Are you ready to learn the best-kept secret to weight loss? It doesn't involve purchasing a miracle product or submitting to a killer exercise routine. Nor does it involve weighing yourself three times a day or obsessing over every bite you put in your mouth.
The best-kept secret is to develop and maintain a happy relationship with yourself.
Many of us go to great lengths to please others and develop happy relationships with our spouses, parents, children and co-workers--even strangers. Very little thought, however, is given to maintaining a positive, joyful relationship with ourselves.
During the four decades that I tried and failed to lose weight, I was harshly critical of my efforts. I berated myself for my lack of willpower, along with all of my other shortcomings. I was ashamed of how I looked when I saw myself in the mirror, and I was pessimistic about my ability to make meaningful changes.
What shifted the course of events was a shift in how I viewed the challenge of fitness and weight loss. I traded the perspective that saw failure to lose weight as a character flaw for a perspective that saw losing weight and getting fit as a challenging learning experience. My inability to lose weight was no longer a moral failing; instead, it reflected my status as a willing, albeit untutored, student.
Once I was no longer so brutally harsh in my self-judgment, I could begin to have fun with the project and bring skills to the task that I had learned from other parts of my life. From managing my career and my home, I had developed skills that involved planning, setting goals, monitoring progress and evaluating results, including breakdowns.
In replacing my critical relationship with myself with a positive one, I followed 10 principles:
1. I began each day saying, "Thank you, body for getting me this far."
2. I took better care of my body-from moisturizing my skin with a nourishing cream to putting on makeup and styling my hair every day, even on days when I was not going out.
3. I planned minivacations for myself that functioned as special treats. For example, I'd retire early and take my favorite book so I could enjoy a deliciously long read.
4. I began paying attention to and expressing my feelings instead of stuffing them.
5. I began listening to the signals my body was sending instead of ignoring feelings of fatigue or stress.
6. I started asking questions about fitness and weight loss so I could learn from others' experience.
7. I accepted my shortcomings as part of the human condition. Instead of beating myself up after a breakdown, I forgave myself and moved on.
8. I began writing about the process of getting fit and losing weight. Writing allowed me to externalize my internal experience and helped me maintain a more balanced perspective.
9. I added playful fun to my life. Because I was a single parent working one and sometimes two jobs, my work tank was nearly always filled to the brim, while my play tank was nearly always empty.
10. I acknowledged my progress, even amid occasional setbacks.
Since I discovered the secret to my own weight loss-developing a joyful relationship with myself-I've gone on to share this insight with whoever will listen. I continue to do so for one reason: I vividly remember how miserable I was before I lost weight and got fit. If my insights can alleviate similar suffering in another, I will consider my time and effort well spent.
Photo Credit: Phil Roeder on Flickr