Laying the Foundation

(This is part 4 in a series on weight loss and lifestyle change.)

Everything in your house rests on the foundation. It provides a stable platform on which the frame can stand, ensuring your house is level and doesn’t shift in ways that will damage it. In the same way, the foundation of your new life has to be something you can build on, that will ensure your new life holds up to all challenges.

I’d like you to look at the ways in which you view yourself, your connection to food, and the world around you, as the foundation of your new life. Until now, it is likely that they have been flawed, or else your old life would not have been unsatisfying. If you try to build a new life based on your old perceptions, you will end up with something shaky and vulnerable to collapse. If that happens, you will revert to old habits quickly.

You may have, over time, internalized many of the things people have said about you, or overweight people in general. Fat-bashing is one of the few areas of cruelty and discrimination still very much acceptable in our society. Fat jokes are hugely popular and appear on every TV show and most movies in popular culture. The message is clear: that fat people (and by extension you and I) are laughable and deserve to be put down. It’s natural to have (unwillingly) adopted this view and turned it on yourself. It’s not easy, but you have to eliminate such thoughts from your foundation.

You’re not laughable. You’re not a loser. You don’t deserve to be unhappy or put down. You are a human being who has the same flaws as every other person. None of those people who make fun of us are perfect! (For one thing they are unsympathetic and cruel, which are WAY WORSE things to be than overweight, I assure you!) Every one of them has their own problems for which they compensate by putting down others. You deserve a new life, one in which you are confident and happy and healthy. You deserve to live in this new life and love and be loved there. Get comfortable with that. Own that feeling about yourself.

Food can sometimes seem like the enemy. After all, food has been the “cause” of so many of your problems. Or rather, the love of food has. Studies have shown that overeaters have a markedly different food response than others. We are more aroused by the thought of food, even the sight of it. How many times have you looked at a menu and just thought how delicious it all looked, or found your mouth watering at a commercial on TV? Advertisers aren’t stupid, they provide “food porn”, pictures of beautiful looking entrees designed to tempt you. You have to retrain yourself not to look at food that way. Food is a tool for survival, it gives you the sustenance you need to live. That’s all. You don’t breathe in and go, “Mmm that air is SO GOOD,” do you? So don’t do that with food. Sure it can be tasty, and it needs to taste acceptable or you won’t eat it, but don’t overdo it. Don’t ogle the menus, gaze at the pictures, etc. Skip the commercials. You love your new life, not food. It’s not your lover, it’s not your enemy, it is a tool for you to use just as you would use a hammer and saw to build your house. Use food as you need to build a new life.

Similarly, food is not a reward to yourself. How many times have you, when dieting, said “You know what? I’ve been really good, I’m gonna have a [fill in favorite food here].” it could be ice cream, or a cheeseburger. Something you haven’t had in a while, so you “reward” yourself with it. Let me make this very clear: DO NOT DO THIS! That’s not a reward! You just punished yourself! Think about it: would it make sense to say “You know what? I’ve done so well getting good grades all semester! I deserve to not study and get an F today!” No, it clearly would not. That would mess up all the hard work you had done and would not reward you at all. So don’t think like that. Save your indulgences for when they are planned, so that they are not punishments to you. You’ll get your desserts at Thanksgiving, or your brother’s birthday party. Reward yourself with something actually rewarding and good for you! Like a new pair of pants for that shrinking waistline of yours, you will feel great about yourself and be immeasurably happier. It could be that book you’ve wanted, or a night at the movies. It doesn’t have to be something you pay for, it could be something as simple as a quiet relaxing evening at home with family or friends. The point is, don’t do something that has made you hate yourself for YEARS and call it a “reward”. That’s not the foundation on which you want to base a brand new life.

These are big changes, don’t think otherwise. It’s the foundation for a reason, everything you do is built on it. You may not be able to change these things on your own. If you need help, go out and get it. No one builds a house alone, that is nothing to be ashamed of, and your life is the same way. Talk to someone if you need to, get help and change the way you look at yourself and the rest will start to happen. Your new life will be built and you will love it!

Next, you put the framework in place.

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