2 pounds a week. A stone by Christmas. Exercise 4 times a week. Size 12 by the summer
Goals come in all shapes and sizes. For those of you who have looked at goals in depth you will no doubt be familiar with this acronym which is widely used when setting a goal:
S – specific
R – reward
They all speak for themselves except perhaps the last two. The idea with these is that if you are enthusiastic and attach emotion to a goal , you are more likely to achieve it. The reward ( not food) is what the payback will be for you if you achieve this goal. Better health, greater self-esteem, smaller clothes etc…
We all make dieting goals at one time or another but should we?
Goals have their place and for some people they are an absolute must. We’ve all read the articles from successful slimmers saying that the goals they set were what kept them focused but is that true for everybody?
The flip side of this is those people who feel pressured when they have set a goal, especially if the possibility of achieving that goal is a long way away.
So what makes the difference between those who thrive on goal setting and those who shy away from, or feel pressured by goal setting?
Well, it could be a number of things like the type of goal they set, whether it’s a long term or short term goal, how specific they have made it and also and most importantly whether their personality type gravitates towards goals or away from them.
There are certain personality types who need a goal, their natural character traits lead them towards having a focus. If you are naturally a person who likes detailed, structured pathways then a number of short term goals, all set out from the outset will help you achieve what you want to.
A long term goal with no intermediate steps is unlikely to be achieved as you may well lose your way.
If however you are a more social outgoing personality type it’s essential that you involve others in your goal. After all, you will need to factor in a social life and their support will be invaluable.
For the personality type that knows their own mind, is assertive and goal driven, then the goal is a must but only if the individual is setting their own goal. If it’s a goal that is foisted on them and they are not truly comfortable with it , then they are set up to fail.
As you can see a knowledge of yourself and your innate personality can be the difference between the use of a goal, the type and length of a goal and whether you are successful or not.
Most of us start a health and weight loss regime full of enthusiasm, convinced that this time it’s going to work.
If we are lucky this feeling can last a few months but inevitably motivation slips, enthusiasm wanes, goals get forgotten. For the lucky few who reach their target the effort of maintaining a new lifestyle proves to be too much and gradually the weight creeps back on.
Until the next time. What’s going on?
Have you ever asked yourself “where has my motivation gone” as though it was something tangible? I have heard this question many times when working with clients. Some even think I can find it for them!
So, what is motivation? The Cambridge definitions are:
- Enthusiasm for doing something
- A need or reason for doing something
Humans are emotional creatures and we need to tap into our emotions to be able to imagine and feel excited about the future we want. The reasons why we do something are an important aspect in our chance of success.
Some of us are motivated by imagining something we want in the future, we can see it and feel excited by it. Motivation is very high at this point.
Some of us are more motivated by something we don’t want in the present, such as tight clothes, aching joints, heartburn etc. Again motivation is very high at this point.
There is a subtle difference between the two however. One of them is more likely to sustain the motivation levels for longer.
Imagine you are someone who didn’t want a tight waistband. You wouldn’t have to lose too much weight for the waistband to feel more comfortable. When that happens what will sustain you to carry on? The immediate discomfort has gone hasn’t it?
The person who is excited about the future has a much better chance of long term success – they are constantly moving forward in the direction they want to go and more importantly, they know what they want and why.
The emotional brain and how it impacts our eating habits
We all need to eat and drink to sustain our bodies but food also has a bigger role. Eating provides more than just sustenance, it can evoke powerful feelings, thoughts and memories.
Most of us have certain foods that give us comfort when we are ill or in need of it. For me, it has always been warm custard. When I think back I realise that this, along with attention, love and cuddles was what my mother gave me when I was ill as a child. Even now as an adult, I will turn to my comfort food when I’ve had a rough day. Take a moment and think about what foods you turn to when you feel the need for comfort.
When we try to understand why our diet sometimes goes wrong or we hear ourselves saying ‘Why did I eat that!’ it could be linked to our emotions. ‘Emotional eating’ is a term that we have all seen and heard about in the media over the last decade but what does it involve?
When I looked further into the emotional side of our brains I came across the term ‘ Amygdala hijack’ which was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He uses the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of context with the actual situation because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.
Basically what this comes down to is that a response from the emotional part of our brains makes us pay attention right now, we recognise that this is urgent and we deal with it immediately without stopping to think whether we should do this or not.
So if you have ever found yourself part way through your diet and having eaten foods that you know you shouldn’t have, quickly and without any real thought, it might well be your emotional brain that has decided this for you.
Different personality types will experience this differently and will also handle their response in very different ways.
So what can we do to make sure that this unhelpful pattern of behaviour does not continue? Well, the first step is to recognise when ,where and with whom these events happen. If it has happened once it is likely to happen again. It seems to me the way to start to control this is to recognise it, look at it in detail and prepare your response so you are ready for it when it happens again.
Why can’t I lose weight?
Imagine how many times a day that question is said in somebodies head or out loud around the world everyday. It’s a universal question that concerns a proportion of the human race especially in the West.
Well let’s look at this and see what the common factor here is. We are all human, we all need to eat to live and we all live our lives as we see fit. And there is the difference, everyone sees life and every experience within it through their own lenses. Two people can sit in the same room and describe it differently, two people can look at a menu and choose very different foods but both believe they are eating healthily.
If you take this one step further, we need to look at what it is about an individual’s personality that affects the way they eat, when they eat, what they eat and why they over eat in certain situations.
We all have strengths and weaknesses that are fed by our innate personalities, do you know how yours affects your ability to lose weight and keep it off?
Companies and businesses have known the value of personality profiling for years. They have used it to decide whether somebody is right for a job, or if someone can take on a leadership role. There are parts of our personality that make it easier to work one way rather than another so why not use this information when it comes to dieting and weight management?
I can see little point in restricting a person who is naturally very sociable to a meal replacement diet that means they cannot eat out with their friends. If this was imposed on them, imagine how long it would take for them to break their diet.
If a person naturally likes to know exactly where they are and what is expected of them and they are set on a path with no real boundaries or goals to lose weight, they will surely lose heart and return to their old ways.
In my mind, you cannot expect to succeed if you don’t really know yourself and where your likely pitfalls or triumphs are likely to be.
How many of us really know ourselves and if we asked those around us to describe us, would their evaluation be the same or would we be a little surprised by their response?
Are you brave enough to ask?