Some things just feel easier when they feel…well, easy. You know, like when you wake up feeling like you’re already wearing your skinniest sassy-pants (or your tight pants perhaps?) – and they feel loose! Or you go to a gym class and feel like you could go for hours or until you drown in your own sweat. When we feel on top of the world – whether it’s because our tightest pants fit perfectly or we’re being praised for our performance at work – doing the necessary things to maintain those feelings seems like a breeze. But how do you cope with wanting to lose weight when losing weight feels – well, hard?
There’s no mystery here, really. I mean, these are the basics of positive reinforcement: reinforce the continuation of a positive behaviour by rewarding said behaviour when it occurs. Or at least, that’s my layman breakdown.
[Cue ominous music]. Lurking around the corner, though, is the downswing – the day you wake up feeling like a frumpy mess, or when you sleep in way too late even though you promised you were going to wake up every day at 6am and work out.
Basically, the days when stuff just feels HARD. I’m talking about those moments when the idea of brushing your teeth seems tantamount to doing a full Ironman, untrained. How do we keep momentum on days when we just feel like a bag of…you know.
This is what I would consider a ‘realtime’ post. As I type this, I have woken up for the third morning in a row feeling like I’ve gained 20lbs overnight and might have undiagnosed narcolepsy (it’s taken me 6 hours and 2 naps to write what you’ve read so far). These days of fluff have been preceded by a week of feeling like a svelte goddess, where it was soooo easy to throw away my half-eaten frozen yogurt (even with cheesecake bites left in the bottom. CHEESECAKE BITES, PEOPLE!!) and I got a glimpse into what Gisele feels like when she gets dressed in the morning (ok, maybe Gisele after 1000 trips to Menchies).
Today, though, I doubt it all. Maybe last week was a fluke. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that cookie on Sunday night. Ok, three cookies on Sunday night.
Maybe I should have stayed at the gym a little longer yesterday. I should have worked harder last week to compensate for these frumpy days in advance (retrospective Danielle is psychic, by the way).
These days used to break me. I would stumble through my day (if I made it out of bed), angry at my body, chewing out innocent bystanders, and collapsing into a pile of tears and self-hatred at the end of the day. Over time, and with a lot of research, I’ve figured out a couple of tools to help get out of these funks and get through these days more easily (notice I said ‘more easily’…we all have days that are tougher than others).
1. Accept. The first thing I do when I wake up and feel like crap is to accept that I’m not feeling so hot. Shake off the notion that you “should” feel good all the time, and focus on learning to accept that we are human and we all have days when putting on our shoes feels like climbing Everest.
2. Scan Next, I scan my memory for other times I’ve felt this way and what preceded and followed that time. For example, I distinctly remember that I felt this way a few weeks ago for a period of 3 or 4 days. What followed? Last week, when I felt confident and at peace with my body. There are downs, but there are also ups, and the more you practice seeking evidence to contradict your fear-mongering beliefs about what this day means (“this means I’m a terrible employee!” or “this means my diet isn’t working!!) the more automated it becomes. I promise.
This is also helpful for making connections between why you feel a certain way. If you scan and remember that the last time you felt this way was when you OD’d on ice cream, and – hold the phone – you also ate a pint of ice cream last night, you can further probe: is it possible that my body can’t handle massive quantities of dairy? Or maybe I can’t eat dairy before bed. Or maybe it’s just too many calories for me in one day, on top of all my other food choices? Forging these connections also helps with future decision making, so that the next time you are halfway through a pint of ice cream, your brain can pipe up with “hey remember those last 2 times you ate a whole pint of ice cream and you felt like garbage the next day?”. Actually listening to your brain is a whole other game requiring self-love, of course.
3. Question. I’m inquisitive by nature and always want to know why things are the way they are. This has served me well in my weight-loss, but lately I’ve been learning about how to ask better questions. By better, I mean questions that empower us and force our brains to work for us, rather than against. When you wake up feeling fat, it’s easy (too easy) to think “Why am I such a pig? Why did i eat so much last night? Why can’t I stay on track? Why does my body hate me so much?”. Your brain thrives on the questioning method, but self-deprecating questions are not getting you anywhere. When is the last time you made better choices because you beat yourself into submission?
Instead, think about some ways that you can take your questions and make them more empowering. For example:
“What can I do today to help myself comply with my eating plan?”
“How can I make choices today that I will feel proud of tonight?”
“How would I talk to myself if I was feeling great today?”
“What tiny steps can I take today to show my body love?”
Sounds a little out-there, I know. But over the course of the day, the time will pass whether you spend it hating yourself or being kind to yourself. It can be hard to drum-up self-love when you feel as far as possible on the other end of the spectrum, but let your brain do some of the work for you. It’s your biggest ally on this journey.