The hardest part about losing weight is letting go of comfort and stepping into the unknown. For a long time I was desperately afraid of what food I would have to give up or hunger pain I might feel. Very soon into the process I realized those fears were just smoke and mirrors. To achieve forever weight loss you have to look deeper than “how” to lose weight and face the boundaries of your comfort zone.
You want weight loss to be comfortable – it cannot.
My approach to weight loss is first to create a foundation made of achievable, sustainable, steps. To be clear, there is no promise that the steps will be comfortable. The reality is, the greater your ability to endure the temporary physical and emotional discomfort of weight loss the more likely you are to live at the healthy weight you desire.
Learning how to eat for weight loss is the easy part. Facing the truth behind your emotional discomfort is where the real change takes place. My weight loss mentor called this process, “becoming a detective of your own heart.”
Emotional discomfort was essential to my weight loss
You created your comfort zone, now your comfort is keeping you at an unhealthy weight. In my case, habitually seeking comfort from food ultimately created excruciating discomfort in my body. If you are familiar with my story you know, at 25 years old, I could barely bend to tie my shoes. I knew the difference between a bowl of salad and a plate of fettuccine but I was deep in a perverted comfort cycle and scared of what I would have to give up in order to change.
Leaning into my feelings rather than reaching for food also caused discomfort. Some of the feelings I had to face were raw from years of being stuffed down. Each time I allowed myself to feel my feelings, rather than seek distraction, the emotional discomfort became easier to bare. As often as necessary I asked for support from mentors to learn how to unpack my feelings. The sense of mercy and peace that follows facing a raw emotion is unparalleled. It is as though storm clouds have receded to reveal a freshly scrubbed sky, brighter and bluer than ever before.
With practice the fear of turning away from food and leaning into my emotional discomfort diminished. I felt stronger and better equipped to handle the constant changes of everyday living.
How long will I have to be uncomfortable?
There is a fundamental difference between the discomfort caused by over-eating and the discomfort of leaning into your emotions – the first is a prison while the other sets you free.
The more you seize opportunities to be uncomfortable the sooner you will be at peace with the new way of living.
Think about a time you reached for food when you are uncomfortable at a party. Were you eating out of a desire to fit in and go with the flow? Perhaps the root of your discomfort was feeling like an outsider. Next time, you are in this situation, tell yourself “it’s go time!” Walk away from the hors d’oeuvres and make the first move to greet someone you don’t know. Turn your fear on its head by challenging yourself to learn something about 5 people and introducing 2 of them to each other. You are no longer an outsider you are a networking master who is far too fabulous to hover by the snack table.
This is not about deprivation
Saying no to eating for comfort when you are not hungry is not deprivation. To be deprived, you have to give up things that are essential to your well-being. When I learned to step back from foods that taste good for a moment but hurt my body, I felt the opposite of deprivation; I felt empowered. Eating to numb or mask my feelings kept me trapped in a cycle of frustration; never fully able to feel at ease in my own skin. When I learned to lean into my emotions I stopped reaching for unhealthy food as a distraction and took back control of my life.
Each time you lean into your feelings, acknowledge that each emotion plays a part in the whole that makes you wonderfully worth the effort.
How does leaning into your emotions work?
As with any new skill, it takes practice to face emotional discomfort. I personally acknowledge my emotions out loud. For example:
“Stop! You are not hungry; you are disappointed. Whatever you find to eat will not ease your discomfort. At this moment, you have two choices add to the pain or be kind to your body. Your feelings are valid and normal. Disappointment is going to hang around for a while and that is okay. Now, take a deep breath, walk away from the temptation, and invite Disappointment to help you create something good.”
I literally say things like this aloud.
The movie Inside Out gave us an incredible gift. In a single beautifully animated film we met and came to know Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. By personifying emotions, they became approachable, lovable beings with needs and desires of their own. Give your feelings an identity and start listening. Enjoy getting to know each of them individually and listen to what they want to teach you.
The result is a happier healthier you!
Forge a relationship with your emotions, as you do you will feel less caught up in survival mode and better able to step away and view the big picture. Almost immediately, foods that stand between you and the healthy weight you desire lose their temptation and are easier to put out of mind. Ultimately, leaning into your emotional truth will become a more powerful agent of self-fulfillment than food ever was. Commit to making your weight loss goal a priority then watch as each hard choice propels you toward your goal of living healthy ever after. Before you know it, your actions will be mirrored by others who will be asking you to share your weight loss and healthy living secrets.