What often throws people off the wagon when they are on a mission to lose weight?
…and how they react to it!
So, you begin a new journey to lose weight. You’re doing great, you’re making healthy choices, and feeling positive about your efforts. Then something happens to cause your stress levels to rise and you soon find yourself stuffing your face with chocolate and drinking too many glasses of wine. The last thing on your mind is your workout.
Later, you ask yourself, “Why did I eat all that junk and skip my workout?” You feel disappointed in yourself, maybe even defeated. Maybe you find yourself saying, “Why bother? I’m just going to fail again.” After a few days, maybe you start again…maybe you don’t.
Stress will always be existent at some level in your life. I know zero people that have zero stress. When you are trying to lose weight and get in shape, and you find the way you handle stress interrupts your progress, then this is a key indicator that you need to work on developing a better system to handle stress so it doesn’t wreak havoc on your personal goals.
Did you know that how you react to stress is actually a habit that you have developed? Yes! It’s a self-taught routine. The good news is, it can be changed. I learned about this in the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Let me explain.
THE HABIT LOOP
The Cue ➝ stress.
The Routine ➝ eat junk, skip workouts.
The Reward ➝ feeling of pleasure, relaxed.
Stress is the cue, and the way you deal with it is by stress eating and skipping your workout, and this makes you feel less stressed, more relaxed, which feels rewarding. This is how you’ve been coping for as long as you can remember.
You have every right to want to feel better and find something to relieve your stress. Why would you want to stay stressed, right? The problem is that your “Routine”, the stress reaction habit you have formed throughout your life, is self-sabotaging your weight loss goals. This in turn creates more stress and also contributes to low self-esteem, confidence, and feeling like a failure.
The thing is this – in order to change your reaction to stress, you have to actually make it a priority. You have to habit-coach yourself. I suggest working on this BEFORE you even start working on weight loss. If you don’t have a handle on how you react to stress so that it doesn’t sabotage your goals, then you are going to continue to struggle when trying to lose weight. Right?
SOLUTION #1 – Reduce stress in your life.
Easier said than done, I know. However, if you can reduce the amount of stress in your life, you will have fewer cues that trigger your current self-sabotaging routine. Reducing stress may require some serious changes in your life, like terminating certain relationships or finding a new career. Reducing stress is a very difficult task but it will change your life, for the better.
SOLUTION #2 – Change the way you react to stress.
This is easier to do than the first solution but it still takes a high level of dedication. Remember, your current routine reaction to stress is a habit that you have formed. It is self-taught, but it can be changed. For example, emotional eaters have formed a habit to eat when certain emotions are triggered. It’s automatic. If they would make a conscious effort to change their reaction to the specific trigger, do a different routine other than eating, they would no longer be emotional eaters.
I used to binge eat around certain emotions but I terminated that habit. It can be done. It takes mental strength, mindfulness, and consistent dedication. Also, I am stubborn. When I set a goal, I make sure I reach it, even if I have to twist myself inside out.
Now let’s talk more about #2. This is the exact path I took to change my habit.
4 STEPS TO STOP WEIGHT LOSS SABOTAGE
Recognize that the self-taught habit routine that you have formed throughout your life is sabotaging your weight loss goals. If you don’t first recognize that your behaviour is the problem, you will not be able to change it. Most people already know this, but they have a hard time stopping it. It takes some reflection. Give yourself the time and space to do this. Journalling can help.
Accept that you MUST change the routine if you want to stop the sabotage and reach your goals more efficiently and effectively. Knowing your behaviour is causing a problem and being willing to make a real commitment to change it are two different things. If your plate is overflowing right now, maybe it’s not a good time to start. Make sure you envision what this will look like in your life. Are you truly ready to make change happen?
Plan out a different routine to practice when stress occurs. Think hard, as this is key! Use a SMART goal worksheet. It will help you to create structure and sort out your thoughts.
Also, it’s EXTREMELY important to note that this new routine must give you a reward because it is stress relief you seek to obtain when stress occurs.
If you eat junk and skip a workout because that gives you stress relief, what about eating fruit and going for a walk instead? Come up with something that is a healthier option, won’t blow your weight loss efforts, and also brings you HAPPINESS.
For me, my routine involved language and how I spoke to myself. I was able to break the ties with food and emotions permanently. I retrained my brain by saying this when stress would occur – ‘I am NOT an emotional eater. I am in control of my behaviour. Healthy choices make me feel better about myself.’
Then instead of eating, I would go for a walk or do some sort of physical activity with no performance expectations. It was important that the exercise didn’t create more pressure and that’s why I didn’t place any performance expectations upon myself. I had to feel completely free to do my own thing. This new routine, positive mindset and movement, brought me more joy and stress relief than binge eating. I found the thing that worked for me and helped me stay on track with my goals.
When we do good things for ourselves, we feel amazing and proud of our choices. Our confidence is boosted. These feelings are rewarding and if they are powerful enough, they can help you make the change you need to make to succeed in your goals.
Practice! The new routine MUST be practiced to become a new habit. Stress can occur anytime, so you must be ready and willing. Be aware of how you react to stress, make a true effort to change the routine, and you will succeed at stopping the self-sabotage. I’m living proof. Many others have done the same. This is how change happens!
PRACTICE, NOT PERFECT
As you practice, allow yourself to make mistakes. You must be okay with this and not see it as a failure but as a chance to practice again, just like in yoga. It takes time, mindfulness, and perseverance to make a change and learn new things.
If you keep struggling, track where you think you went wrong. Maybe the routine is not giving you the reward you are seeking. Change it up. Try new things. Give it time. Talk to a friend. Get some help. This is all part of the journey. You will learn a lot about yourself.
Once you find a better routine to handle stress, and it’s working for you on autopilot, you will have succeeded to stop the weight loss sabotage each time stress occurs.
Your health is a product of the choices you make every day. Believe you can, and you will! Positive change is good. You will be happier. There is no greater reward than that.
Have you recently changed a bad habit? Share your story in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about it.
And if you like to read, I HIGHLY recommend Duhigg’s book, ‘The Power of Habit.’ It has taught me a lot about how to make a permanent change in a positive and logical way.