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16 Nov, 2010

Why We Often Fail To Lose Weight by Rainer Rohde

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coach Plus Articles|Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles

Why we often fail to lose weight by Rainer Rohde

Did you come across this before as well? You feel the need to make a change for yourself and end up failing, reverting back to your previous ways.

I am sure we all can contribute to this – one way or another. The most important thing to realize is that our behavior is affected by our attitude, and our attitude is affected by our emotions. Our emotions are affected by our views or perceptions (our belief system, our paradigms) that we have in life. Now this is where the idea gets interesting – we are what we were conditioned to be, think, act, and feel. This conditioning started in our childhood and normally continues into our adult lives as well. Conditioning aspects also come into our lives when our roles in life change. We all tend to become what the role(s) in our lives expect of us – or what we were conditioned to think such role entails.

Imagine this experiment about the principles of conditioning with me: A classroom of students was divided into two groups, and each was shown a drawing. One group was shown a drawing of an old lady, the other group was shown a drawing of a young girl’s profile. Both groups were to focus on the drawings given to them for about a minute. The professor then projected the now well-known perceptual illusion in which the brain switches between seeing a young girl and an old woman for everyone in both groups to see. He then asked his students to describe what they saw. The students of each group yelled out what they thought they saw, with one group insisting that the projected image is that of an old woman, and the other group insisting that it was that of a young girl. Some members of each group went as far as getting up and following the outline of the projected figure with their fingers to explain what they saw to the members of the other group. Neither group could agree on what they thought they saw.

This is a great example on how conditioning works. Just think about it – the group of students were only conditioned to see the drawing given to them for about one minute. What does a lifetime of conditioning do to our perception? Our perceptions on things in life, then, are mostly based on how we were conditioned. Conditioning does extend from our upbringing to the influence that other aspects of life have on us, including news articles, friends, spouses, political opinions, religious beliefs, and so forth. Life-long conditioning, makes us think the way we think and how we see things, and how we feel that things are and should be dealt with.

So, why do we fail?

We often fail because we have the wrong perception on how things should be and how they should function in life. We interpret them based on how we were conditioned.

Weight loss is one of the prime examples in which many people fail. I can definitely empathize with people who have gained weight and are trying to lose it, as I gained a lot of weight after I got married – simply because my perception changed. It changed from me wanting to be thin and healthy to that of being happily married. The role that I was in prior to my marriage simply changed – and with it, my attitude and emotions towards myself.

As I mentioned earlier, perception affects our emotions – emotions affect our attitude – our attitude affects our behaviour. With my newly found role as husband, I believed that I no longer needed to maintain a healthy and fit body because I reached my goal – I found the love of my life and married her. At least that was my perception of the role of that of a husband, and the consequences followed suit: I gained about 113 pounds over a five-year period.

Like many people who were getting fat, I tried to lose weight several times before – and always failed. I failed because I only worked on behavioural changes. My attitude towards eating was that of eating without thinking – I would eat in front of the TV, at the PC while surfing the web, or playing games online. Eating to me became an unconscious act, as I did not care what and how much I ate or when I ate it; after all, I was married and I didn’t have to worry about staying thin, right? This was my perceived role of that of a husband. My attitude towards eating was that of a “I don’t really care what I eat as long as I am happily married”.

All previous attempts to change my attitude towards food thus failed.

As I only worked on the behavioral aspects of eating, I told myself that I have to stop eating like this, or I will get fatter and fatter. I often used external events to start such behavioral change. Such events were friends, TV or magazine ads advertising the latest fad diets, or an upcoming New Year’s resolution. However, the underlying attitude towards my eating habits has not changed.

Because I only worked on my behavior, I was affected by my changing moods and emotions as well. As long as all went well in my life and I was on an emotional high, I was actually able to stick to my diet. However, my decision to lose weight simply didn’t stick as soon as my emotions changed. Such change in emotions could have been triggered by – for example – arguments with my wife, negative events at home or at work, and similar occasions. Sometimes a single event would stop me from my diet. I then told myself that I will really continue with my diet once I am feeling better again. Similarly, I often told myself that I will continue my diet after tonight’s desert. Or next week – yes, next week for sure! I am sure you have had similar  experiences. We also cannot neglect another aspect that eating might have on us – eating can make us feel good! We often eat simply because we want to feel good. Many times I felt that the solution to my perceived emotions was food. And lots of it. Mainly sweet things and fast food. Indeed, it did make me feel better – but only for a while. We thus have a very powerful enemy in eating if we continue to view things from an emotional standpoint.

Ways to improve

To be able to succeed, we have to start working on our perceptions. Let me tell you again – our perceptions affect our emotions; our emotions affect our attitude; our attitude affects our behavior. This is key. If I only work on my behavior, I might – at best – succeed only until my emotions change again. And, as we all know, that happens sooner rather than later.

What helped me with starting on the path of losing weight was that I no longer viewed eating as something emotional – but a consequence of changing my perception about myself when I got married. Those of you who had similar experiences with gaining weight should start there as well: when did you change your perception about yourself? When did you decide that it was OK to become fat?

Once I knew my answer, I started to look at the principles of weight loss. What must I do in order to get thin, fit and healthy again? My conditioning regarding weight loss needed to change. It’s not about getting on a diet, nor is it about having your friends tell you how you should lose weight. It’s not an external event. It’s inside of you. YOU have to want it and you have to want to understand the principles of weight loss. You will have to be willing and able to change your perception on yourself, your role in life, what made you fat and what principles are the basis of your – of any – weight loss.

A simple but profound explanation of what I mean by “perception” would be to compare it to some sort of city map.

If, for example, losing weight is our goal, we need to have the right “map” – the right perception – that will get us to our goal. Many people, however, carry with them the wrong map. A map that was created by years and years of conditioning and role perception. Imagine you are carrying a map of Los Angeles with you even though you happen to be in London; how can you ever expect to reach your destination using this map? You could, of course, change your behavior and try different ways or different routes. You might want to change your attitude and try to think positive to get there. You might want to change your emotions and simply hope to reach your destination somehow. With all these attempts, you would fail in the end – simply because your map (your perception) does not match the actual situation. You are holding the wrong map to the goals that are right for you.

Why doesn’t the map match? Because of the conditioning and your perceptions created by family, friends, the media, magazine ads, and so forth. It seems as if losing weight is only a matter of dieting – instead of using a principle-centered approach. These forms of coercion have created a map of how to achieve things, but is this the right map for you?

Success

The big picture is to work towards a principle-centered approach to weight loss (eat less, work out more, and see food as fuel for the machine called body) and forget about behavioural changes that were triggered by external events. With the right map in your hand, your behavior will follow – but this time for all the right reasons. With this new perception you will reach your destination – however far it may seem to you.

Principles are always self-explanatory and can stand for themselves against any scrutiny. Our emotional based behavior, on the other hand, only reflects our own perception, which is based on our personal life long conditioning of how things ‘should’ be.

by Rainer Rohde

5 Responses to "Why We Often Fail To Lose Weight by Rainer Rohde"

1 | Annette Benigni

November 17th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

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Dear Rainer,
Well done for writing this article. It is a common problem in the 21st century!
I saw a lot of references to Stephen Covey “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Exactly the part of Perception impressed me the most!!!
Annette

2 | Judy

November 18th, 2010 at 11:47 am

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Interesting if somewhat obtuse. If it was a matter of just eating less and moving more a lot of people would be slim by now! In my experience as a weight loss coach and eating disorders therapist, it is a complex mix of thoughts, feelings, and biochemistry that drive a weight problem.

3 | Mark Michelmore

November 18th, 2010 at 11:54 am

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Great line in Rainer’s blog-principle (target?) approach and see “food as a fuel for the machine.”
I often refocus my clients on a personal emotional target to give them focus on acheiving results.

4 | Wendy Prior

November 18th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

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Thanks Rainer!
I recently had a huge breakthrough with my own weight loss when I was educated on the link between stress and insulin/blood sugar imbalance. Once I tackled this I was able to have a totally new relationship with food and weight loss. I believe its a little known fact that in the western world we are often deficient in iodine which is linked to our thyroid function and can dramatically effect weight loss with relatively little effort – that was another trick for me. I used black walnut liquid – a natural dietary supplement rich in iodine. Finally I learnt that following a natural dietary supplement routine made enormous improvements in my health, vitality and emotional well being. The food I ate was almost a red herring!

5 | Rainer Rohde

November 20th, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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Thank you kindly for reading my article and taking the time to comment!

Best Regards,
Rainer

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