reward Plans, and More Motivation, Oh My!

One of the questions I hear most often goes something along the lines of, "Can you give me some motivation? I have a bad habit of really going all-out with weight loss, and then I just give up." While there's no magic wand, there are several proven techniques to bolster motivation:

First, set SMART goals that result in weight loss or maintenance. A SMART goal is one that is:
  • Specific -- you know exactly what, when, where, and how you'll to reach your goal
  • Measurable -- you can count, measure, or in some tangible way, know when you've reached your goal
  • Achievable -- your goal is one that you can accomplish
  • Realistic -- given how your life is and who you are right now, your goal is doable
  • Time-limited -- your goal has a stated beginning and ending (and remember, "for the rest of my life" doesn't count!)
So, a SMART goal might be, "I am going to drink 3 liters of water every day for the next two weeks, by drinking one liter before and on my way to work, one liter during the work day, and one liter after I get home at night." Or, you might set a goal like, "I'm going to write down everything I eat and drink for a month by writing it down in a pocket notebook at home, and using a smartphone app when I'm out of the house."

SMART goals are a great way to help you stay motivated. That's because they shift focus from weight loss, which isn't entirely within your control, to specific things you can realistically do--which is entirely within your control.

Second, use the time-limited aspect of SMART goals to develop a reward plan. I suggest changing up the wording of your SMART goal slightly, by stating the number of days you will accomplish your goal before you enjoy your reward. So, instead of using time frames like "two weeks" or "one month," state the number of days in your reward plan. For example, your reward plan might sound like, "After I drink 3 liters of water for 14 days, I'll reward myself with a new album for my MP3 player," or "After I write down everything I eat and drink for 30 days, I'll reward myself with a facial."

A reward plan acknowledges a basic truth about weight management: Consistency matters more than perfection. (That's a weight management truth the diet mentality would prefer you didn't know!) A reward plan acknowledge slips and slides. That's good--it allows you to see where you need to make changes and improvements. But your reward plan also keeps you focused on your SMART goal, and gives you credit, so to speak, for the things you're doing right and well.

That focus on the positive really matters when it comes to motivation. There's a saying about raising children that goes, "I won't remember what you said or what you did...but I'll remember how you made me feel." The same is true of losing weight and keeping it off. If your SMART goals leave you feeling anxious or depressed, working up the motivation to follow through on them is tough! After you enjoy a reward or two, it becomes easier to follow through on your SMART goals until they become habits that feel natural and easy (most of the time, anyway).

There's another tip you can use to boost motivation, and we'll talk about it next week. Until then, make sure your goals are SMART, and start working toward those reward plans! Want a little extra accountability, or a little more support as you work toward your goals? Post 'em below...we're here for you!