Archive for the ‘the power of words’ Category

Don’t maintain – transform!

I have never liked the idea of maintenance. For starters, I can’t spell it! It usually takes about three tries before I can get rid of the automatic spell check line! But the real reason is that it’s not motivating, at least not for me!

So, why is maintenance, other than being hard to spell, not motivating?

I am a goal driven person. I like to make progress and to achieve my goals. It’s literally how I get my kicks. But it’s hard to view maintenance as a goal. You don’t achieve maintenance, it’s just something that you do. Much like housework, which I also dislike intensely, maintenance is undervalued. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not awe-inspiring. In fact, most people don’t even notice that you’re doing it…that is, until you stop! Did you ever notice how housework is invisible until it doesn’t get done? It’s the same thing with maintenance. It’s typically overlooked until you start routinely setting it aside in favor of brownie hot fudge sundaes with Kahlua infused whipped cream.

If you’re like me and you think that maintenance is somewhat of a bum goal or you just don’t like doing it for whatever reason, I challenge you to change your perception of what it means to maintain your ideal weight (or whatever weight at which you find yourself currently if you’re stuck at a plateau). Don’t think about it as maintenance; instead think of this as an opportunity to transform.

Transformation. Now, that’s sexy. That’s motivating. You can set some goals around transformation. More importantly, the goals that you set around transformation are going to be a heck of a lot more compelling than, well, another week down, another 2,240 to go (assuming, of course, that you plan to live for at least another forty years)!

So, what types of transformation goals can you set for yourself while you’re either at your ideal weight or in the middle of a plateau?

  • You start working out with weights or adding a couple of pounds to the weight with which you already working
  • You could start doing yoga, which would improve your balance and flexibility
  • You could stop eating processed food, which would improve your digestion
  • Similarly, you could start incorporating more live, raw, or super food into your diet
  • You could start drinking more water, which would help return the elasticity to your skin
  • Similarly, you could moisturize
  • You could start a daily meditation practice, which would help you become more comfortable in your body and in the moment
  • You could change your exercise routine to work different muscles
  • You could stretch more, which would help your muscles rebuild after workouts
  • Similarly, you could take a day off
  • Or you could simply chose to get more sleep

For goal-oriented people who love to strive, the idea of maintenance is about as motivating as coffin! So shift your mindset and transform your body! Heck, don’t just stop with your body. Why not transform your entire life while you’re at it?

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On the road again (well, sort of….)

My 6:18 p.m. flight to Chicago O’Hare was delayed to the point of missing connections yesterday, due to the weather. According to the woman behind the desk, this happens 90% of the time. So, really, why bother?

Regardless, at least they let me stay home another night with my parents instead of shelling out a hundred bucks for a hotel in Chicago. My new flight leaves at 10:30 a,m., and goes through Chicago, then Dulles, before finally getting me home at 6:38 p.m. Yuck. My other option was to be sitting at Chicago for ten hours! No thanks.

Of course, my biggest concern is not about the number of transfers, but about the food. Eight hours and two meal slots later. Lovely.

Plan: two veggie wraps, a bag of carrots, and (if we have time to run by the store) three or four apples. I’ll also be packing protien bars as well, but hopefully only as a last resort.

I should probably (notice how much possibility of failure is wrapped up in that little phrase) go for a walk, since my parents are still asleep and I have the time. It would undoubtedly make the entire day go smoother — it always does.

Okay, scratch that. I am going for a walk, since my parents are still asleep, I have the time, and it will make the day go much smoother.

I’m off.

So, people are begining to ask…

How did I do it?

This is actually a long story and I’ve been trying to figure out how to parse it. I could just give you diet plan (that is, what and how much I ate), but it’s the same one that I have been following for the last two years, more or less. I could also just give you the bit of free advice that was given to me. But if I did that, I’m afraid that you wouldn’t get the full impact of the change.

Essentially, there have been a lot of psychological changes that I have undergone in the last month that have been highly related to my identity.

Again, as someone who is immersed in the study of social psychology, I knew that one of the strongest drives or desires that people have is be consistent. This is what’s going on when people regain their weight, when lottery winners are broke two years later, or why people end up in the same types of abusive relationships over and over. They see themselves as fat, they see themselves as poor, or they see themselves as someone who is deserving of abuse. There is a whole theoretical perspective that is based on the idea that individuals create events to confirm their realities. I have contributed to this literature (which is sort of sad if you think about the fact that it took me this long to apply it to my own life)!

It is true that it’s been a long time since I’ve viewed myself as fat. But I did see myself as someone who struggled with their weight–someone who happened to be a size 12 on most days and a size 10 on good days. And as long as I saw myself this way, I created events to confirm that identity, or that view of myself.

So before anything changed about my weight, I created a new identity. More importantly, before anything would change, I had to create a new identity!

Although I knew, academically, about the construction and the power of possible selves (and even their relationship to weight!), I had never thought about using those seemingly dry social psychological concepts as a means to bootstrap change. Those days are over!

I essentially used an exercise that was presented by author and coach, Loren Slocum. Loren essentially had us write down several positive adjectives and nouns related to several domains of our lives the way we wanted them to be. Not how they actually were, but how we envisioned them! That’s very important.

So, for instance, she had us write down a list of nouns and adjectives associated with our fitness identity and them put them together in a possible identity. Although I had a page, I eventually decided on “lean, strong, sexy, minx.” And everyday, I looked at that sentence and repeated it several times: I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx. I also varied my intonation: I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx!

Now, did I feel like a lean, strong, sexy minx when I started? Not really. Actually, I think it’s fair to say absolutely not! But now, not only do I see myself as a lean, strong, sexy, minx, I also see myself as a lean, strong, sexy, six! You may think it’s silly, but this is my story and it worked for me!

If, by chance, you do decide to come up with your own fitness identity, I would love to hear it! Or, if you have a better strategy to motivate positive identity shifts, bring them on!

p.s. I have more to say about people who ask you how you did something only tell interrupt you to tell you why it’s not going to work, but I’ll save that for another day! 🙂

Losing vs. Releasing

In my very first post, I used the term “releasing” when it comes to my physical fitness goals. I plan to release the pounds, not lose the pounds. Release? Lose? What’s the difference?

The difference is we have been socialized to look for (and find) the things we lose. You lose your car keys and the first thing you do is look for them. You lose your wallet and the first thing everyone says to you is, “Well, you’d better find it!”

In addition to our desire to find what we lose, most humans seem predisposed to avoid pain. And, rightly or not, we tend to associate loss with pain. When someone dies, we grieve. When we lose anything (whether it’s a dollar or a pet or even something as trivial as a game) we’re unhappy.

So instead, I’ve decided to release my weight. When I think of the word release, I think about people releasing animals into the wild. Or someone releasing rehabilitated birds of prey to the skies. You release them, you celebrate their departure and you hope against hope that you never see them again.

I am going to release my weight. I will do it proudly and happily. I will not look for it and I certainly won’t miss it or grieve it in any way, shape, or form.

Now I realize that “release” might not work for everyone. Some might prefer more potent words like annihilate, obliterate, destroy, or burn or melt off. Whatever works for you, that is, whatever works for you besides lose! In fact, if you have any better suggestions I’d love to hear them just in case I’m ever feeling less expansive about my goals and release just isn’t quite doing it for me.

So, how do you talk about achieving your ideal outcome? Is it an opportunity or a challenge? Do you lose unwanted fat (only to find it three months later) or do excommunicate it forever? Let me know.

Be Careful What You Ask For (or at least how you ask it)!

Over the last few days two very good friends of mine–on two separate occasions–made the following statement: Sometimes I just look at myself and ask, ‘How did I get here?’

For the first friend, her focus was on weight. She had previously identified herself as a jock and an athlete; however, as she’s developed her professional identity, which is for the most part sedentary, she has put on a few pounds. She’s been struggling with this for at least five years.

For the second friend, her focus was more on life in general; though, she too, also struggles with her weight.

One of the things that I have learned through my studies as a social psychologist, as well as listening to coaching programs, is that when you ask yourself a question, your brain will provide you with an answer, even if it’s only subconscious. Try it. What day is it? You automatically know: it’s Friday. What color is the sky? Without looking, the brain supplies the answer: it’s blue. However, the brain is like a computer, or a really basic search engine: the quality of the answers it supplies are dependent upon the quality of the questions you ask!

And why is this important? When you’re unhappy about the state of the world (or your body) and you ask, “How did I get here? Or what happened to me?” your brain will provide you with the answer. And if you’re disgruntled about where you are, inevitably the brain will start cataloging all of the setbacks, all of the mistakes, all of the bad decisions, it may even provide you with a couple of new labels, which is the last thing you need.

So instead of asking, “How did I get here?” I would challenge my friends, and whoever else might be in the habit of asking themselves bad questions to try the following: Instead of asking “How did I get here?” ask “How do I change this?” Instead of asking “What did I do wrong” ask “How do I make this situation better?” Instead of “How could I have done this to myself?” try “How can I reach and maintain my goals?” or better yet, “How can I get the body or the life that I really want?” Because just as your brain searches for the answers about what you did wrong, it also has (or will find) the answers on what you can do right.

Words Matter

So, how many times a day do you think to yourself, ‘I’d really like to lose some weight.’ Or when someone offers you a bagel and cream cheese, how often do you say, “No, I’m trying to cut back.” Or when someone asks you what you’re doing tonight, you respond, “I hope to go work out.”

Well, I’d like to be the Queen of England, I’ve been trying to be a nicer person for years (my sister can tell you how well that’s working for me), and I hope that I’ll win the lottery!

Try this on for size. I am going to lose weight. Feel different? I am cutting back. I am going to the gym.

Words matter. Choose the ones that serve you, not the ones that perpetuate your struggle.