“I lost weight and now I’m afraid to eat!”
That’s what a member confessed to me as she stood on the scale the day she reached her goal. I was about to start a conversation with her about maintenance, but she preempted me with her startling revelation.
Instead of going off on the line of conversation I planned, I asked a few questions to understand what she was telling me.
Me: Afraid to eat? What have you been doing this whole time you’ve been losing your 63 pounds (yes! 63 pounds! Great job, BTW!)?
Goal Member: Well, of course I’ve been eating, but I haven’t really been eating. You know….just eating.
Me: I’m confused. What does eating, but not really been eating mean?
Goal Member: I’ve been eating a lot of frozen entrees, no desserts, nothing I really like much. I’ve only been out to eat two times since I started Weight Watchers and both times I really blew it.
Me: Okay, so you’re saying that your eating has been restricted to get to goal. Is that right?
Goal Member: Yes. I’ve been totally focused this time.
Me: And so now that you’re at goal, you are afraid to let go off the focus and restrictions that got you here, right?
Goal Member: Exactly!
Me: Have you ever watched a child learn how to walk?
Goal Member: I don’t get it….
Me: When a child is learning how to walk there is a lot of holding onto objects to stay upright and to move forward. The the child starts feeling brave enough to let go and there are a lot of wobbly steps and the child even falls – a lot.
But it doesn’t stop her. She falls, she gets up, she learns something about how to walk on varied surfaces – smooth, rough, those that grab her shoes, slippery surfaces, uneven surfaces, etc.
She keeps walking and she keeps getting more and more sure on her feet. Pretty soon she’s running and falls become far less often – but they never stop altogether. She will fall from time to time throughout her life; everybody falls, but that doesn’t mean they lost their ability to walk.
Goal Member: Yes, but what does that have to do with me and being afraid to eat?
Me: You are about to “let go to walk without holding on.” You are ready to expand your eating to allow yourself to eat a variety of foods and start enjoying eating in restaurants again. Take it easy. Expect to fall because you will fall. The falls aren’t crashes; they’re just little bumps. They won’t stop you and it doesn’t mean you’re trying to do something that’s impossible. You just get up and you start walking again and try to find the lesson in the fall so that you can avoid falling the same way next time you encounter that situation.
Goal Member: I’m not sure I can do that.
Me: That’s okay, and how about changing your self talk? Do you think a baby says, “I’m not sure I’ll ever be a steady walker? How many babies would give up trying if they said and believed such things?
Goal Member: I get it. That makes sense, so now what do I do from here?
Me: What would you like to do?
Go out to eat? Eat fewer frozen entrees? Have dessert from time to time? Take it in little baby steps. Identify what you want to do. Make a plan and follow through with it. If it’s not working, adjust what’s not right and keep your goal in mind. Give yourself time to gain confidence and become more proficient, because, that’s all it is. It’s a skill that the more you practice, the more proficient you become. Even though you are “at goal” you will always be working towards it – whether it’s to reach it or maintain it. And check in; let me know how it’s going.
Eating is to be enjoyed, not feared!