Updated: 3 days ago
Last month I wrote about creating the Weight Loss Quest series to support you in maintaining your weight over the holiday season. When we just focus on diet and exercise, we are miss seeing huge other parts of the elephant, The Weight Loss Quest series has four parts:
Your Care Protocol
If you missed Part 1: Compelling Whys, I’d strongly encourage you to scroll down to the bottom of this page to the section on Related Posts, to find that article. You will find that article and the accompanying worksheet to be important prerequisites for the work outlined in this article.
Remember that these articles are intended to teach you how to more fully utilize your brain by managing your mindset. The worksheets will engage you in doing the work that will reprogram your brain and approach to weight loss. The first step is awareness that your thoughts and feelings really do matter when it comes to food and weight gain!
Not just about calories
Not so long ago, I believed that weight gain was an inevitable part of aging. It really seemed like almost everyone around me was putting on a few pounds every year.. There was of course (not gonna lie), a certain comfort in being able to believe that this was just biology. That it was pointless for me to continue to struggle with extreme deprivation or exercise regimens.
While the calories in/calories out equation is appealing in its simplicity, our bodies don’t actually work that way
And now I see that I had two thought errors there. One was inextricably linking weight gain with aging, and the other was conflating weight loss with extreme diet and/or exercise. I was definitely not alone in these beliefs. In fact, most doctors I know believe both those things, even though we have solid scientific evidence to the contrary.
Popular TV programs like the Biggest Loser reinforce our societal narrative that weight loss boils down to the simple equation that calories in must be less than calories out. We want to believe that we can all achieve dramatic results by focusing on drastically cutting back on caloric intake and having expert trainers pushing us to do rigorous workouts.
But follow up research has shown a staggeringly high rate of weight regain. Turns out that while the calories in/calories out equation is appealing in its simplicity, it doesn’t actually work. We have learned that our bodies are SO much more complex than that. Beyond calories, our hormones, body composition, genetics, and microbiome, all play a role in how the body manages weight.
And what’s worse, our physical bodies are only half the equation. Because our minds and bodies are inseparable, mindset work is the missing link when it comes to keeping the weight off for good.
In my quest for permanent weight loss, I discovered that mindset work has four key components: Compelling Whys, Protocol Creation, Reprogramming, and Tracking Progress. The Whys were my compass and destination, the Protocol was my roadmap, Reprogramming was the terrain I covered, and Tracking was how I measured my progress.
Mindset work is the missing link when it comes to keeping the weight off for good
This is the second article in the Weight Loss Quest miniseries. In the first post, I discussed Compelling Whys and shared a step-by-step worksheet. You may be tempted to skip that step, but trust me when I say it would be a mistake. My weight loss journey is far from over, but I can say without a doubt that I would never have been able to make progress without my compass and destination. My Whys are my secret weapon when I’m facing down yet another Urge to eat that chocolate chip cookie.
Your Current Eating Protocol
Our next step in the Weight Loss Quest is to write down our current protocol, which is basically a list of your lifestyle habits. It usually consists of a list of foods including snacks and beverages. times when you eat, when you sleep and exercise if any.
You start with what you are doing right now, in a typical week. no-one else has to see. It doesn’t have to be perfect and include everything, but just set your timer for 15 minutes and do your best. If you’re honest with yourself, you can learn a lot. I’d encourage you to not censor yourself, but just jot down your thoughts and feelings at the bottom as they come up.
Here’s what mine pretty much looked like before I learned about weight loss mindset.
Obviously it wasn’t funny when it was actually happening, but I’ll admit that it is kind of comical now, looking back. I felt like I was stuck in this never-ending loop of short term success with diet/exercise, but then ultimately disappointment when the weight came back on. It’s not like I didn’t know that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results., but somehow I did still keep expecting things to turn out differently.
Tweaking your protocol
So the next step is just to reflect on what you’ve come up with. It’s hard not to be judgmental, especially when you see how contradictory and negative the thoughts can be. Just becoming aware of what your thoughts are can be incredibly powerful, because then you get to decide whether or not you want to think something different. That’s where we get to dig into the magic of self-coaching work using the CTFAR model, in the next section of the Weight Loss Quest - Part 3: Reprogramming.
Looking at my protocol back at the beginning of this weight loss journey, I can hardly believe how differently I approach things now. Self-coaching has truly been transformational in getting my mindset into a totally different place.
Just becoming aware of what your thoughts are can be incredibly powerful
For example, I used to have a cringe response when I heard the word “diet,” because it immediately brought up feelings of restriction and deprivation. The thought of never having xyz food again, brought up tremendous anxiety and scarcity. But when I was able to look at the whole habits protocol, I could see that WHAT foods I ate were only part of the equation. Turns out that WHEN I was eating was so much more important.
So what if I were to say that you can keep whatever you want on the Current Food List part of your protocol? Really. Anything.
In fact, I would absolutely encourage you to start with listing exactly all your favorite things. It doesn’t have to be detailed or pretty. It’s just an exercise in giving our minds permission to feel safe in this process.
Tweaking our protocols are about making incremental 1% changes, a little at a time. What's the first, easiest and lowest impact habit you are willing to tweak? Mine turned out not to be about food or exercise but instead, it was getting more sleep.
We are often in a hurry to get to our goal of losing xyz lbs as quickly as possible, but that’s because we want to shorten the perceived period of suffering. We want to feel relief that it’s over, and proud that we were in integrity with ourselves. We have followed through on what we said we would do.
And even though we aren’t at Part 3: Reprogramming part of the Weight Loss Quest yet, I want to offer you this mindset shift. What if you could feel relief now, today or this week, that you have made a decision to do this worksheet, to try a completely different approach (one that doesn’t require extreme deprivation or strenuous bootcamp level workouts)?
What if you could be proud of the fact that you have the courage to step outside the box of what I’ll call the Diet Industrial Complex (DIC)? That’s an industry that depends on you buying into weight loss programs and foods/shakes/pills/gyms. Maybe it’s worth seeing if empowering yourself through free self-coaching can work. Even just a little.
Check out the Protocol Creation worksheet PDF below. And stay tuned for the rest of the Weight Loss Quest series. I’d love to hear your feedback on how it goes!