Deirdre took a deep sigh, shrugged her shoulders and was hoping for the best. She wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow, but then, she wasn’t looking forward to start the party season in the tent she wore last year. So her only alternative was the next diet, which she was starting tomorrow. Maybe this time, it would work out. But inside her was this little seed of disbelief and somehow she knew, sooner or later she would give up this diet as well. The defeat was already knocking on the door. If only she could keep the door closed till she had dropped a dressize….
Who hasn’t done it, at least once? Going on a diet with the aim to lose weight? Feeling the motivation, keeping it going, seeing results and then, ‘life got in the way’, an illness, too busy, just bored with the discipline, the weight loss plateaued and the pounds were piling up again.
However, the damage of the weight gain is nothing compared with the damage done to the mindset, when going through a cycle like this. The three main damaging effects for the mindset are:
1. Loss of believe in own abilities
Firstly, the disappointment and the sense of failure are undermining self-esteem. Any ‘weight-gainer’ will recognise the beating yourself up, calling yourself silly and weak and feeling angry with yourself. Many of us will recognise that little voice, rising up from deep down in our subconscious, and whispering in your ear and repeating in your head: ‘You can’t do it. You are not strong enough. You have tried hundreds of times. You are just weak.’
This message tells you that you are a failure. ‘Look, you are doing it again. Oh dear, typical you. There you go wrong, same old story.’ And your response is, again on a subconscious level, that you agree, that you believe you can’t do it. Deirdre doesn’t believe she can do it, even before she starts.
2. Going for war
Starting a new diet is like going to war. For Deirdre, it feels as if has to prepare for the next ‘battle’. The next round of dieting, where the aim is to win, to defeat the enemy (who actually is the enemy?). And that brings in aggression and tension, as well as a black & white thinking pattern. Ever heard of good and bad days? Ever gone from a good day, right down into an indulgence of forbidden food and turning it into a bad day? That is what battles do; they make you a winner or a loser. It’s great to be a winner, it’s very difficult to be a loser………
3. Backing the horse of willpower
A mistake that most ‘dieters’ make, that they think it is all about willpower. And it is not. The American Psychological Association states that will power is like a battery; fully charged at the beginning, but as it is used, it will deplete energy and end on empty. “A growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. Some experts compare willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.” This view was backed by an influential meta-analysis published in 2010 that looked at the results from nearly 200 published experiments.
If every internal negotiation around a choice of food or indulgence uses up bits of the willpower energy, you will end up with no willpower and lose the battle, feeding your lack of confidence and complete the negative cycle.
What to do instead?
The simple answer to this question is: step into your power. But, how to do that?
1. Power of belief
Referring to the lack of confidence and belief in your ability to be successful, look at your internal belief system. What are you saying to yourself? ‘I have failed before’, ‘I am not good at stuff like this’, ‘I can’t do it’? Ditch those statements.
There is this brilliant quote from Henry Ford: ‘Whether you say you can, or whether you say you can’t, you are absolutely right.’ And giving yourself unhelpful messages is not doing it. Make changes to your internal dialogue and give yourself positive, encouraging messages.
2. Power of success
Also, collect evidence of your successes and compliment yourself about those. Write them down and read them a few times a day.
3. Power of motivation
Why did you go on a diet in the first place? Remind yourself of the reasons. This will help you to step into your power when the going gets tough.
Who has the power?
Whenever temptation presents itself, ask yourself who has the power.
Is it you, or are you giving your power away to the leftovers, the cake, or that slice of cheese? Leftovers are just bits of food that haven’t been eaten. They are not emotional….. They are not begging you to help them to fulfil their potential of being eaten……. They are not squirming with frustration when they end up in the bin or the freezer…… If leftovers are tempting you, you project your lack of belief, tiredness of the battle and depleted willpower onto them. It’s you who creates the temptation, so it has to be you to remove it as well.
You can do it!
About Dr Mariette Jansen
Dr Mariette Jansen (Dr De-Stress), from the Netherlands, is a psychological coach, using therapy models, coaching techniques and mindfulness meditation to help clients become balanced, stress-free and in control of their life. Focus areas are work-life balance, confidence, food/diet stress and general stress. Author of two books: on meditation and exam stress. Download the free report on ‘The REAL reasons why DIETS don’t work’ or sign up for weekly tips. Website www.drdestress.co.uk Facebook page: www.facebook.com/drdestresstips