Happy New Year!
January 1st. Thank heavens, right? The previous year is over. This is the time of year when everyone starts thinking about goal setting – about resolutions. Before you sit down and make another list of resolutions, think about this:
Most of us have had the same goals over and over again – year after year. Almost everyone who struggles with excess weight (which is 70% of us) has said, “I want to lose weight” – many times. Wanting to lose weight is great – and we should keep that in the back of our heads – but wanting something and doing something about that want are two different things.
We need to change the way we word our goals. It’s time to change the way we think about progress toward our goals. After all, each of us could lose a bunch of weight all at once – we could have a limb amputated and magic presto, the number on the scale would be amazing. Our quality of life would change dramatically (probably not for the better) and we wouldn’t feel better – but that number that we stare at on the scale would be much less than it is today.
It’s not the goal that’s the problem. It’s our inability to achieve it. Why? Because most of us are going about it the wrong way. We need to work further upstream.
You can’t fix a problem until you understand it, right? You can’t fix low water pressure without working backward to figure out where the leak is coming from. You can’t fix a spiral of debt until you figure out where the money is going. You can’t fix a relationship that is unraveling until you understand what issues are driving you apart. We apply this idea to other areas of our life – we just don’t tend to do it when thinking about health or weight.
My challenge to you this first week of the year is this: before you make a lofty goal of losing 50 pounds or controlling your diabetes, first look backward and reflect upon the patterns that led to those problems in the first place. Figure out why you do what you do. Sit down with a pen and paper and give it your full attention and energy. Figure out what your patterns are.
You are going to have to change those patterns for the results to be different than they have been thus far. Stop focusing on the results. Treating the result doesn’t work – the horse is already out of the barn. This is why dieting doesn’t work. The excess weight isn’t the problem – it’s the patterns that put the weight on in the first place that need addressing.
If you are someone who eats in response to stress, rather than setting a goal of losing 30 pounds this quarter, try focusing on the underlying problem and try one of these on for a change:
“My goal is to find an outlet for my stress that isn’t food”.
“My goal is to manage my stress better”
If you are someone that eats poorly because you don’t prioritize food planning and preparation – i.e., you end up grabbing convenience foods because you are starving and there’s nothing ready and you’re hangry and you’re too busy to go to the store and make a meal, try focusing on the underlying problem. If you don’t change the problem, you are going to keep repeating the same behaviors, right? Rather than focusing on the scale, make your first goal:
“My goal is to spend an hour each week deliberately planning out healthy meals in advance”
“My goal is to organize my time better to focus on the things that really matter to me”
If you are a patient in my clinic and you are already doing this – congratulations! You are a hundred steps ahead of most of the people around you and a million steps closer to being a healthy human being. If you aren’t there and want to get there, give us a shout – it’s what we do every day – and we love doing it.
If you aren’t ready to work upstream and you just want your results to be different, feel free to keep trying – but if you are going to do the same thing you did last year and the year before (and it didn’t work then), you are likely getting ready to expend a lot of effort without a lot of results.