Don't write down what you're eating...

...write down why you're eating it!

For years, I'd have my weight loss clients keep a food journal as part of a mindfulness practice, but more so as an act of accountability.

The thought was, if I had them write it down, they'd be less likely to eat it,

but what more often happened was they ate it and didn't write it down, which only served to add guilt and shame to their already anxious and depressed states.

A total lose-lose-lose scenario:

1. I placed their struggles under a microscope

2. It added more pain to their already painful state

3. It didn't positively influence their behavior

When you observe WHAT someone is doing, you can only be critical of their behavior, but as you transition to WHY they're doing it, you insert compassion, which creates an environment conducive to healing and transformation.

Once I changed the focus from a food journal to a thought journal, I started learning how to help my clients at the level of causation rather than compensation.

I told them I didn't care at all what or how much they ate and all that mattered to me was paying attention to the threshold between their physical and emotional hunger.

Taking the focus off of food quantity may seem foolish, thoughtless, or even brash but given the stigma surrounding being overweight, removing that pressure creates enough safety for the individual to reflect on their relationship with food and see it for what it is, rather than being concerned with what I may think.

Physical hunger is the amount of food we need to satisfy our body's fundamental needs for energy and nourishment, and emotional hunger is any amount beyond satiation.

At this threshold, I asked them to pay attention to three things:

1. The stories they were telling themselves about themselves, others, life

2. The emotions they were experiencing at that time

3. Any triggers that may have led to protective behavior

In short, the stories were centered on self-criticism, self-doubt, grudge-holding, control, and unmet expectations. Commonly frequented emotions were anger, sadness, and worthlessness. The triggers were almost entirely related to rejections that reminded them of past failures.

Can you see how and why focusing the conversation on portion control, macronutrient balance, and meal timing doesn't get you very far?

It's not that those things aren't important, because they are, but they're usually not the most critical conversations for establishing a foundation for effective behavior change. I consider those topics both strategic and refining in nature, more a progression than a starting point.

As you can imagine, with this level of insight, I was able to manage more meaningful conversations that spoke to the heart of their issues, and as a result, as we dealt with the underlying issues, their protective behaviors diminished, and their waistlines followed.

The traditional approach to behavior change is too direct, intellectual, and prescriptive: Stop eating this, and you'll lose weight. Whereas an indirect, experiential, and inquisitive approach is far more concerned with awareness and understanding than it is fixing someone's problems.

"The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding." Leonardo da Vinci



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