June 22, 2017

A person’s idea of their identity can have a massive influence on their weight loss results.

Statements such as “I’m fat” or “I’m a chocoholic” indicate that the person sees their situation as a permanent part of themselves; something that can’t be changed.

The logic (illogic?) is tied up with our need to be right. Imagine ‘knowing’ you’re a chocoholic. You’re eating well and start losing weight, but then you remember that you’re a chocoholic: rather than challenging your self-perception and looking at how your weight loss changes it, you start looking for chocolate. When you find it, well… you were right all along. You reinforce the belief that a chocoholic simply can’t help themselves.

The same goes for the person who says “I’m fat.” If they lose too much weight, these words will no longer be true. It’s easier to go back to the familiar (if unwanted) fixed position of being ‘fat’, rather than to change their self-image.

A person may have extra body fat. Extra fat is not permanent – it can be lost, it can be gained. Body fat can be changed.

Substitute ‘long hair’ for ‘fat’. The person who has long hair would never say “I’m long hair.” It sounds ridiculous. Instead they would say “I have long hair.” Their specific word choice demonstrates that having long hair is a recognisable feature but something that is easily changed, not which defines them.

Words matter. Thoughts matter.

Your self-description applies both with the words you say and with the thoughts you have. Catch the thoughts which suggest that you’re resisting change – they will happen. Catch yourself, then reframe the thought. Even saying to yourself “No, that’s how I was. Now I’m…” can be enough to help.

If weight loss is a goal, think carefully about how you describe yourself. “I have less body fat than I used to” or “I’m a recovering chocoholic” says very clearly that you’re allowing change. Your self-perception is going through a stage of growth and adjustment. As you work toward your goals, the way you describe yourself changes to embrace your new identity.