"I'm done. I just can't do another diet. As soon as I find out a certain food isn't on the "plan" I rebel and want it even more. I always end up bingeing and gaining even more weight.
I'm so tired of struggling. It's hopeless.
I'm so ashamed. How the hell did I let myself get to 270 pounds?"
That was my low about 4 years ago. I ate my way through my day, miserable in my job and struggling with a roller coaster infertility journey. I felt out of control so I ate to control something, anything. I tried therapy, diets, nutritionists, contests – you name it. Nothing was working.
And then, the Universe presented me with an opportunity in the form of a weight coaching program. It was a different approach to weight loss and taught me that I was not broken or less of a person because of my weight. It literally turned my mind upside.
The reason I was stuck was because of my thoughts. When it came to my weight, my core belief was "I'll never be successful at losing weight. I will always gain the weight back."
Ouch. This thought hurt but it also felt the most true at my core. It also started setting off all kinds of alarms and began connecting dots like I had never experienced. This made sense! No matter what strategy I used, that core thought would always rear its ugly head. In all reality, I was expecting to fail!
In order to truly change, I had to get real with the fact that I was creating this problem for myself. I thought I was taking care of myself by eating, but in a twisted way was just making sure I always gained the weight back. The vicious problem cycled over and over.
Fixing my problem really had to start at my level of thinking: if my thoughts contributed my weight issue, then I could change how I was thinking (this is a process) and ultimately create a different result. MIND BLOWN.
My approach was really two-pronged. I had to look at changing the long-standing belief, which would take time, but also had to come up with a way to deal with my real life in-the-moment struggles.
I changed my core belief about my weight by challenging it over and over. Simple but not easy. That thought was like a superhighway burned into my brain so it took a lot of work. The key for me was to become curious and willing to believe that I was wrong. Willing to believe that I could lose and maintain a lower weight. I sought evidence to the contrary of the thought and started letting my body make the decisions on what, how much and when to eat.
My real life in-the-moment struggles were also difficult. I was so habituated to overeating all the time, I knew I would need to practice awareness and patience. My experiences were not good or bad "“ they were all learning opportunities.
I developed a tool combining all the work I had learned and ironically named it the BITE tool (handy mnemonic for an overeater, eh?). I still use it today and keep it handy in places where I might be triggered. It helps me pause and insert space when I want to disconnect and numb out with food. Come and take a BITE with me:
- Take 6 DEEP breaths through your nose. Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale.
- In this moment you are ok. You are safe.
- Deep breathing helps slow down your mind and body. Some even find relief with the breath alone.
2. Investigate the truth
- It is really important to tell yourself the TRUTH without any judgment.
- In 1-2 sentences describe why you really want to overeat?
- How will food help?
- Will the problem still exist after you overeat?
- Are you willing to be curious about why you don't want to feel uncomfortable?
3. Tricks your mind plays
- Your brain has developed an automatic connection between food and relief. Your brain will play tricks to try to get you to keep this connection such as "One last time" or "I deserve it."
- These tricks are not helpful and get stronger when you give in to them. You can begin forming new connections by acknowledging and then ignoring the tricks. Listen for your tricks. You get to decide what goes in your body.
4. Explore your physical body
- What physical sensations do you observe throughout your body (chest tightness, jaw clenching, tingly arms pit in stomach)?
- Based on previous episodes, how will you feel if you overeat now? How do you want to feel?
When I consistently did my work around this tool, I lost 50 lbs. Without restriction or hating myself.
The relief I felt from all the years of shame was intense and I knew I had to help others know they are not alone. I enrolled in Brooke Castillo's Weight Coach Certification program, which involved coursework, an exam and a 3 month practicum where I coached clients for free with a Master Coach. I received valuable feedback on my coaching and learned from one of the best. In May 2015, I was officially certified as a Weight Coach.
My mission is to share this work and teach others how they can listen and trust their bodies again. By looking at our thoughts, we can free ourselves from a food prison and release the shame about our bodies. There is much hope!
I've maintained my weight loss for 3 years and am still on my journey to my natural weight. Some days are easier than others. But, I know without a doubt, when I keep showing up for myself and purposefully decide on how I want to think, my body responds with joy and gratitude. Friends, yours will, too.