I see many clients who come to me as their last ditch attempt to stop dieting forever and to create habits of health that last a lifetime, rather than the latest fad. It's fascinating and powerful work to see patterns and habits that have held someone back for a lifetime start to dissolve as they create a different relationship with their body.
Take Caron. A yo-yo dieter for more than 30 years and an intermittent exerciser, Caron was at war with her body, a long cruel war of attrition where one side would get the upper hand for a while and some of the weight would come off, but then her body would fight back and slowly the kilos would be back, plus a few extra for good measure. A lifelong, exhausting battle.
Working on Caron's intermittent exercise routines was fascinating. "I just can't stick to anything" she mumbled. "I start full of good intentions but then ... after a while I just can't keep up the effort or momentum and I stop going."
Rather than berate Caron for being weak or not following through and telling her to suck it up, I asked her to tell me what she would say to her best friend Sue if she took her out for a run or a walk and she was struggling?
"Oh easy!" said Caron. "She is such a wonderful woman, I'd be telling her what a good job she was doing and it will get easier, no one finds it easy at the beginning. That we are there together and she's not on her own. Just relax and enjoy it - that sort of thing."
Nice. You are so encouraging and supportive! Now, tell me what you say to yourself when you are at the gym.
The words just tumbled out of Caron's mouth "As I am forcing myself to stay there. I say come on Caron, suck it up. You are fat and lazy and useless, you need to try harder. I hate the gym. This is so hard. It's probably not making any difference anyway I am so bad at it and I'm so freaking fat, how could you have let yourself go like this?
Right. Would you say that to Sue?
Caron laughed outright at the idea! "I would never say that to Sue! I love Sue. I would never call her fat and useless! Oh My God that would be awful, the very idea of it."
Would you say those words to a stranger on the exercise bike next to you? Noooo. Okay, so you wouldn't say these cruel demotivating words to Sue, whom you love, you wouldn't say them to a complete stranger, but, you feel it's okay to say them to yourself repeatedly, over and over - and you wonder why you find it hard to stay motivated?
If you said those words to any one else would you imagine that they would ever want to walk in the door of that gym again? No. They would probably go home and hide under the duvet with a pack of TimTams.
End the war. When you use the language and self-talk of hate and fear and use your words as a stick to beat yourself with, of course it's not motivating. It wouldn't motivate anyone else, so why the hell should it motivate you?
Keep your self-talk positive, motivating, encouraging, empowered. It makes more difference than you can possibly imagine and starts changing that pattern of intermittent exercising to a lifetime habit of joyfully moving your body. Here is your new rule: if you wouldn't say it to Sue, don't say it to you.
Louise is a life coach, author and corporate escapee. Visit louisethompson.com for more.
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