The first step in "flipping the switch" and achieving weight loss is letting go of fear, dropping your excuses and believing that you can really do it, fitness expert Jim Karas writes in his new book "Flip the Switch."
(This excerpt includes some written questions about your weight, so you may want to print a copy in order to fill in some of the blank spaces.)
Chapter 1: Believe In The Flip
"If you can dream it, you can do it" — Walt Disney
Dozens, probably hundreds of times each year, I receive the same phone call. One of my clients will leave a message on my voice mail similar to the following, "I can't believe it. I got on the scale this morning and I am down over nine pounds. I haven't lost this much weight in years and I feel great. For the first time, I believe I can really lose weight, but I am nervous. Please call me and tell me this is for real. Please tell me I can keep this up and lose even more weight. Please tell me I won't gain it all back. Please tell me this is not a fluke. Please call me!"
Believing in yourself is the first step to "flipping" the switch. My goal in this chapter is for you to once and for all believe in the fact that you can succeed at weight loss. At the moment, you probably don't believe you can succeed. Undoubtedly, you have attempted weight loss dozens, or if you are like me, hundreds of times in the past. I bet there isn't a diet that you haven't experienced. I tried fasting, food combining, high protein, low protein, high carbs, no carbs and skipping meals to name but a few. Did you really believe that you would succeed in losing weight on any of these plans, or was trying these diets just an act of throwing up your hands and saying, "At this point, I'll try just about anything. I've got to do something."
That's where you made your first mistake. Yes, of course these diets were nutty, but you were desperate and desperate individuals embrace all types of wild strategies. Your error was not in trying, your error was that you did not believe in yourself. Instead, you believed in what turned out to be a quick fix that has no lasting results. Even if these programs had some basis in fact, you were doomed to fail. To succeed you must believe in your ability to be successful. You undertook each of these diet plans believing that you alone were not strong enough to triumph; instead, you put your faith into a plan that didn't work. Doubting yourself is a recipe for failure. In "Flip The Switch" I am going to teach you to believe in yourself and consequently break the cycle of starting and stopping, starting and stopping, which guarantees failure. I realize that you rationalized your behavior by saying, "at least I'm trying something." And, as I said, I don't fault you for trying, but I know (and I'm sure you do as well) that approaching the complicated task of weight loss requires more than a hot, trendy diet or a celebrity endorsed exercise program. This process must begin with you first believing in your ability to succeed. You can allow fear and doubt to enter your mind, but you cannot let them take control.
Remember your American history? What did FDR urge the American public to realize in his first inaugural address in March 1933 at the height of the great depression? By stressing, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," FDR was able to convince Americans that they could achieve economic victory if they successfully avoided being paralyzed by fear and doubt. In other words, the president was stating the obvious. Don't allow fear and doubt to prevent you from taking action. That same attitude applies to any challenge you undertake and that includes weight loss. Don't be afraid to believe in the power of yourself. By doing so, you will be creating a foundation upon which to build success in many areas of your life, not only weight loss.
Are You Comfortable?
Look at it this way. Right now, you are probably comfortable not believing in your ability to flip. You are, however, unhappy with your weight. Holding this book in your hands indicates that you have a desire to change. Change is scary. We are all most comfortable with those issues, experiences and situations which are familiar. Why do you think we keep going back to the same restaurants, the same vacations spots, the same stores? We know what to expect. No surprises, no discomfort. But, once we entertain a desire to change, or directly experience change, our comfort level begins to diminish.
I remember being at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and hating statistics. Just the thought of this class on Tuesdays and Thursdays made me sick. So what did I do? Well, I frequently skipped class, refused to open the book and constantly had a sense of agitation about the class — classic avoidance. Halfway through the semester, at the last possible moment, I dropped the class. What a sense of relief I felt as I walked back to my fraternity house and realized that I no longer had to deal with the "statistics" issue. This lasted about two days. Then it dawned on me that it was a required class. I needed it to graduate. Sure, I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with it at that moment, but was not very happy when I realized that I had only created a temporary solution. Next semester, I had to take statistics again. Had I been smarter, and braver, I would have realized that I was already halfway through with this "torture." So why did I drop this class when half the pain was over? I didn't believe in my ability to succeed. I doubted myself and withdrew from the class.
Weight Loss = Change
The same principles apply to weight loss. How many times have you said to yourself, "I'm going to start losing weight this Monday, or next month, or [the big one] January 1st." You take the pressure off at the moment, and that gives you a sense of relief, but the problem hasn't been solved. If you are overweight, the sooner you begin to deal with that issue, the faster the weight will come off and the better you will feel.
Draw From Your Inner Power
Start believing deep down inside that you can flip the switch and lose weight. Go deep within yourself all the way to your emotional epicenter. Draw from those feelings that are deep within you. You must begin to accept and believe in the power of the human mind to foster change. To reinforce this point, consider the following studies.
The Body And The Mind Work Together
The human mind is an extremely potent mechanism and researchers have long noted its power. In January 2002,The American Journal of Psychiatry, reported on Andrew Leuchter and his colleagues at UCLA, who performed brain scans on 51 patients suffering from major depression. Half the patients were taking antidepressants and the other half had been given a placebo (a substance having no effect). Surprisingly, an equal number of people in both groups reported feeling better. More importantly, though, was the fact that of those individuals who received the placebo, their brain scans recorded significant increased neurological activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which regulates mood, among other things. "What this study shows for the first time is that people who get better on placebo have a change in brain function, just as surely as people who get better on medication" stated Leuchter. Simply put, those individuals on the placebo believed that they should be feeling better and made their body physically respond to enable it to feel better. Both the body and the mind had a similar goal and worked in tandem to achieve that goal.
Additionally, there have been numerous accounts of the power of the mind contributing to a changed physical state — such as individuals with multiple personalities being diabetic in one personality and free of diabetes in another. The power of the mind is awesome. Believe me, you can tap into that mental power just as others have done.
What follows is recent research additionally supporting the power of "belief." Jane Ogden, Ph.D., a health psychologist at Guys Kings and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London, studied groups of women, those who successfully lost weight and kept it off and those who didn't. She found two interesting points. First, the women who believed their weight problem was a function of their behavior, as in their eating and exercise habits, and not a result of external factors such as genes or metabolism, were "more successful at losing pounds because they believed that they were in control of their weight — and, therefore, believed they could lose weight." So, if you first take responsibility and believe that your behavior has led you to be overweight, then, if you believe that it is in your power to change that behavior, you can succeed.
Second, she found that "once you believe weight loss success is possible, you'll feel less intimidated by challenges you encounter along the way." This is the mistake I made with my statistics class. I didn't believe that I would succeed, felt intimidated and quit. Had I believed, I would have stayed, passed and prevailed. You can do the same with weight loss.
Wipe Out The "Mental Graffiti"
Briefly look at this the opposite way. What does doubt do to your ability to succeed at weight loss? I refer to this doubt as "mental graffiti." This is clutter, a cacophony of doubt that is flowing through the brain: "I can't lose weight. I can't succeed. I can't stay on my program. I can't eat the right foods. I can't exercise. I can't look better and feel better. I can't even stop gaining weight." When negative phrases like these ricochet through your mind the "c" word — "can't" — is winning. Here's where I start to get really tough with my clients. The first time I hear the "c" word I say, "No, no, no, we are not saying 'can't.' Substitute the 'can't' with 'can.' That's a 'c' word I can accept. Now repeat after me. Say I can lose weight. I can succeed. I can stay on my program. I can eat the right foods. It's time to wipe the negative mental graffiti off the board, start with a clean slate and begin the flipping process.
Go Back In Time
Let's start at your beginning, that is your childhood. I want you to think about your first impressions of your body. Don't overly intellectualize this impression. When you go back to your childhood and recall your perception of your body, what is the first thought that comes into your head? This will be your first "exercise" toward flipping the switch, and you thought I would probably have you doing push ups, didn't you? It is important to begin with a mental exercise because, as you have just seen, ultimately one's mindset contributes far more to success at weight loss than one's physical behavior.
Fear of failure is a conditioned response. The probability is great that you were conditioned to feel a certain way about your body and that conditioning has stayed within you. What I'm going to assist you with is the letting go of that past negative conditioning. Okay, let's get started building a new positive mental imprint. To help you to reach that point, I want you to get out a pen and complete the following thought in the space provided:
Believe In The Flip Exercise One My very first impression of my body was …
Here's what I wrote about myself:
My very first impression of my body was that it was plump. People referred to me as "husky," "pot bellied," "non athletic." I couldn't run very fast, I didn't play sports, the thought of gym class made me sick and I never, I repeat, never wanted to take my shirt off at the beach.
To this day, this first impression lives within me. I know now that it is not true, but I do remember what that feeling was like and honestly, it hurt. It hurt a lot.
Pause for a moment. Look at what you have written. Reflect on your comments for a few minutes. Let your mind drift back in time. Recall those feelings. This exercise probably will be painful but please don't feel that I am attempting one of those, "no pain, no gain" strategies. That's not my intent. It's important that you start at the beginning. By recalling these first impressions, though painful, we begin the emotional rebuilding process.
During childhood you formed the first impression of your physical self. First impressions tend to remain in our mind's eye. My first impression of my physical self was a negative one. So, it is that impression that I needed to overcome to ultimately succeed at weight loss. In time, we will also look at examples of individuals who began their lives with positive impressions of their body, but then that feeling changed as they proceeded through life and gained weight.
Now, in the space provided, complete the following sentence,
Believe In The Flip Exercise Two
My current impression of my body is …
Once again, using myself as an example, this is what I would write today:
My current impression of my body is that I am strong, lean, able to lift my kids high in the air (and don't forget, they keep growing.) I can run down the block or up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. I open my closet and choose what to wear not by what will fit, but by what will make me feel good, and yes, now I can take my shirt off at the beach!
Do you see how different my first impression is from the current one? Please bear in mind that it took a long time mentally to develop and accept this new one. I had to work very hard to break with my initial impressions of my body. Compare your two descriptions. How different is your first impression from the present one? In working with clients I have learned that people generally fall into one of two categories when answering these questions.
Some fall into category one, "Lifelong Strugglers." This is the individual who remembers always being overweight. Whether this person truly was overweight, or was connected to a parent or another individual who led them to believe this was the case, the fact remains this individual has had a life-long struggle with this issue. I am one of these people. I remember being overweight, and even though I have developed the tools (both mentally and physically) to keep the weight off, I will always vividly recall that feeling, though that no longer is my reality.
Do you see a pattern of slow, consistent weight gain each year?
The other category includes the individual who wakes up one day, probably in their late thirties, forties or fifties and finds themself carrying around an additional twenty-five pounds or more on their body. These are what I call the "Slow Gainers." Whenever I, or one of my staff, conducts a new client interview, we ask the prospective client to fill out an information form that requests their body weight over the years. Generally, we see a pattern of slow, consistent weight gain each year. These people say to us, "I just don't know how this happened. I never had a weight problem. I was one hundred and twenty pounds for many years. Now I struggle to stay under one hundred and fifty-five. What's happened to me?"
Frequently this individual will require a different coaching strategy from a weight loss consultant than the Lifelong Struggler. Why? Teaching tools and a protocol, such as eating less and exercising effectively, to someone who has never dealt with these instructions can be more difficult than with the Lifelong Struggler. Slow Gainers possess little or no familiarity with weight loss unlike the Lifelong Struggler who has been around these tools and protocol for years.
Into which category do you fall, Lifelong Struggler or Slow Gainer? I want you to note these two categories because, as I just explained, it is necessary to take a slightly different psychological approach to ultimately lead both categories to flip. Of course it is possible that some individuals who do not clearly fall into one of these two categories, but from my experience, most do. Understanding these two categories will also enable you to be more empathetic in dealing with a loved one, friend or family member who struggles with weight loss, so don't skip one category and jump to the next even if you firmly believe you have already determined into which category you fit. Read the descriptions below carefully and understand the dynamics of each. It will increase your knowledge and compassion for all of those who struggle with weight loss.
A reminder to please read both of these category descriptions carefully, no matter which one you fall into for the following reason: You will be asked to complete a number of written exercises to create your own personal "profile" as I do with clients at our initial consultation. If you skip over these descriptions, you may wind up skipping over an important questions. The exercises/questions in the Slow Gainer section, for instance, should also be addressed by individuals who fall into the Lifelong Struggler category.
Category One: The Lifelong Struggler
The "Lifelong Struggler," such as myself, always remembers being overweight. I cannot remember a time from my very early childhood until my twenties that I was not about to start yet another attempt at weight loss. I actually remember running in place in my family room (I was too intimidated to do it in public) or trying to jump rope as a desperate attempt to shed some pounds.
Ever Attached Yourself to a Door Knob?
I even bought a product called the "Wonder Weighted Belt" which claimed to reduce your abdominal area by three inches in no time. I attached myself to a door knob, with the "Wonder Weighted Belt" strapped around my waist and performed these ridiculous exercises. I was devastated when it didn't work. The "Lifelong Struggler" has had a negative perception of their body right from the beginning. Hundreds of people who have discussed this specific issue with me said have said they felt they were always overweight. They stressed that they vividly recall negative comments regarding their appearance and those comments stayed with them. Please realize, I am not trying to single out parents, but frequently, those remarks came from either their mother or father. In most instances, these parents didn't intentionally mean to inflict mental anguish on their children, but many times their negative remarks stemmed from their own internal unhappiness and they projected this dissatisfaction on their children (I will go into much more detail on this subject in Chapter Eight, "I'm a Woman"). The child becomes an adult, hangs onto the conditioning, doubts himself, stays overweight and becomes a "Lifelong Struggler." What can a "Lifelong Struggler," now an adult, do to overcome this conditioning?
You begin by recalling your childhood in detail. Yes, this is painful, but necessary. Were you really overweight, perhaps obese as a child, or were you simply carrying around a few extra pounds? There are many adults today who were perfectly healthy children, but were led to believe they had to diet and were overweight. Today, these adults are angry. They are angry because the message that they received was false and that false message inflicted tremendous psychological damage. Quite often, the parent or person who led them to believe that they were overweight was raised by an individual who inflicted similar behavior on them. The psychiatric community calls this "classic repetition." Rather than learning from the mistakes and pain of their own childhood, they, too, repeated the same with their children — in this case, perhaps you. It doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't love you, they were simply following the negative conditioning they had been exposed to in their own childhood.
It's quite possible that a "Lifelong Struggler" started out perfectly healthy and at an appropriate weight, but after a few years, the effects of these negative comments prevailed. An overweight child with eating and exercise issues was created.
But of course, do realize, it is entirely possible that you actually were overweight. However, keep in mind, years ago there statistically weren't that many kids who were classified as being overweight.
Were their that many overweight kids in your grade school classes?
I don't. I distinctly remember being a part of a minority. Parenting Magazine reported that , "in 1960, only 4 percent of children ages 6 to 11 were seriously overweight, according to federal statistics. By 1980 it was 7 percent. It jumped again by the early '90s, and by 1999 the figure was 13 percent. Additionally, the Journal of the American Medical Association, noted that "between 1986 and 1998, the number of overweight children increased by more that 50 percent among white children, but by more that 120 percent among African Americans and Hispanics." This statistic does not include teenagers who have been gaining weight at an astonishing rate. Whenever I take my daughter or son to the playground, or attend a school function, I am always amazed at the number of overweight children. If this trend continues unchecked, the United States will face a major health crises by the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century as these children become adults.
Weight and Depression
For now, let's assume that you actually were overweight as a child for whatever reason. Frequently overweight children grow into angry adults who turn that anger inward. There is another word for anger turned inward — depression. Consequently, there's a high probability that you are angry and depressed about being overweight. You are also perhaps angry at the individual or individuals who made you feel bad about being overweight. It's even possible that you keep the weight on and refuse to flip as a way of getting back at that individual. Losing weight would constitute a "change." Yes, either consciously or subconsciously, you continue to hold onto the weight as a way of striking back at that individual or using it to avoid dealing with other issues in your life such as personal relationships or career goals. Psychiatrists have long recorded these behavior patterns among overweight patients.
The Only Person You Are Hurting Is You
Right now, if you are holding onto your anger, the only person you are hurting is you. The individual responsible for this anger may be gone, or elderly, or most likely doesn't even remember what they said to you, yet you are allowing their mental picture of you to prevail. This emotional anger is preventing you from believing that you can succeed at weight loss. It is their image of you that is still defining you today. You need to cast this aside as you approach losing weight. After all, whose mental picture should prevail — theirs or yours?
So, for the "Lifelong Struggler," as your Exercise Three, complete the following sentence in the space provided:
Believe In The Flip Exercise Three
You (insert the name) made me feel bad about my appearance by …
Once again, this is what I wrote.
You, Mr. Junior High School Gym Teacher, made me feel bad about my appearance and my ability to play sports. You teased me in front of my friends, made me hate sports even more and for a long period of time, turned me off to any physical activity. Being thirteen years old was bad enough without you making it worse.
Even as I write this it brings back those old feelings, but I adamantly refuse to let this old mental graffiti prevail. This is not easy for me, nor will it be for you. You have to dredge up feelings that you have long buried. Try. Once again, go back in time. These feelings of anger will not be pleasant, but once again, can be the root of your inability to believe you can "flip." Take that anger that you have bottled up within you and use it as a catalyst to create change. Simply put, take the negative, the anger, and turn it into a positive force for constructive change.
Parents — Be Careful What You Say
And, for those of you who are parents, myself included, or are frequently around children, a cautionary note. Realize that you are contributing to the formulation of your child's beliefs everyday. Be aware, very aware, that what you say, how you phrase it and how you respond to situations and individuals is being cataloged by the child. My wife and I are very careful in our household about certain words or phrases. We don't use the word "fat" or "overweight" especially around our five year old daughter, as she hears everything within a six mile range. Whenever my kids or for that matter, any children are within earshot, I ask people not to talk about weight loss. This can be tough because, naturally, weight loss is the principal topic about which most people want to pick my brain. When we talk about what daddy does for a living, we tell our kids that I help people eat healthy food and to exercise.
Daddy Does What?
Can you just see the impact of telling a child that daddy helps people lose weight? Immediately that child, regardless of their size, would look at themselves and say, "Do I need to lose weight? Am I overweight?" Certainly this is one of the last things a parent should desire for their child. Don't create an image in a child that can cause them to fixate on an issue that may or may not be an issue. Avoid creating an obsession. Remember, children do so want to please their parents. They are constant observers of adult behavior and frequently mirror that behavior.
Eating Issues and Body Images Are Formed Very Early On
Decades ago, we didn't have the benefit of the psychiatric community urging us to be careful with what we say and do in front of children. Today, we realize the powerful impression we make on the young. Eating issues tend to begin very, very early in life. Body images are formed early. Please, as parents and when you are around all children, exercise caution with regard to comments about body weight. Trust me, I didn't like being told I had a "cute" pot belly. I realized this was negative commentary. Adults laughed at me and hurt my feelings; I ended up eating even more.
Caution — Overweight Parents May Be Raising Overweight Children
This prompts me to bring up one more point regarding parents and children. Overweight parents, please realize that you may be raising overweight children. I am not going to go into the genes/metabolism discussion at this time because I've devoted Chapter 6, "I Don't Have The Right Genes or Metabolism" to this issue. Just be cognizant that now, what you are doing is being mirrored by your children. Children want to please their parents. If that means sitting around the house watching television and eating chips, they'll do it. If it means running around the block and eating apples, they'll do it. So much of their programming, especially in the early years, rests with you. Kids are terrific at copying. It's how they learn. Recall the expression, "monkey see, monkey do."
We become "imprinted" with certain behavior patterns at a very early age. According to Judith Sills, Ph.D., the author of Excess Baggage, these imprints then become a powerful bridge between mind and body. She states, "it's taken years for your mind to build its scaffolding of tricks and worries, it takes time to dismantle." Realize this. Don't pile that "excess baggage" on your child.
Okay Lifelong Struggler, review your three exercises. You should have written at least one sentence each on your past and present impressions of your appearance and the individual(s) who led you to believe these impressions were true. Look back and re-read what you wrote. These exercises will become the foundation of believing you can once and for all, Flip The Switch.
Additionally, you have to start talking about these factors. Though painful, it is necessary that you allow these issues to bubble to the surface. For years, you have used your body weight and/or food to mask these feelings and issues and have kept them bottled up inside yourself. Now I want you to intentionally open the "wound." Yes, I call this a wound, one that never really healed. Instead, it amassed scar tissue around it. The scar tissue keeps it from being readily apparent, it somewhat numbs the pain but it also prevents the wound from completely healing. Chip away at that scar tissue and start the healing process once and for all.
You might consider discussing these factors with a sibling or another relative who was around your home when you were growing up. Perhaps they observed certain behavior patterns and some of the dynamics of your family relationships. If so, you will be armed with additional data to better understand your present day feelings and attitudes.
You might also consider some professional therapy, which can be tremendously beneficial for certain individuals. I can attest that therapy helped me dramatically in every area of my life from my marriage, to how I interact with my children, to my friendships and to my work/career. I was not the only one who benefited. All those around me did as well. Why wouldn't anyone want to better understand their feelings, attitudes and behavior? That's what therapy is all about. You gain important insights as to why you react the way you do to people, places and things.
If you feel that you'd benefit, don't automatically reject professional therapy because it is too expensive. It doesn't need to be. Many counseling centers all over the country are set up on an "as per your income" payment scale, where you pay what you can afford. Or, you might consider some other organizations such as Overeaters Anonymous. Being around other individuals who share your struggle allows you to share your issues and journeys. You learn from their struggle, they learn from yours, and mentally that's a big plus. You'll also learn that you are not alone.
Category Two: Slow Gainers
Slow Gainers began their lives, and most likely the early part of their adulthood, with positive impressions of their bodies. They were most likely very close to their ideal body weight for their height and age. These people frequently use expressions such as, "I never had to watch what I ate," "I never had a weight problem," "I used to really like my body and how I looked." Slowly, and somewhat subtly, a change began.
Ask a College Student
This might have occurred as early as college. A Tufts University research study says that "Thirty-two percent of all college students reported a "decline" in their body image during their freshman year: forty percent of college women at an appropriate weight perceive that they are overweight. Think about that: close to one half of the women at appropriate weight think of themselves as being overweight. Attitudes such as these could trigger the Slow Gainer pattern to form as they start a vicious dieting cycle while the weight creeps up. So that I am clear, these women didn't initially have a weight problem, but created one as they began to diet, then regain the weight, diet, then regain even more weight until ultimately they had a significant weight problem.
Additionally, for women, this frequently happens after having children. They gained weight, as they should with the pregnancy, but after the birth, they are unable to shed those last few pounds. Then, with each subsequent pregnancy, the process repeats itself until the cumulative effect is that they are permanently twenty, thirty or more pounds over their pre pregnancy weight.
The Slow Creep Up
Another scenario that many of us are familiar with goes like this: As men and women proceed through their twenties and thirties they become more sedentary, begin to lose lean muscle tissue (which slows their basal metabolism, or daily caloric burning), but continue to consume the same amount of calories they consumed when they were younger. Long hours at the office, or the juggling of a family and children, business or social dinners or the aforementioned lack of physical activity led them to slowly, each year, put on additional pounds. By gaining slowly but steadily year after year, many, many Americans will find themselves thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy or more pounds overweight within a relatively brief period of time. This unfortunate trend will be examined in greater detail in subsequent chapters.
Do You Know Why You Gained Weight?
Many people, furthermore, don't understand why they have gained this weight. I can't tell you the number of times I've asked a client, "how did this weight gain happen?" only to have them reply, "I don't know." Many times, the process was so subtle, and since the same thing was happening to their friends or spouse, they didn't notice it until one day they couldn't keep up with their kids at the playground, or didn't fit into their favorite outfit or were shocked by their reflection in the mirror.
Now, reread your answer to the first exercise, "My first impression of my body was … " Then look at your answer to the second exercise, "My current impression of my body is … " Compare the two. Your assignment is to determine what happened in between the two impressions. To do so, I want you to complete the following sentence for each appropriate decade.
Believe In The Flip Exercise Four
In my twenties, my highest weight was … and my lowest weight was … At that time, this is what I was doing with regard to eating and exercise....
In my thirties, my highest weight was … and my lowest weight was … At that time, this is what I was doing with regard to eating and exercise …
And so on for each decade until you arrive at your present age. Then, conclude with the following:
Presently, my highest weight is … and my lowest weight is … Currently, this is what I am doing with regard to eating and exercise …
Just as my weight loss management firm creates a profile of a new client's weight at the initial interview, you, too, have just created a profile of your weight over the years and the relevant behavior associated with that weight. Most importantly, this exercise gives you information to help illustrate why you are currently struggling with your weight. Objectively look long and hard at your responses and draw the appropriate conclusions.
What Worked In The Past?
Exercise Four should also be completed by the "Lifelong Struggler" as well. I know just like me, you've tried numerous weight loss programs over the years. Examine what worked for you, even for a brief period of time, and what didn't. This is basically a form of research. You need to find out what was happening and what your eating/exercise behavior consisted of at those times in order to fully understand why you have struggled with your weight over the years.
What Are "They" Saying To You?
Similarly, in Exercise Three, where I asked you to identify the person or persons who made you feel bad about your body weight, is also an appropriate exercise for some "Slow Gainers" as well as "Lifelong Strugglers." Frequently, someone is presently making you feel awful about the way you look. It could be a spouse, parent, sibling, or co-worker. You need to learn to deal with the anger/guilt that undoubtedly is associated with those feelings. I have been out with some couples where the tension surrounding the body weight issue was enormous. I have watched people purposely load their bread with butter and order huge quantities of food just to irritate their spouse. I know of one woman who has lost over twenty pounds who's overweight husband brings home her favorite goodies from the bakery. Please, please fill in that sentence if there is someone who is making you feel bad. Then try to determine why they are doing this and discuss your feelings with them. It can make a significant difference in your ability to lose weight and will contribute to a positive mindset.
Do ultimately realize that, as I said earlier, you are the one in control of what you eat and whether or not you exercise. The purpose of Exercise Three is to determine if a person continues to thwart your ability to succeed at weight loss. If no such person exists, then this isn't an issue.
An Epidemic In Front Of Our Eyes
Regardless of whether you are a Lifelong Struggler or a Slow Gainer, you are both faced with a similar situation as you begin this weight loss journey. According to the most recent statistics, over 60 percent of the American population is presently overweight and almost 20 percent are categorized as obese (more than 20 percent over their optimal body weight.) An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that, since 1991, the number of obese Americans has increased by 49%. William Dietz, director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta states that, "A rise of such a magnitude (in obesity) is a unique observation in the annals of chronic disease. We're seeing an epidemic of a chronic disease right in front of our eyes. I can't think of anything that resembles that."
The Majority Versus The Minority
Realize, that over 60 percent represents a majority of our population. That's correct, a majority of American population is now overweight. If you are overweight, you are not alone. Those at an appropriate body weight are in the minority. Therefore, regardless of Category One or Two, millions of Americans need to lose weight. Why haven't they? We all know that there is no shortage of diet and exercise programs available in the marketplace. One can barely turn on the television, listen to the radio, open a newspaper or magazine without being bombarded with one extravagant weight loss promise after another. We have all seen poll after poll indicate that at any one time, a significant number of Americans state that they are on a diet and many others state that they should be on a diet. Year after year, losing weight is the number one New Year's resolution. Yet, we remain an overweight nation. Why aren't these diets performing as they claim and why are so many Americans on them, or at least stating that they should be?
Don't Go For A Gimmick
The vast majority of diet plans don't succeed because they are based on some sort of gimmick. Yes, it is true that these gimmicks, which frequently advocate totally eliminating a food or food group, can briefly change an individual's body weight, because most of these diet plans quickly deplete the body's water balance, which does cause the scale to go down. Your goal is to shed fat, not water. Once you eliminate the gimmick, the weight returns as the water returns. It was water that was shed, not fat. Remember all the times you recall losing five pounds in a brief period of time, only to have seen it return in just as brief a period of time? What you lost was water, not fat. Such weight loss gimmicks never succeed in permanently keeping weight off.
True or False
Second, most diet plans are predicated on incorrect information. Here is an example. There is currently a popular weight loss book called "Sugarbusters." This book claims that carrots will make you fat. Now, mind you, there is not one single shred of scientific evidence that supports this theory. In reality, the fact is that carrots have very few calories, are packed with vitamins and in no way contribute to the so-called "spiking" of one's insulin level. I repeat, there is not one serious bit of scientific research which subscribes to carrots as the reason for Americans being overweight. Yet I constantly witness individuals picking carrots out of their salads. Are carrots the culprit? No, but the individuals picking those carrots out of their salads should consider the salad dressing, which usually contains hundreds of calories, that they've put on top of a few harmless carrots. Eat all the carrots you want without dressing. Trust me, you won't gain a pound.
Can You Really Lose Ten Pounds In Two Days?
Keep in mind, this is just one of the nutty weight loss theories that is out there. There are so many others. Don't forget the "Hollywood Miracle Diet" that claims you will lose ten pounds in two days, the "Cabbage Soup Diet," the "Grapefruit Diet," and the "Eat All You Want and Lose Weight" diet - right! "Eat All You Want and Lose Weight" is a great marketing phrase. Can it happen? You tell me.
Furthermore, few if any of the current weight loss programs realistically address weight loss as a lifelong, comprehensive plan. To be comprehensive and successful, weight loss plans must incorporate proper eating, effective exercise and most importantly, the belief in your ability to succeed. To change your relationship with your body, you have to think about it before you can do it. As you are thinking about it, start believing that you can succeed.
Being Overweight Is Not A Fact Of Life
You cannot accept being overweight as a fact of life. Also, it's not the result of aging, though, as you will learn in subsequent chapters, aging can contribute to weight gain, but that process can be easily reversed. Turn to Chapter 8 , "I Hate To Exercise" if you can't wait to acquire or need that information. But for now, believe me, as you are learning to believe in yourself, realize that at any point in life, you can lose weight. For that matter, at any point in life you can succeed at almost any task or goal, possibly with the exception of being a teen model or an Olympic athlete. Why do you think the adage "It's never too late" came about?
Regardless of whether you fall into Category One, the "Lifelong Struggler," or Category Two, the "Slow Gainer," you must firmly believe that you can succeed at weight loss. Say that to yourself right now. Say it out loud. Write it down. Type it on your computer screen. I can succeed at weight loss. Remember the client in the opening anecdote? She was losing weight, but needed constant reassurance that the loss would continue. I want you to consider yourself, like her, "in process." By being "in process," this means that you are always examining the many psychological and physiological reasons that have prevented you from "flipping." Also, please don't think that you only have to flip once. It's truly an ongoing process. Remember, I still consider myself in process. Yes, there are times I want to turn to food and I get tired of exercise. But, I hold to my belief that I can live my life as a healthier, thinner person and I use that belief to get me through a difficult time. You, too, must subscribe to that belief. Without that attitude, I cannot guide you to success. Again, the key is believing in yourself.
Here is the next exercise to assist you to believe in yourself. I want you to think for just a moment about some other aspect of your life when you believed in yourself and your ability to attain a goal and succeeded in achieving that goal and complete the sentence in the place provided:
Believe In The Flip Exercise Five I believed in my ability to be successful in achieving my goal of …
Now, describe that time when you believed in yourself. It may be you believed in your ability to be a good partner, spouse, parent or employee. You may have believed in your ability to decorate a room, throw a surprise birthday party or coach a little league team. Whatever your goal might have been, I am certain that you believed in your ability to achieve that goal and ultimately were successful in the endeavor — realize that when you believed in yourself, you achieved your goal.
Once again, using myself as an example, I would complete this thought by saying:
I believed in my ability to be successful in achieving my goal of owning my own business. I was never very comfortable working for other people and knew that I wanted to have total control over my career path.
The Fear Flipper
Consider the following two examples. A few years ago, I interviewed a new client. He was in his middle fifties, extremely overweight, he had both high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels and was essentially a heart attack waiting to happen. During our conversation, it was quickly apparent to me that this individual truly did not possess the desire to be successful at weight loss. As we chatted, he repeatedly remarked that he was doing this because his wife, kids and physician nagged him to lose weight. When I asked, "Have you ever tried to lose weight in the past?," he replied, "Sure, but I always found exercise boring and can't stand eating that 'rabbit food.' When I get home from work, I need 'good food' to fill me up." I knew I had a challenge on my hands.
He agreed to a three-time-a-week workout plan and to record and submit daily food journals. During the next three months, he managed to shed ten pounds, however, he still needed to lose at least an additional forty pounds to reach a healthy weight. Also, my staff informed me that he frequently skipped workout sessions and stopped maintaining his food journal after only a few weeks.
Unfortunately, the predicted heart attack occurred and necessitated a quadruple bypass. Upon recovering from the surgery, and once he obtained medical clearance, he resumed his program with my firm. Now, however, he resumed with a vengeance. He no longer canceled his training sessions. He dutifully monitored his caloric intake in a food diary and faxed them to my office. He subsequently lost an additional twenty pounds. The heart attack and surgery obviously frightened him, they motivated him. His new exemplary behavior unfortunately was short lived — it lasted approximately three months. Then old habits prevailed. He once again started missing exercise sessions, allowed his eating to resume to the previously unhealthy level, and, you guessed it, subsequently regained all the weight he had lost. What happened?
My impression is that once he was no longer afraid he might die, his belief in his ability to succeed at his weight loss program disappeared. He had "flipped" temporarily out of fear, an external stimuli, but once that fear ceased, he "flipped" back. We desperately tried to get him back on track. He expressed that he wasn't interested. Obviously, he had never truly believed in his ability to succeed. He had been frightened and that fear fueled his "flip". He is what I call a "Fear Flipper."
There is a considerable body of research supporting this type of behavior. Jaylan Turkkan, Ph.D., chief of behavioral sciences research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse says, "fear almost never works in the long term. In the short term, people get rattled and try to change, but eventually the fear goes away and the desire for immediate pleasure takes over." Clearly, this is the case with millions of Americans.
The Special Event Flipper
Here's a further instance of not staying "flipped" due to the lack of not believing in one's ability to succeed — what I call the "Special Event Flipper." My weight loss management firm has had dozens of clients who have behaved in a manner similar to the following. Prior to an event, say a milestone birthday (fifty is a big one), anniversary, reunion or Bar Mitzvah, a client will embark on a major weight loss program. Once again, they become the model client coupling intelligent eating with effective, consistent exercise. At the "event", he or she does look and feel great. If they were to complete Exercise Two just before the event, "My current impression of my body is … ," which was your Exercise Two, they would say that they felt and looked the best they had in many, many years. They felt strong, confident, sexy and once again in control of their weight and appearance. But time passes. The "event" is no longer looming on the horizon. What occurs? Invariably, the so-called "bad behavior" reappears and with it, the excess weight returns. Thus, once the event is over and the external motivation ceases, the ongoing belief that they can live "flipped" evaporates. The doubt resurfaces and again, the weight rapidly returns. A short period of time after the "event," these individuals would write a far different ending to the sentence, "My current impression of my body is … ".
The "I'm - Doing - This - For - You - Not - For - Me" Flipper
This example is someone attempting weight loss for someone else. Frequently it is a romantic interest. I have had numerous individuals, especially women, tell me that their spouse wants them to be more attractive by losing weight. I've heard of men who claim that they will date a woman if she is successful at losing weight. Or I've heard teenagers say that their mother or father really wants them to lose weight before college to be more attractive. One young man actually told me that his father insisted he lose weight before going to college because he would be attending his father's alma matter. His father continued to be very involved with the school and didn't want his overweight son to embarrass him. He even went so far as to say that if he didn't lose weight, he would not allow him to join his father's fraternity. This young man was desperate and so very hurt by these comments.
If you are not losing weight for you, odds are you won't be successful. Why? Because you have to want it, not someone else. You have to cut back on your calories. You have to exercise. The responsibility rests with you.
External Versus Internal
All three of these, the fear, event and doing this for someone else illustrate external forces that motivated individuals to "flip." In neither of these two illustrations did the individuals arrive at the conclusion to lose weight on their own. They let external situations dictate their behavior. Unfortunately, once the external situation changes, so does the behavior. I refer to this as the external versus internal motivation to "flip." An external situation rarely works long term. Looking back at the "fear" example, I have watched many men and women revert to their "bad" behavior after a heart attack and surgery, or some other life threatening illness, because they really had not internally arrived at the decision to change. They still doubted themselves, they didn't believe they could "flip." I want you to decide this time to lose the weight for you, only for you. Allow the motivation to come from within. It's imperative that this motivation comes from within you.
Bernie and Manny
What follows is one of my favorite examples of internal motivation and its contribution to "flipping" the switch. "Bernie," a fifty-two year old man, played racquetball with his cousin "Manny." After the shower, as both were dressing, Manny looked at Bernie and said, "When did you become such a fat f … ?" Bernie laughed. They both laughed. Then, Bernie told me he got in his car, looked down at his stomach and agreed, "Yes, I have become a fat f … " After he got angry, then cried a little, he drove home and called my firm. He decided then and there to "flip." He has been an amazing success. To date, he has lost over sixty pounds and is a model client. You should see the smile on his face. He just projects this great self esteem and confidence since he took control of his weight. I believe he will stay "flipped" for life. Do you know why? It is because he made the decision to lose weight. Sure, Manny's comment was the catalyst, but Bernie decided to change the way he looked and felt and he followed through. He believed it. It worked. That desire to succeed came from within and turned into a reality.
Stay In Touch With Your Emotions
One tool that I have successfully employed with clients over the years to stimulate this internal motivation is every month, ask them how are they feeling about their body? I urge you to pose the same question to yourself. Constant monitoring of your current attitude toward your body is essential. As you begin the process of internally "flipping," you need to stay in touch with the emotional changes that are also occurring. This can be accomplished if, say on the first of every month, you once again fill in the sentence:
My current impression of my body is
Regardless of whether your are a "Lifelong Struggler" or a "Slow Gainer" you need to complete this sentence on a monthly basis. That way, your emotional and physical journey will stay connected. If you notice your entries beginning to acquire a negative tone, or that you have been omitting entries, that should alert you to make the necessary correction(s) to keep yourself from "flipping off" and allowing old feelings and impressions to resurface.
This leads us to the last two exercises of this chapter. I want you to complete this thought and be completely honest regarding your feelings:
Believe In The Flip Exercise Six
When I am successful at losing even a little weight, I feel …
My response is:
When I am successful at losing even a little weight, I feel in control. I feel that I am in control of my body and what goes into it. I feel that if I can lose weight, I can accomplish anything.
What did you write? Did your response approximate mine? I bet to a great extent it did. Honestly, I so feel this way. I believe that for all of you reading this book, losing weight will give you the confidence and self esteem to undertake additional goals and succeed. Give it a shot. After all, you have nothing to lose — nothing but weight!
This brings us to the other half of this question and the final exercise of this chapter. Complete the following in the space provided:
Believe In The Flip Exercise Seven When I gain weight, I feel.....
Here is my response.
When I gain weight, I feel horrible. I am so disappointed with myself. Why did I eat that? Why didn't I stop? Why am I letting cheese and salt change the way I look and feel? How am I going to get back to where I was? I feel a slight sense of panic and definitely get depressed.
As I write this book, I am currently working with a thirty-five year old woman, Dawnnie, on ABC's Good Morning America. Dawnnie is a lifelong struggler who has decided she really wants to lose weight once and for all. When she began my program she was 5'4" and 165 pounds. Dawnnie and I agree, she has about forty pounds to lose. It has been an interesting assignment. Dawnnie is working toward a Masters Degree but she also is a trained actress who once played the role of Shakespeare's Juliet. She is very pretty and has a great energy about her. When we talked about her weight loss, she made an interesting point. She said, "Even when I lose just a few pounds, I feel so good about myself. I go out more. I'm happier. I have more energy. I just feel better." Similarly, she said, "When I gain weight, I totally retreat back into myself. I don't want to go out. I'm disappointed with myself. I feel a little lost." I find this occurs with most individuals. So, ask yourself, "how do you feel when you gain and lose weight?" I bet you already know the answer, but put it on paper and read it and reread it. By the way, in four months Dawnnie is already down twenty-five pounds. She is over half way there!
Now that you've begun the process of believing you can flip the switch, we will begin moving to the next step. This step will present and demonstrate to you the power of visualization as a tool to reinforce and assist your belief in the flip.
Can't You Just Say "No" To Food?
As you conclude "Believe in the Flip," I want you to come to the conclusion that you will succeed at weight loss. That is infinitely more valuable than if I'd simply advise you to "eat less, exercise more," which you know and I know is the numerical basis of weight loss. If eating less and exercising more were that easy, we would all have lost weight years ago. It requires so much more than a slogan such as, "Just say No to Food." It's just not that simple. What is keeping you and others from success at weight loss is your inability to reach the point where you, you, you believe that you can succeed at eating less and exercising more. Once you've come to terms with that emotional hurdle and discipline, the physical exercises will seem easy by comparison. Create your own private mantra, your theme song if you like, and just keep saying it over and over "If they can do it, so can I. If they can do it, so can I."
Putting It All Together To "Flip"
To successfully lose weight and keep the weight off, it is necessary to first believe in your ability to be successful. You determined whether you are a "Lifelong Struggler," a "Slow Gainer" or perhaps some combination of the two. You participated in a number of mental exercises and recorded your responses. These exercises were designed to create awareness. There are no right or wrong answers. These answers represented your past and present relationship to body, food and exercise. These exercises helped identify what has been kept you from "flipping." Don't be afraid of what the power of believing in yourself can generate. It will produce significant change and become the foundation upon which to build success for yourself in many, many areas of your life, not just weight loss.
Used with permission. Excerpted from Flip the Switch: Discover the Weight-Loss Solution and the Secret to Getting Started by Jim Karas, copyright Dec. 2002. Harmony Books.