When Your Weight Loss Goals Ruin You

Apr 23, 2018

What Are Your Goals? What Are Your Values?

The short version is that values are a direction.

A goal is a possible, or optional, destination.

People often focus too much on destinations, and not enough on directions. We have such a goal-oriented society that it’s easy to end up at a destination that isn’t in the direction you actually wanted to go. That’s how people lose weight, find themselves in a lifestyle they hate and can’t sustain, and then gain it all back.

If you’re tired of gaining it all back, this is an article you need to read.

A Focus On Goals:

If Susan really sat down and clarified her values, she’d say that what she wants for her food habits and for her body is:

  1. Peace
  2. Confidence
  3. Results she can maintain for life

But she sets a goal of losing 15 pounds in 12 weeks. On the surface, 1.25 pounds per week is a reasonable goal. But let’s see what happens.

  1. First, Susan starts working on basic food skills like portion size and eating mostly whole foods. The first week she loses a pound. She feels good that the weight is going down.
  2. The second week, she adds in waiting until hungry to eat. She loses another pound her second week. That puts her at 2 pounds down, but to hit her goal she’d have to be at 2.5 pounds down by now, she starts to get nervous feeling behind.
  3. The third week is her husband’s birthday. She knows she’s behind so she makes sure not to order what she wants when they go out for dinner, she doesn’t have any wine, and she skips desert. She totally feels like she missed out on what should have been a fun meal with her husband. At the end of the week she’s down 0.75 pounds. That puts her down 2.75 pounds, and to be on track for her goal she would need to be down 3.75 by now. She’s really frustrated and sad, that even with missing out she’s still off track from her goal.
  4. The fourth week she decides to get back on track. She starts to weigh and measure her food, and track every calorie. Basically the less she eats the better. She figures that if she can really cut hard for a couple weeks, she can get back on track. She’s hungry all the time, tracks every calorie, and loses 2 pounds. She’s on her way to being back on track and feels awesome.
  5. The fifth week, she plans to keep cutting hard again and keep catching up. On Wednesday, hunger gets the better of her, and she smashes a box of girl scout cookies. She looks at the calories, knows she blew the whole week, and eats whatever she wants for the rest of the week. Sunday she weighs, finds herself up a pound, and is despondent.
  6. The sixth week, she decides to cut even harder. No carbs, no fat, just protein and vegetables. Her weight is down 2 pounds in 3 days and she thinks she found the key. Then she has a terrible day at work, snaps, and eats a brownie. Knowing she blew her no carbs plan, she has pizza for dinner. Then more girl scout cookies. She follows that with chips. At the end of the night, she feels bloated, uncomfortably full, and didn’t even enjoy any of the things she ate. She gets on the scale the next morning to “see how much damage she did” and she gained back the 2 pounds she lost the first three days of the week. She gives up completely.

I’m sure we’ve all seen some version of this cycle repeat a million times. If you look at her values (peace, confidence, results she can maintain for life) we can see that she sacrificed those to try to hit her goal.

A Focus On Values:

Let's see what that same week would look like if she came at it from the perspective of valued direction:

  • Week six of food skills practice: Susan has been working on the 5 Core Food skills, and has slowly worked up to practicing all three. There have been some bumps in the road, but she’s still down 4 pounds in 6 weeks. She feels really good because her skill practice actually lines up with her values. She feels good because she’s practicing being the kind of person she wants to be.

She already feels more peaceful, more confident, and more like her results will be sustainable, just from how consistent she’s been with her skill practice. The weight loss has been simply a natural consequence of consistent skill practice. She doesn’t have to stress about how fast or slow it goes, because she’s already being the person she wants to be. She already feels peaceful and confident, knowing she’s doing her skills, and knowing everything is going in the right direction.

What you do need to know, is that if you set goals without clarifying your values, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t set goals.

A goal, actually, can be a fun game to play inside of moving in a valued direction.

What you do need to know, is that if you set goals without clarifying your values, you’re putting the cart before the horse. You have no idea if your goals, and the methods you use to pursue them, are moving you towards or away from the kind of person you want to be.

If you notice your goals are taking you away from your values, then you’ve set goals taking you away from the kind of person you want to be. And it’s all about practicing being the kind of person you want to be.

Your values are how you know. Clarify your values, and then you have a filter to test your actions against. You can ask, “Is this moving me in the direction of my values?”

The funny thing about weight loss is that it tends to come with being the kind of person you want to be. Most people, after clarifying their values, have tremendous clarity around what kinds of food habits and skills they want to practice. All of a sudden, diet culture looks fairly repulsive. On the flip-side, eating balanced meals, eating meals, not snacks, learning to cope with emotions without food, moderating treats, eating vegetables, eating slowly, these are all things that people feel good doing. These are things that fit their values. These are also the same things that work best for long-term weight loss.

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