I’m trying to diet – again!
Last Monday I weighed 84kg, in the past I had felt fantastic at 75kg. Pity I listened to others who suggested I looked gaunt.
A couple of years ago I was really successful but recently the weight just keeps piling on. So, I have been reflecting on my experience over the years.
What diet I choose to go on didn’t matter that much, apart from a lower carbohydrate diet I did for a while and when I was in cycle training. What seemed to matter the most were
- Goals – without setting a specific SMART goal, there seems to be no commitment for me. So what is SMART? The acronym provides a more comprehensive definition of goal setting:
S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
Both my low carb and my cycle training dieting ticked all these boxes. For example, when in training I had a specific goal – I was going to cycle a big event in the Alps the following year. The equivalent of a marathon. It was therefore very motivational and I was doing it with others, in fact, I employed a coach. I didn’t want to let myself or my friends down. I, therefore, made a committed agreement with myself and I knew it was achievable. It was realistic that I could complete the challenge and had a great reward at the end! There was a specific date to work to and I had a trackable way to chart my steps along the way.
- Compassion with oneself – failure usually happened quite quickly and I binged food with the thought that I’d restart tomorrow/after the weekend or some later date, but not just right now! For most of my life without specific goals, I would lose it by lunchtime. Stress would kick in and I would have a chocolate bar or two to cheer myself up. Much was in secret and I would berate myself for being so weak, which only made me feel worse.
So what is self-compassion and how can mindfulness make a difference?
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. Dr. Kristin Neff, follow this link for a fuller description.
Although my cycling example shows the usefulness of SMART planning, it was my self-compassion that was also key. If I went slightly off track I didn’t berate myself, but would gently get back on track. I didn’t binge.
Being previously anxious and judgmental, I always set myself up to fail to keep myself in the same state. Although I thought I wanted to change, I actually had comfort in maintaining the status quo. Have a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at Wikipedia. It seems to me if there is a gap in one of the higher levels we fall downwards into one of the lower ‘deficiency needs’ levels to regain a sense of security and completeness again. Dropping into the physiological level to binge on food fulfilled a need in me from higher up.
My search for weight loss is therefore at its core a search for my own self-compassion. I have set some of the prerequisites for successful dieting already with my mindful journey so far. So what has stopped me from successful dieting so far? I haven’t set any SMART goals, so:
S – Robert will weigh 76kg by the end of June,
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational as Robert has as intermediate steps 82kg by end March, 80kg by end of April, 78kg by end of May
A – I’m posting it here in public as an agreement with myself, acknowledging it is attainable & acheivable
R – it is definitely realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable as defined above
I’m telling you all to make this goal as meaningful as possible for me. I have a tracker in my journal so all I need to do is get started! [I’m 82.6kg today almost one week in] Mindfulness will enable and empower me along this journey.
What are you going to do this weekend to get started with something you having been putting off?