A few weeks ago I was listening to a relationship podcast by Esther Perel.
Perel (a therapist) talks to couple in crisis and their session is recorded.
There are all kinds of couples: gay couples, straight couples, trans couples, couples where the husband cheated, where the wife cheated, and so on.
Despite the different dynamics or the issues that came up, I noticed on person always asked Perel, “Is this normal?”
Perel, in typical therapist form ;) would answer the question WITH a question, asking:
“Is it helpful or hurtful?”
Which I love.
In fact, that’s a great thing to ask yourself before taking any action.
“Is this helpful or is it hurtful to me?”
In a later episode Perel explained why she did this:
She said that you can normalize anything.
Which is soooo true (and it hurts to admit we do this!)
It hurts to admit we hand out permission slips to self-sabotage…
That we routinely JUSTIFY why we should go against the very goals and dreams we say we want so badly.
Circling back to Perel’s comment…
Since we can normalize or rationalize anything...
Asking “is this normal”
or even looking for a standard to measure up against….
Perel tells clients that instead of asking whether or not a behavior is normal, to ask is it helpful or hurtful for them.
Perel says it is far more effective
To focus on what causes deep wounds.
and to stop being wounded
than to cope with the wound
Let me say that again:
it is far more effective to focus on what CAUSES deep wounds, and to stop the wounding, than to cope with the wound.
This “prevention” attitude reminded me of episode 9 from last season (season 1) when we learned about free radicals.
I’d commented then that, sure, Vitamins like A, C, and E, can slow the process of aging by fighting free radicals directly, but there is a limit to their power. So while popping vitamins or eating fruits and vegetables naturally rich in these antioxidants IS helpful, it’s far superior to just not have to contend with the free radicals at all.
Think prevention rather than treatment.
And isn’t this also what Watkins was saying in episode 2 of this season?
To jog your memory, Watkins said:
It is more effective to focus on what is driving the behavior, and work to stop that, then to try to regulate the behavior.
In case you’re not connecting the dots here:
Perel, a leading relationship psychotherapist, and Watkins, a neuroscientist and overall expert on human performance,
ARE LITERALLY SAYING THE SAME THING.
How AWESOME that all this research from different scientific disciplines comes together to make the same point, right?
AND If you’re wondering what that point is, it’s this:
Your relationship with yourself drives your behavior as well as your success.
That is the foundation of mindset science, cognitive behavior therapy, psychology, and the power of perspective… basically everything we’ve been learning about this season.
Work performance, relationship improvement, behavior modification, effective, consistent weight-loss success... it’s all connected to this same, simple strategy.
Your relationship with yourself drives your behavior which determines your success.
The more I listened to Perel’s relationship podcast…
the more I saw parallels between the couples counseling and dieting difficulties I hear from my clients.
Which, when you think about it, that makes a lot of sense.
Isn’t dieting a relationship?
And don’t we say exactly this too?
Don’t we say things like…
“I want to have a better relationship with food?”
Here are a few quotes from the the patients along with Perel’s advice.
Out of context you wouldn’t know they were talking about a marriage!
Their statements are THAT spot on to feelings and thoughts we have around dieting, weight-loss, food, and our relationship to ourselves and those things.
Here’s what one partner said:
- After the betrayal I was like "what was all the hard work for?"
Perel’s advice: You want to equalize but you can't. Let that event exist in its own experience.
- I feel a lot of shame. The shame voice says, “I can’t believe you did this, you’re no good, how could you do this?”
This reminded me so much of episode 4 this season about shame, I’m definitely going to give that episode another listen.
Perel’s advice: See what happened as really hurtful, but understand you did it because you were hurting.
- Shouldn’t this come naturally and intuitively to me? If I have to write it down, or do all these extra special things others don’t have to do, what does that say about me?”
Perel’s advice: “It says that you are thinking. That you are conscious. That you are intentional. Those are amazing qualities.”
- “I’m angry about the cheating. I’m angry it didn’t work.”
Perel’s advice: You are angry because you felt you did certain things you didn’t want to do. The anger has little to do with what actually happened or didn’t happen. The anger comes from the fact that you made sacrifices, you did certain things you didn’t want to do, and those efforts were not appreciated.
If you’re anything like me, when someone says “love yourself” or “have a better relationship with yourself” or even “forgive yourself” you think, yeah okay but how do I do that.
No really, HOW DO I DO THAT EXACTLY?
What are the steps?
Even as I was researching and recording this season I thought to myself…
Alright I buy all this stuff, totally. I TOTALLY get it! buuuut I don’t know how to DO it.
I can’t connect the dots… where are the dots???
That’s the next part of this episode.
Perel said her goal of each session is to change the story her patients tell themselves.
She noted that when these couples come in, they are in pain and wrought with trauma, and from that place, not much can change.
To create space for movement forward, she helps the couple creating a new perspective, that is, a new perception.
Did you catch that?
Perel’s relationship advice just connected back to Crum’s perception research from Episode 3 this season!!
To jog your memory, Crum’s research taught us that:
The effect you expect is the effect you get.
So by helping couple change their story…
….change the way they see their past history...
and the effect it has on them…
that IMMEDIATELY makes things better… because hope comes back.
What this means for us:
If we can change how we see our past history with weight-loss, dieting, or anything that’s driving bad behavior, as painful as that history is, looking at it with a different lens will immediately improve our situation because we’ll be hopeful again.
And Hope is a powerful thing.
I remember underlining this quote in the Hunger Games, President Snow said to Katniss, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained.”
(If you’re unfamiliar with the story President Snow didn’t like Katniss because she was a symbol of hope to the people and like any overlord he didn’t want her hope sparking a revolution against him.)
So how does Perel help couples change the way they see their past history?
by redefining the experience.
Which is something I think all dieters need.
Especially those of us who are still angry.
If you’re angry the “diet” didn’t work...
If you’re frustrated because you’ve done hard work but it didn’t produce the results you expected or wanted…
When you have a painful history, as many dieters do, it’s easy start to lose hope.
But not a lot of change can come from that place.
To create space for movement forward, you need to create a new perspective.
Turn suffering into GROWTH.
See it as a Discovery into your own strength, courage, and compassion for yourself.
Turn your disappointment into determination.
Your guilt into guidance or motivation.
A favorite slogan of mine is:
“I don’t fail. I succeed or I learn”
Perel also tells the couples to talk in WE statements.
WE this. WE that. This happened to US instead of this happened to me.
The purpose for is is that WE language integrates the experience, making it less polarized, because at the extremes, the other person will defend themselves.
This is part of that self-love.
We need to stop seeing ourselves as body parts…
or ranking our qualities or perceived flaws.
Like the couples, we need to integrate everything to make room for hope.
Any trait can be an asset in the right circumstances.
In my own life I’ve discovered things I thought were character defects were actually gifts when employed correctly.
Use what you got.
Give yourself a little compassion to bloom.
The more self-love you have, the less you experience self-abuse.
Self-abuse comes from self-rejection.
You can’t take care of something you hate.
Your relationship with yourself that drives your behavior as well as your success.
This means loving your body and enjoying the life you’re living while losing weight.
And if you can’t do that: Turn your stress or suffering into social connection.
Success takes a WE not a me.
I see it in our member community every.single.day.
Members post that they’d been a member for months but hadn’t really immersed themselves. They were a lurker, partly because they were embarrassed they hadn’t achieved some success, but then once they got in on the and started participating they found success.
That’s my story too.
I didn’t hit MY stride until I started sharing my struggles because when you do that, when you come out of isolation, there are others there to help or give you that different perspective you’d have never considered on your own.
When I share my shame, it loses its power over me.
Trust me when I say You need community.
And one that doesn’t shame you.
Find your people either by joining Meal Mentor’s community or a church or 12-STEP program.
The Fear of Missing Out
(and how you can reengineer feelings of deprivation)
Instead of FOMO, I embrace JOMO (the joy of missing out)
In my official weight-loss program (the Slim Team) I call this
The Flip Side of Deprivation
There are two sides to deprivation.
#1 There is depriving yourself of the thing and #2 then what you are deprived of by having the thing.
Most of us never consider this other side to deprivation.
But if you take a second to consider it, you’ll behave the way you want to.
Here’s an example:
I can deprive myself of a second margarita, or I can deprive of feeling good tomorrow bc another margarita means I'll be hungover and not my perky 100%.
Here’s another example:
I can deprive myself of ice cream OR I can deprive myself of having a seriously unpleasant GI experience later.
This is something I’ve noticed about allergies.
When people are allergic to a food, their mindset shifts.
Their perspective changes.
The look at something and they immediately see the other side to deprivation (feeling well), and that makes it really easy for them to say no.
There’s no reason you can’t train yourself to do this too.
If you feel deprived, stop to consider the other side of deprivation, and you’ll make a better decision.
Here’s an easy way to put this in practice:
Before taking an action be Perel and ask yourself…
is this helpful or hurtful?
To summarize this episode:
- Before taking action ask, “Is this Helpful or hurtful to me?”
- Consider the flipside of deprivation.
- Remember that your relationship with yourself drives your behavior as well as your success. You can’t take care of something you hate.
- Practice redefining your experience. Change your perspective.
- You don’t fail. You succeed or you learn.
- Turn suffering into GROWTH and share it with others. Connect with a community.
Breathe in the faith, breathe out the fear.
Breath in the love, breathe out the shame.
This was episode 7 Season 2.
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