This morning, the scales told me I'd put on 5 pounds in a week.
That's right. 5 pounds. In one week.
This is how the old me would have reacted to this news:
"You idiot. How could you let this happen? You've ruined everything you've been working towards. What's the point in you even carrying on? It's obvious you have no self control, so you've no hope of succeeding. You should just resign yourself to the fact that you were born to be overweight. Just stop playing silly games, stop giving yourself false hope. Give up."
How often have you heard a similar message in your own head?
We are all guilty of listening to the paranoid, erratic monster that lives inside our minds. It’s always there in the shadows, telling us to panic or worry about something banal. Trying to persuade us that the world is against us.
Have you ever stopped to think about why we give it such weight? Consider for a moment the value of the advice your inner monster has to offer.
Imagine you have decided to wake up early each morning to work on a personal project. This project means a lot to you, and early morning is the only time of day you have available to make progress. You discuss your plan with your husband or wife, explaining the importance of it to them and you ask for their support.
On the first morning, your alarm goes off early. You brace yourself for getting out of bed, when your partner turns to you and says, "Hey, it's so early - why don’t you just get another 30 minutes sleep? Your project doesn’t really matter than much does it?".
How would that make you feel? If it was me, I’d feel angry and frustrated. I wouldn’t hold their view in high regard - they know how important the project is!
But we do this to ourselves all the time - we give weight to the inner voice in our heads and allow it to screw everything up for us. We let the monster persuade us to forgo what is important in the long term for what is comfortable in the short term.
The worst thing about this is that we don’t get angry with the monster after the fact. We actually allow the monster to get mad at us! We let it berate us for being lazy, for putting our short sighted desires above a more important task. Even though it was their voice doing the persuading in the first place. How crazy is that?
Over the last 2 years I have worked hard to retrain the voice in my head.
When I stepped on the scales this morning, instead of the venomous outpouring of self abuse I heard this message instead:
"Wow Kate, that was a bit more than we expected wasn't it? I know we drank some wine and ate some cake, but really? OK, let's not panic here. You knew what you were doing, you chose the path you chose. The great news is that because of this, you knew you had veered off course a little, so you knew to expect a couple of additional pounds. Granted, 5 seems a little unfair! But you know what? You gained them easy - you'll lose them easy enough. You know what to do and, if you do it right, next week will be a different picture. And let's learn from this - drinking too much wine lets the monster out!!!"
What I’ve come to realise is that the voice inside my head isn't really me. The voice is a just bundle of emotions - up and down like a yo-yo, a monster not to be trusted. You know the expression ‘the devil on your shoulder’? Picture it now - a little red devil sitting on your shoulder. Notice that the devil is a separate being - they are not you. This devil is actually a representation of your inner voice.
So how did I retrain the monster?
I simply stopped giving it power by refusing to listen to it’s terrible advice. Instead, I replaced it with a louder voice - an encouraging, positive and trustworthy voice. A voice that is much more closely aligned to my needs. And eventually the erratic monster gives up, its energy sapped. It pipes up every now and then in moments of weakness (for example, this weekend when I fell in love with a carrot cake and ate 2 slices, oops), but it’s power is significantly diminished. It has a stronger sibling to contend with - a more stable voice that speaks reason and is listened to often.
With a little practice, whilst following these steps, you too can train your monster:
- Become more aware of your inner voice. Actively listen out for it, and recognise that it is not you speaking. If it was you, how would you be able to listen to it? It is, instead, a reflection of your emotions.
- Start an inner debate with the voice - question its authority. Over time, the monster will lose its confidence and, ultimately, it’s power.
- Use the times when you do slip up as an opportunity to learn. Map the patterns that lead you to bad decisions, and notice your trigger points.
- Become accountable by externalising your plans for success. If you keep everything inside your head, it is you against the monster. By recruiting support from outside, it becomes two against one. This can be in the form of finding an accountability partner, or alternatively a coach who will guide you and hold you to account for your actions on a daily basis.
For me, I take this recent incident as a reminder that alcohol, sugar and added fat do not take any prisoners. Even though I probably burnt more calories than normal from exercise this weekend, my food choices led to a huge weight gain.
So, inner monster, this weekend was a blast. But it’s time for you to go back into your hiding place so that I can rebalance. Next week the scales will be much friendlier to me, and I’ll be back on track.