We all know the expression, “You are what you eat.” I believe the same is true for our how our thoughts influence our health and well-being — that is: We are what we think.
Our thought patterns and processes — as much as the individual thoughts that result — determine the actions we take or, in my case for 40-plus years, don’t take.
For years, I lied to myself about not being fat. I told stories I mostly believed, stories that kept me from hearing anything new, and stories that kept me from considering other actions. Head down, I walked in a rut, focusing on my favorite pebbles of myth while being surrounded by an ocean of truth. A few of my favorites:
- My weight doesn’t matter. I can still do what I want. I have lots of energy.
- I don’t have any pressing medical problems. My body is just built this way.
- I eat almost nothing — I don’t understand why I can’t lose weight.
- Over time, my metabolism has changed. No matter what I do, the pounds just won’t come off.
As long as I told myself these tales (even as I tried to convince others they were true), I was incarcerated in a jail of my own making.
Freedom would come from thinking differently. Giving up the safety of the oft-repeated stories, I had to confront reality. What made this tough, though, was that the truth that would set me free was the very truth I preferred not to admit.
Several years ago, I stepped on my bathroom scale. The numbers flew by until they stopped at 183. Then the scale broke, taking my hapless delusions with it. I was fat. The truth was obvious once I admitted it. But I had to admit it.
When I study the habits of people who have lost weight and kept it off, I do so with a fresh understanding. Some examples of their habits:
- Keep a food journal.
- Weigh yourself each day.
- Exercise each day and record the length of time.
A food journal tells us how much we really eat and helps us acknowledge those amnesia-inducing second helpings. When we step on the scale, we can’t pretend the numbers aren’t inching up. When we record the hours we spend exercising, we know whether we are following through on our commitment.
Truth telling is the cure. Armed with information, we can think differently, and our actions follow.
In retrospect, the emotional energy I used to keep self-delusions in place was wasted. Because I no longer need to use emotional resources to maintain a facade, I am far more productive.
Good things happen when we wake up from our illusory dreams and are startled back to the truth. We face the discomfort of an unpleasant reality. Only when we face reality and start making lasting changes can we embrace a healthful future.
Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.