Written by Education Manager, Stefan Ianev
Weight loss statistics are shocking. Studies have shown that 95% of people will gain back all the weight they lost or more within 1-5 years (1,2).
Out of all the failed weight loss attempts, one to two thirds of those will regain more weight than they started with. The number one predictor if someone will regain more weight than they started with is actually – the number of times someone has attempted dieting, or the number of failed weight loss attempts.
So why is it that losing weight and keeping it off is so difficult?
Most people believe it has something to do with their slow metabolism, their lack of willpower, or perhaps they blame the diet because it wasn’t sustainable. While all those things might be partly responsible, the real reason is something rooted a lot deeper than that.
The real reason has everything to do with your IDENTITY…
If your client identifies as being an overweight person, all of their thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviours will be congruent with that. The need to stay congruent with their identity, as this is the strongest driver of human behaviour.
Let that sink in for a moment…
You see, those that identify as lean individuals don’t ever need to go on a diet! For them, healthy eating and regular exercise is way of life, just like brushing their teeth. That is why they are not attracted to crash diets or these quick fix approaches, the same way wealthy individuals are not attracted to get rich quick schemes.
Now, why you might understand and be able to intellectualize this, doing something about it is a lot more difficult. In fact, changing identity is just about one of the hardest things to do, but not impossible.
There are two main tools that you can utilize:
1. Setting a true goal
Setting a True Goal
Lots of people talk about goal setting, very few people do it in a way that is actually effective. When most people set goals, they come from a place of right now is not good enough, and they need to fix it. A prime example of this is when you think to yourself, “I am overweight, and I need to go on a diet”. That though process of not being good enough now and needing to fix yourself is exactly what keeps you stuck in that old identify, the identity of not being good enough and needing to fix yourself.
If a goal has a conditioned attached to it, such as needing to fix yourself, or needing to lose weight in order to feel a certain way, then it is not a true goal. A true goal is when you want something simply because you would love to have it. So, your pursuit becomes about creating that which you desire and letting go of the old identity and the need to fix yourself.
It is about focusing on what you want instead of what you don’t want. There is a big difference. If you focus on what you don’t want, and you bring the old identity with you, you will always be jumping from one diet to another because you will continue sabotaging yourself in order to keep the old identity alive.
The real art of goal setting is about being appreciative of where you are right now, while at the same time desiring more. It is important to recognize where you are right now, so you can be objective about where you need to go, without being emotionally attached to it. That way the pull towards your desired goal will be stronger that the pull towards your old identity.
It is also important to not just set one goal, but set a goal after the goal, because if the brain doesn’t know what is coming next, your client will subconsciously sabotage themselves so that they have something to chase.
Equally important if not more important than setting a true goal, is getting into the end emotion of achieving your goal before you actually achieve it. In other words, you have to be it, before you see it.
That doesn’t mean fake it until you make, but that your client’s thoughts, actions, habits, and behaviors need to be congruent with the person your client is trying to become. Since thoughts lead to actions, and you can’t think greater than how you feel, it is very important that they condition their brain to experience the end emotion ahead of the event. That way, new emotions will lead to new thoughts, new thoughts will lead to new actions and behaviors, which will ultimately lead to the desired results.
This phenomena of rewiring the brain is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. During such changes, the brain prunes apart old neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and forms and strengthening new synaptic connections.
This is where meditation and visualization come into play. If your client has spent years thinking and feeling a certain way, those thoughts and emotions have become a conditioned response. They are going to need to spend some time each day shutting their eyes, disconnecting from their current reality, and visualizing themselves achieving their end goal and experiencing those emotions.
If they do this long enough and often enough, they will start to prune apart those old synaptic connections that keep them tied to their old identity and start to form new synaptic connections. They will, in essence, be conditioning their brain and body into a new state of being, a state of being that is congruent with the person that they are trying to become.
Your client can’t wait to lose the weight to feel a certain way, because when they do, they are going to still feel the same and they are going to sabotage it. The only way to true and lasting change is changing their identity, which starts by changing their state of being.
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- Grodstein F, Levine R, Spencer T, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ. Three-year follow-up of
participants in a commercial weight loss program: Can you keep it off? Archives of
Internal Medicine. 1996;156(12), 1302.
- Neumark-Sztainer D, Haines J, Wall M, Eisenberg M. Why does dieting predict
weight gain in adolescents? Findings from project EAT-II: a 5-year longitudinal study.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2007;107(3), 448-55.