“I am tired of setting goals because I never stick to them! In the past, I wrote resolutions to lose weight and exercise on a regular basis, but then found myself repeatedly doing the opposite… It is maddening! How can I stop sabotaging myself?” Signed – Susan, The Frustrated Underachiever.
Thank you for your question. I believe that many women can relate to your dilemma of self-sabotage. On one hand you are inspired to make a change, but on another, keep falling back on old habits… Uh, here lies the rub!
People are creatures of habit. We developed our habits in very early childhood to be able to cope with the world around us. People that raised us, like our parents or caregivers, taught many of our habits to us, either directly by saying “yes” and “no” to us, or simply by example. Young kids learn by imitating, no words required! One of the common habits many kids develop is using food to comfort anxiety. Just think of it: as soon as a baby cries, a parent gives her a pacifier or food. Having been taught to solve any discomfort with food, when anxiety strikes, instead of addressing the underlying cause, we eat… or smoke… or drink… or (fill in your favorite bad habit here). Feeding anxiety became our automatic “go to” response, due to poor early childhood programming. However, we are not here to place blame; our parents and caregivers did the best that they could and we should always be grateful – we are alive today because of them. However, it is time to take a critical look at our habits and ask: what need each one of these habits feed? What is it that is causing your anxiety in the first place?
In Susan’s case (the above was a quote from her letter), she resorted to eating when she felt lonely, under pressure, celebrating, grieving, procrastinating, etc. Note that none of the above was… when she was hungry. Her mind interpreted the craving as hunger, when in fact she ate to calm her nerves.
Discovering the underlying problem
According to Carissa Kelvens of California State University at Northridge, the most effective way to deal with the anxiety is to view it as fear. You see, there are two primary forces at work in the universe – Love and Fear. While the emotion of Love is a feeling of attraction and acceptance, the emotion of Fear is a feeling of aversion and rejection. Let’s take loneliness as an example. We often associate loneliness with the feeling of rejection. Because you are afraid of feeling rejected, you develop a fear of feeling lonely; then, when you do feel lonely (and rejected), you reject yourself because you do not like what you are feeling… not only do you feel rejected by others, you also reject yourself, and begin to feel unlovable. This vicious circle creates unresolved emotion, where fear becomes a fear of the fear itself.
Addressing the problem
Take one of your bad health habits as an example. (I would suggest starting with something that is not too difficult to deal with, but not too easy, i.e. something that won’t cause you a major breakdown yet has enough juice to work with.) Ask yourself: by doing __________ what fear/aversion does it cover up? For instance, a habit of procrastination: I am afraid that completing this task will open me up to many more tasks and responsibilities. By savoring the moment, I keep the flood of other responsibilities at bay – a fear of responsibility, in this case. Or, I am afraid that fully engaging in my exercise program and creating the body I want, will not bring me the love or attention that I am looking for. By not following through with the exercise program, I am deferring the feeling of rejection – a fear of rejection, in this case.
Solving the problem
When you have identified the fear, you can devise the strategy to address it. For example, in the case of loneliness: you need to work on loving and accepting yourself regardless of how others feel about you! You can meditate on the thought: “Even though I feel lonely and may be rejected by others, I deeply and completely love and accept myself”. By acknowledging the underlying fear instead of denying it, and accepting yourself regardless of how other may feel about you, you remove the fear of feeling lonely or rejected. Your anxiety level should subside and you won’t need to fill it with food.
For the fear of responsibilities: create a plan of how you will deal with the additional tasks and responsibilities. If you have a plan, you won’t feel as anxious! You will just execute it and adjust it as you go.
For the fear of rejection: practice a similar approach as for the fear of loneliness. Meditate on the thought: “Even though I am afraid of rejection, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. I am creating my perfect body for ME! I visualize my success and it becomes my reality.”
Back to setting goals
Don’t get me wrong, setting goals for health, nutrition and fitness are important and we definitely do it in the Women’s Perfect Body Program. However, my approach to achieving these goals is not only through diet and exercise. I believe that if you take your bad habits, the ones that cause you to sabotage yourself, and look into their underlying issues and solve those, you WILL stick to and achieve your health and fitness goals!
Affirmation for the day:
“Even though I feel the fear of ____________, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. I am creating my perfect body for ME! I visualize my success and it becomes my reality.”
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