Just over five years ago, I had been slowly sinking into a deep depression.
I'd been struggling with my weight for about 10 years. I'd lost the excess weight once before, but after a bad breakup, found myself turning back to emotional eating to deal with life.
I hated having my photo taken and looking in the mirror, avoided social situations whenever I could, and had trouble letting people into my life because I felt so self-conscious about how I looked.
It felt like I was putting living on hold indefinitely.
We both knew what my answer was, but up till that moment, I'd refused to acknowledge it. At that turning point, I finally decided that I'd had enough with the self-loathing and low self-esteem. I wanted to know what it was like to not just feel, but look healthy, and start living the life I truly wanted.
The journey ahead felt overwhelming; I didn't just want to lose weight"”I wanted to keep it off for life.
Questions like these were swimming in my head:
"How will I know if I'm on the right track?"
"What if I feel like giving up?"
"What does "˜fit and healthy' even look like for me?"
After a year of starting, stumbling and learning, and eventually, losing 22 pounds, I'd come to realize that diet tactics alone never got me far.
Setting my body up for weight loss from the inside out, starting with my brain did.
Here's what I did to stop my emotional eating and how you can too:
Step 1: Break Down Your Invisible Scripts
For many of us, dropping jean sizes has less to do what to eat and how to exercise, and more to do with overcoming the invisible, internal dialogues that hold us back from taking the right actions consistently.
Here are some invisible scripts that you may be dealing with, without even realizing it:
"I don't have the willpower to do this."
"I've worked really hard today, so I deserve some cake."
"I'll start eating better tomorrow."
Chances are, tomorrow will never come (it didn't for me) and here's the thing: If you don't let these scripts go, you'll never be able to build on the new habits that support your weight loss.
The next time you find yourself hitting the repeat button on a self-sabotaging script in your head, ask yourself: "How can I re-write this so I can start changing things now?"
Step 2: Turn Your Negative Self-Talk Around
Ever messed something up and said to yourself: "Way to go, stupid.", or ended up calling yourself "fat and lazy" because you decided to skip your workout?
Turns out, what seems to be harmless self talk like this can affect you not just emotionally but physically, thanks to a concept called neuroplasticity.
Case in point: a study from researchers at Ohio University found that volunteers who did nothing but think about and visualize strength training gave them strength gains of between 13% and 53%, all without having to touch any fitness equipment.
Growing evidence says that you can alter not just your behavioral tendencies, but your intelligence by re-training your brain with new thoughts and habits.
The bottom line: Hurtful words can and will hurt you if you use them continually by reinforcing a negative mindset and destructive habits. The less compassionate you are to yourself, the less likely you'll be to achieve a positive outcome.
Step 3: Heal Your Relationship With Food
Flashback to my life five years ago: donuts, pasta, noodles were what soothed me when my stress and anxiety levels went through the roof.
Not surprisingly, I ended up with a rapidly growing waistline and shrinking self-esteem. What saved me? Mindful eating, diverting my attention away from food when I was stressed, and swapping certain foods with others that didn't trigger my binge eating.
Think about the role food plays in your life: Is if a nourishing and joyful relationship, or painful and destructive?
Step 4: Be Accountable
Let's face it: all of us have days (or even months) when putting one foot in front of the other can feel like the most difficult thing on earth. This is where it really helps to have someone give you a kick in the butt when you need it.
A study done at the University of Illinois showed that women who shed pounds during an 18-week weight loss program and kept it off after, had high levels of social support.
The researchers concluded that just having the support of friends with similar goals helped these women stay focused and self-motivated day after day.
What you can do: Join a community (or create your own) of like-minded people or buddy up with a friend who's just as motivated as you to get"”and keep"”the weight-loss ball rolling.
Step 5: Find Movement That You Love
Jumping into an intense workout regimen six to seven days a week when you're excited and raring to go is a mistake many of us (me included) make"¦until you feel yourself crashing and burning, and subsequently, dropping out.
Here's the truth: When it comes to exercise, faster and harder day after day isn't better.
Your better option: Balancing your intense, regimented workouts with other kinds of light movement that you love. This could be soul-soothing walks, a fun game of Frisbee, or even a relaxing swim to let your body recover in a way that keeps it moving.
Listen to your body and give it lots of TLC"”your waistline, mind and spirit will thank you for it.