By Pamela Peeke, MD
Remember Kris with the cookie jar filled with affirmations in place of cookies?
As you may recall, she’d just begun her journey to finally confront lifelong binging and addiction to sweets. Witty and authentic-to-the-core, Kris has continued to strive to be mindful and vigilant in a literal battlefield of overwhelming cues to overeat. When we began together, Kris was within eyeshot of 300 lbs. Flash forward to the present, she’s released 31 pounds and for the first time in years, she’s south of 260 pounds. It’s time to pause on her journey and cherish hard won lessons. Kris and I team up to share some gems to help you along your way to greater health and wellness.
Lesson 1: You’re not losing— you’re winning. Notice Kris said she’d “released” excess body weight. Years ago one of my patients Marlyn sat before me, crossing her arms across her chest, and, with a wicked smile, declared “Dr. Peeke, I didn’t lose my 60 pounds. If you lose your keys, don’t you want to find them? I don’t want to find the weight again. We have a national epidemic of losing and finding the same fat. Instead, I say ‘remove’ and then my mind sees it as a one way street, like removing the garbage.” Well, that stuck and now I tell people to use another verb in place of lose. It’s a mind game for you to win. Kris chose “release” because she felt lighter mentally, physically and spiritually. She visualizes releasing it to the sky to disappear forever.
Lesson 2: Do SMART goal setting: Early on I taught Kris an easy way to remember how to set and achieve goals. Here it is and how Kris has addressed it for herself.
1) Specific = Saying “My goal is to have more energy” or “I want to be healthy” is akin to wrapping your arms around fog. It’s a nice thought but not specific enough. Kris wanted to get off her medications, and achieve a dress size in which she felt comfortable enough to begin to date again. Other goals also included increasing her stamina while walking and her strength in the gym.
2) Measureable = You cannot know if you’ve achieved your goal unless you have some way to measure your progress. I tell all of my patients that as it relates to weight, there are options. My clothes-o-meter is a great one in which you pitch the scale and simply note changes in your clothing size. Kris loves this and here’s a picture of her in one of her famous NBIT (Never Been In Them!) jackets (she bought it years ago, never wore it, and it still had the tag). She can not only get in it, but she can now zip it up with room to spare. Starting in a size 28, she’s now in a 22, and on the move. A tape measure is your friend to keep track of body shape shifting, especially if, like Kris, you’re trying to stay physically active. Kris has dropped 6 inches from her waist. Yes, Kris does use a scale but she chose to use it every other week. It works for her and decreases her obsession with that piece of metal that has always ruled her life.
3) Action-Oriented = A goal without a plan is only a dream. Kris showed up at my doorstep asking for a plan of attack. Detoxing off the sweets and beginning to practice her mind and body lifestyle habits was critical for success. She’s used the WebMD Food and Fitness Planner along with customized food preparations from The Hunger Fix to address her profound addiction to sweets. She schedules her physical activity. She’s back to church to meditate and pray as she calms the storms of daily temptation. Mentally, nutritionally and physically she’s locked and loaded, an armed warrior ready for the land mines awaiting her every time she watches TV, listens to the radio or reads a magazine.
4) Realistic = Together, we created a goal structure that is not pie-in-the-sky, but instead makes sense for Kris. We celebrate every single accomplishment, from walking a mile without having to speed dial 911, to successfully getting to bed earlier, to dropping another inch. Kris takes every day 24 hours at a time, starting the morning saying “Today I commit to___” and filling in the blank with small steps she plans to take. We avoid the “My goal is to be 150 pounds” place. That’s like a marathoner obsessing about reaching 26.2 miles, instead of facing each mile and relishing the journey. Kris is learning that the journey is the goal. I emphasize just heading south of where she began, and encouraging her to applaud and appreciate her own efforts. The key is to keep trying and moving ahead. One day at a time.
5) Time-Sensitive = Kris wanted to wear her lovely but smaller sized spring and summer clothes that had been sitting in her closet for years. She began in the winter and knew in her mind that having a time factor in her goal was important. It kept fanning the passion and fire inside her to make change, to do the work, to fall down and pick herself up time and time again as she became more street-wise about staying on track in a world seemingly bent on sabotaging her every effort to become healthy.
Lesson Three: Embrace the WOW moments along the way: Kris is now at a place where she’s experiencing all kinds of “WOW” milestones. Here’s a great one. She has no memory of having gone into a department store dressing room to try on clothes. This is a body image moment many of you can relate to. Kris never accepted her body. Instead, she felt shame, blame and guilt running down the laundry list of anatomical parts she rejected: “big boobs, heavy thighs, large belly”. A dressing room represented a nightmare scenario— staring at your semi-naked body and all of its imperfections. So, recently, Kris did something radical. Instead of buying clothes and taking them home to try on, she marched right into the dressing room and, go figure, it had a 3-way mirror! Undeterred, she peeled off her clothes and tried on the new dress— and it fit! Prancing in front of the mirror, she realized she was now beginning to feel self-compassion, self-love and a new acceptance of her marvelous, amazing and beautiful body, one that has masterfully carried her through 67 years of life. It was a milestone WOW moment she will always cherish.
Lesson Four: Learn to dust off your behind and keep going. Like everyone who embarks on this journey, Kris occasionally tried to test the system. Knowing full well she was guaranteed to lose control when consuming refined sugar, she would on occasion mindlessly “treat” herself with “just” (there’s that word again, always leading to a justification or excuse for an unhealthy choice) a slice of cake or one cookie. This, of course, led to overeating and as panic set in, Kris stopped her binge. Eventually she learned to better plan a strategy for how to eat in challenging situations, and if she did slip up, to quickly regroup. That meant halting the self-disparaging chatter— “I’m a failure”, “How could I let this happen”, “I’ll never get anywhere”— as well as ditch the shame, blame and guilt-speak. Instead, she’s learning how to accept what happened, look for the lesson to be learned, dust off her ever shrinking behind and mentally regroup, hopping right back on plan and not wasting a single body dollar with mean self-speak. Instead, she’s rocking with affirmations to fuel her regrouping process— “You go girl!”, “I’m better than this. I can achieve my goals!”, “Get out of my way ‘cause I’m getting this done!”, and “I deserve happiness, joy and health.”
There’s going to be plenty more to come from Kris. She’s using every day as a golden opportunity to learn. With every slip and slide on this journey, there’s a priceless lesson to be learned. As Einstein once noted, “In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity” and your job is to seek and embrace each chance to move forward. Kris wanted to share this part of her life journey with all of you. How about giving her a shout out through a comment to help support her? Share your own lessons and thoughts on Kris’s milestones and WOW moments. That’ll be your gift to her for the royal win win!