When a person starts taking committed action in their valued life directions (e.g. eating healthfully), “stuff” has a tendency to pop up that derails them from keeping moving in that valued direction.
That “stuff” is usually:
– difficult thoughts,
– difficult feelings,
– difficult memories, and
– in some cases, unpleasant physical sensations e.g. feeling more restless than usual.
What happens next…
When the person sets out on their path and the difficult “stuff” starts popping up…
… at first the person will usually struggle and fight with the difficult thoughts, feelings, memories etc,
but then gets exhausted, gives up, and returns to their old m.o. (e.g. their old eating patterns)
The person usually reaches the conclusion…
… that they need to come up with a plan that will enable them to change their behaviour without the same stuff popping up again
That’s a really logical conclusion.
But, it’s impossible to come up with a plan that will COMPLETELY ELIMINATE the need to experience the kinds of thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations that make you want to give up on the committed action.
The alternative is figure out a way to EXPERIENCE THE DIFFICULT STUFF WITHOUT BECOMING DERAILED.
There are lots of skills and tips you can learn to do this but as a starting point, you might find it useful to complete the following written exercise.
List the SPECIFIC thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations you’re likely to be going to need to learn how to experience without becoming derailed.
To guide you, use headings of thoughts, feelings, memories, and physical sensations.
Have a go and you can add extra thoughts etc in later as you think of them (or as you experience them).
You can not be too specific here e.g. don’t just write down “self doubt,” write down that your typical self doubt thoughts are.
All of the following are likely to ebb and flow while I am walking in my valued life direction of X.
– memories of past unsuccessful attempts to lose weight (and associated feelings of shame, frustration, and anxiety)
– memories of past times when eating helped me feel better
Thoughts about uncertainty “Is this going to work?”
“I have no self control” or “I’m not sure if I can do this” or “my urge to eat right now is so strong I’m not sure if I can resist it”
or entitlement thoughts e.g. “I would like not to have to regulate myself” “I’d prefer to just do whatever I want in the moment”.
This pdf has lots more info about dieting and thoughts
Notice that having a thought does not make that thought true e.g. you can have the thought “I have no self control” without this being true.
Like all emotions these will come and go
– disappointment (e.g. at points when your efforts do not yield the outcomes you want)
Next to each emotion you write down, try writing some examples of the situations you expect you might feel that emotion in.
– at least some of the time, the sensation of “just enough full” rather than over full
– feeling “peckish” without automatically reaching for food
– feeling more restless than usual
Putting a pause in
As I said earlier, there are lots of skills and tips you can learn for what to do with your difficult stuff when it pops up as an alternative to becoming derailed.
But, the first skill is to learn to recognize what has popped up and put a pause in (e.g. 10 or 30 minutes in which you don’t either fight/battle with “the stuff” or surrender to/give in to the “stuff”) rather than reacting on auto-pilot.