About 8 years ago I wrote up a business plan for a place I called “The Healthy House.” It was inspired by my experience as a nurse, educator and coach working primarily in the area of weight management. I had the privilege of working in a variety of settings and with a variety of ages from pediatrics to older adults.
In the 18 years that I have worked in this field, I have evolved in my learning. My thoughts about successful weight loss strategies have changed as I have learned from clients and seen patterns of success repeated.
Here are a few things I believe are key:
1.The time is not always right.
Many times, a client has contacted me and said they are ready to focus on weight loss, but they wouldn’t return after 1-2 sessions. No matter how much I wanted to help them, I couldn’t want it for them. I’ve learned that fear is usually behind this delay in action. They made the initial contact, told their story. They want it, but fear is holding them back from action. Now, I know that this is a very important step. It’s a golden part of their journey to work through this fear to the place that they want the outcome more than they fear the action. Now, I applaud them for taking the time to work through that fear. I hold space for them to do that and let them know I am here to support them in action when the time is right. (After all, it took me 8 years to open my own business).
2. Come broken, but believing.
The clients who have come in the past with a great history of calorie counting and a love/hate relationship with exercise are the most dangerous. Their focus has been and will continue to be on the external. Weight loss is not about the calories.
Those who come tired of being hard on themselves, craving more joy in their life, open to share their struggles and aware of their self-critic are golden. They are ready to see the patterns of behavior that are connected to their critical feelings. They are also willing to allow those feelings to come, take responsibility for them, de-identify with them (you are not your feelings) and believe in the possibility of a better outcome.
3. Love, not judgement, is the answer to weight loss.
Weight is just a layer of protection around the body and soul. It’s there to protect us from our own self judgement and the judgement of others. We fear we aren’t enough. Then we project those feelings on to other people, believing that we are not good enough in their eyes. We are living in a cycle of judgment based on fear. The answer is to love yourself. Know that you are worthy of love and act lovingly to yourself first. Treat yourself like you would a small child. Encouraging and supporting each decision and each mistake. Then you can have the strength to love others. You can put away your fear of judgment when you are able to stop judging others. Keep answering every fear with love. Love breaks down walls.
4. Work everything from the inside out.
I believe Pilates is a metaphor for life. In pilates we work on the core stabilizer muscles first. These are the ones closest to the bones that support our structure and contract at a low intensity. Once we get them working optimally, we can move out to the more superficial muscles and to the periphery (arms and legs). You have to use your mind to connect with these muscles and encourage them to engage. So, it is with life. Work on the inside first. Take time, connect to your soul and get stronger there first before you expect more of yourself. That time you spend introspectively builds and prepares you to handle the outside world. Few people understand this from the fitness side. The focus is on getting more steps, lifting more weight, more “pain is gain.” Strengthen your core. The rest will come. Even fewer understand this from a life perspective. Strengthen your core. The rest will come.
5. Support matters.
There is an incredible power in knowing you are not alone. There is a rule in coaching which states “The coach is not the expert!!” The client is the expert. Our job is to help them find their own wisdom and begin to listen to it. The feeling of strength and liberation takes over when someone whispers- “I believe in you- you have what it takes!!!” Then, they believe in themselves.
Better yet, I have been moved to tears on many occasions as I have sat with my groups and they have listened to and supported each other through their struggles. It is SO beautiful and so powerful as they allow each other to cry and extend compassion to each other for the shared experience of pain in life. We can’t remove pain, but we can go through it together, stronger.
These are just a few items that I have learned through the years. I am blessed to learn from so many amazing teachers each day as they share their struggles and triumphs with me. I hope that I will continue to learn from their wisdom and share it with others, knowing that as the ripple rolls out, more people can be truly inspired to change for the better.