– By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Two common themes in our blog focus on the importance of a lifestyle change as the foundation for weight loss and the individuality of everyone’s weight loss journey. Weight loss is a whole person process, so it makes good sense to give it some thought and to have a plan for how to proceed. An important and often overlooked part of that plan is self-acknowledgement of actual weight loss, and the effort and dedication that you put into it — even when it seems frustrating or overwhelming.
We can be so hard on ourselves over something for which we would be totally supportive of someone else. If a friend who struggles with weight issues was depressed because he didn’t lose weight on his diet that week, you would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You didn’t gain any weight either — that’s huge!” But if we don’t overachieve, too often we look at it as failure. Does this sound familiar?
Practice Self-Kindness & Reward Yourself
A critical first step to any significant change is practicing self-compassion. This means that you treat yourself kindly and with understanding when circumstances are difficult, and that you recognize that the feelings you are experiencing affects everyone. While not everyone struggles with weight, we all question ourselves about something: parenting, adulting, how effective we are at our job, being a good friend/sibling/offspring/fill-in-the-blank and so on.
One way to support yourself as you try to change your eating and activity habits is to practice self-kindness and recognize and reward yourself for consistent effort and accomplishments. Importantly, your rewards should be meaningful and significant to you… but not be related to food!
There are two things everyone says they don’t have enough of: Time and money. So create some as your reward! Now might be a good time to pull out that jar of coins you’ve been saving for years. Put it somewhere prominent so that you can add to it during the week. Did you skip your usual stop for a donut and coffee? Add that money to the jar! Set goals for yourself that allow you to spend all or part of your “mad money” on something just for you.
Or pick a day a month or so in the future and arrange your schedule so that you have two, four or 10 hours to yourself with no guilt! Find a friend with a flexible schedule and watch a movie, go to a beach and listen to the waves, or just put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and take a nap or read a good book. Think about what you would do if you had the time and intentionally create the time do it.
The Importance of Milestones
Give yourself regular milestones that help you see your progress. Maybe after your first mile-long walk you treat yourself to a manicure; after five miles you get new workout gear (you might need a smaller size by then!). You get the idea. Think about what makes you happy or otherwise brightens your day and incorporate these things into your reward structure. (Side note: This is also a great idea to use with your children and spouse, especially if they have weight issues.)
To be clear, non-food rewards are not intended to try and turn you off of food. You should absolutely enjoy what you eat. The goal is to separate the need and desire to eat for nutrition and enjoyment from eating to reward or console yourself. Your favorite foods will always be there, but time spent with those you love or in recharging your own batteries is never wasted and leaves much better, long-lasting memories.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.