My friend Betty has been battling her weight ever since her last child was born. She still blames him for the 20 to 40 pounds that she has gained and lost repeatedly and he is now twenty-one! Almost yearly now she gets her act together, changes her eating behaviours, and tackles the problem once more. She successfully loses a nice chunk of it, gets all kinds of accolades and attention for doing it, and then six months later starts to gain it back again.
What is Betty’s problem? Is it simply lack of discipline? She says that she wants to be a healthy weight but then she deliberately sabotages herself by reverting back to unhealthy eating habits.
Betty’s problem is not lack of discipline or will power. Betty’s problem is one of perception. Until Betty is willing to change how she sees herself or change how she perceives the habits that are sabotaging her efforts to lose weight, she is going to continue on this yoyo forever. Let me try and explain how perception works. Perception is that delicate balance of selection and interpretation. We are bombarded by the minute with information from our environment. We choose to pay attention to only a small portion of it. What we choose to allow in is then passed through our internal filtering system and then we interpret what it means to us. These filters are often beliefs; a belief is simply an interpretation of something that we chose to make true. What you believe you become. What you have in your head comes true in your life because you will always find evidence to support it. Let’s look at how beliefs work:
Belief: I am clumsy
Now I could choose to believe that I am as graceful as a gazelle. What supporting evidence could I find to support that belief?
I choose to believe the first belief even though it is a limiting belief as opposed to the second one, which is empowering.
One of my children was having difficulty with tests in college. He had not been overly successful in secondary school, especially with tests, and believed that he simply wasn’t any good at tests and besides he wasn’t smart enough. After all the evidence certainly pointed in that direction. I called attention to the fact that he had avoided courses in school that would have required much if any studying and simply had not acquired the necessary skills. He was passively studying by reading over his textbook and notes. He didn’t know how to actively study or process the information mentally in order to retain it. I introduced him to active learning. He tried it on his next test and received 86%. With new evidence as to how he does on tests he was able to eliminate that ‘old’ belief and adapt the ‘new’ one.
Getting back to Betty, perhaps she believes that she is not worthy of being healthy or looking great. When I sabotage myself with a sweet treat, I believe that I am pampering myself. “Go ahead", the voice in my head says, “You deserve it, you work so hard!" I perceive eating sweets as pampering myself, therefore my behaviors support that perception and my results are predictable. In order to lose weight Betty has to change her perceptions and beliefs about herself in relation to healthy living and her behavior will fall in line, and be reflected in her results.
What do our beliefs actually look like? Think about something that you absolutely believe or hold to be true. Make a picture in your mind that represents that belief. Add as much detail to the picture as you can, include sound and any feelings you may have about it. Now think of something that you doubt is true. Make a picture in your mind to express that. Look at your two pictures, one that expresses something you believe and one that you doubt is true. What is actually in the two pictures will be different (content), but they will appear different in other ways as well. One picture may be in color and the other in black and white. One may appear to be two-dimensional and the other has depth. There may be a difference in brightness, focus or type of sounds associated with it. The intensity of one may be different than the other or perhaps there is a particular temperature associated with one.
Is Betty willing to risk challenging old assumption and beliefs? How willing is she to change? Let’s examine ways to change beliefs that don’t really serve us anymore.
1. Change how you picture the belief. Give the belief you want the same structure as the belief you want to get rid of. Follow the exercise above and find out what your belief looks like. Notice that Betty’s friend uses language such as ‘battling’, ‘blame’ and ‘tackles’ in the opening letter. Give the new belief the same properties or structure.
2. Look for supportive evidence to support the new belief that you want to adapt. Remember, when we hold something to be true, we always find evidence in the world to support it. Look for ways to discount the old evidence that supported the old belief.
3. We have a positive intention behind everything that we think and do. You have a positive intention for yourself behind everything you choose to believe as well. If you want to change a belief, replace it with a belief that keeps the positive intention of the old one. For example, if I want to change my belief that I am pampering and nurturing myself when I eat junk food then I need to believe that I am being pampered when I eat healthy food.
4. When you replace a belief, the new belief must be in alignment with your values and how you see yourself (identity), as well as what you perceive your purpose in life to be.
If your friend Betty selects different information to pay attention to, and changes what she believes about her relationship with food, she will be well on the way to finally letting her son off the hook and eliminating those unwanted pounds for good.
Lesley Cordero is President ofCordero Consulting offering personal growth solutions in the form of workshops, keynote presentations, and Internet information resources. Subscribe to her free ezine “Deep Linking" at http://www.LesleyCordero.com and begin to connect with what is really important in your life. Are you ready . . . to see things differently?® is her new e-book.