A few weeks ago I was sorting through school work and papers that came home in my fifth grader’s backpack at the end of the school year and had been left in a pile. In his math folder I found this great handout: “Problem-solving Top-ten List.” It’s intended to help students who are stuck on a math problem, but I found it to be great life advice and very applicable to eating and weight loss battles. What do you think?
Top Ten Reasons For Getting Stuck in the First Place:
1. You tried to rush through the problem without thinking.
We are often great at rushing into new weight loss programs and diets hoping each one will be the magic answer. Clients often tell me how they’ve picked programs in the past that weren’t compatible with their tastes or their schedules or their preferences and that they probably knew from the beginning they wouldn’t want to continue with long term.
2. You didn’t read the problem carefully.
We don’t just run into this difficulty with math problems. In many life situations, if we don’t clearly understand the problem, we might choose a problem solving approach that isn’t going to meet our needs. In my online emotional eating course (Your Missing Peace), I encourage users to take the time to understand their unique situation. Taking the time to understand your reasons for overeating and the types of solutions that will work for you is essential to not getting stuck further down the road.
3. You don’t know what the problem is asking for.
Again, this doesn’t just apply to math problems. If we’re working to solve the wrong problem, we aren’t going to get anywhere. If you are struggling with emotional eating (stress eating, boredom eating, or eating when you are lonely or upset), no food plan or diet in the world is going to fix that–because it’s not about the food–it’s about figuring out what to do with the feelings.
4. You don’t have enough information.
I often tell me clients that if they feel like they aren’t getting anywhere, or if they feel like they are beating their head against the wall, odds are that there is a part of the problem that isn’t being addressed. The Emotional Eating Toolbox(TM) spends a significant amount of time showing you how to collect information about yourself, about your hunger, and about your relationship with food so that you can solve the eating problems once and for all.
5. You’re looking for an answer that the problem isn’t asking for.
If you overeat because you are bored or stressed or anxious or angry (or any other emotion), the problem isn’t about food choice. The answer the problem is asking for has to do with finding new or better ways of responding to your emotions, your stress, and your needs. The weight loss industry spends billions of dollars convincing us that if we follow a certain diet we will be beautiful and happy. I meet far to many of my clients because they feel like they haven’t been able to be “strict enough” with themselves. They are angry with themselves because they haven’t been successful with weight loss plans that stress deprivation and willpower and denial.
The truth is that diets aren’t the answer for this problem. Lasting change and enduring weight loss happen when we make changes that work with our lives–not when we try to maintain behaviors that leave us hungry and grumpy and feeling like we are missing out.
6. The strategy you’re using doesn’t work for this particular problem.
I’ll say it again. Diets tell you what to eat. Often, being on a diet will increase the amount of time and energy someone spends focusing on food. Diets don’t teach you how to change patterns of emotional eating or overeating when you aren’t hungry. They don’t teach you how to feed yourself and expand your life in ways that won’t leave you feeling deprived. Users of my program are often surprised at first how little time they spend focusing on food. The program doesn’t count fat grams or calories or carbs. The program helps you target the reasons you feel hungry and the reasons you eat when you aren’t. The program helps you GET OFF the diet rollercoaster and put food in a much smaller place in your life.
7. You aren’t applying the strategy correctly.
If you’ve been dieting for years, it can be hard to move out of the mindset of deprivation and blaming yourself when the diet doesn’t work out (even though the diet was probably doomed to fail in the first place–remember–a diet is the wrong strategy). Using the tools to take control of emotional eating takes practice. Often users initially have a hard time looking at their eating patterns and their emotions without feeling the old self-blame, shame and guilt.
One of the biggest benefits that Your Missing Peace users and coaching clients note is being able to stop feeling guilty and bad all the time. That’s HUGE.
8. You failed to combine your strategy with another strategy.
If we try to fit ourselves into a strategy or a program instead of finding a strategy that fits and works with our specific individual situation, we’re likely to get stuck. Cookie cutter eating plans and programs are problematic because we are all different. For instance, the Missing Peace program guides you to your own answers and strategies through the work you do and the answers you provide about yourself.
9. The problem has more than one answer.
There is no one magic cause of weight gain and there is no one magic answer for weight loss. People’s paths for taking control of their emotional eating will be different. Once you have the basic set of tools, you will be more successful if you learn to use them in the way that complements your personality, your strengths, your struggles, and your life.
10.The problem can’t be solved.
Emotions and tough times are real. We might not like them but we can’t just wish them away. Trying to ignore or bury emotions doesn’t work well in the long term either. The truth is that there is no diet or food plan that is going to help us cope with tough emotions. If we forget about the emotional part of our eating and simply focus on the food, we’re going to get stuck and we’re likely to fail. And then we are likely to blame ourselves–which isn’t helpful either.
There ARE powerful tools that can help anybody get through the emotions and situations that they struggle with. When we learn them and practice using them it’s easier to put food in it’s place, make choices that feel good about eating, and put more energy into creating the lives we really want to be living.
Take good care,