We Eat What We Are. What?

How to Keep Your Resolutions Whatever They Are

You say you want to start exercising, stop snacking, start saving, stop spending, start traveling, stop slothing, start meditating, stop stressing… You can do it. You know you can. You say you can. And then you don’t exactly, well not for long anyway. By the end of January, for many folks, the whole thing goes bust. Help is on the way. Brouwer and Mosack (2015) found in a new study that participants who created an identity of ‘self as doer’ had greater success with healthier eating. In fact, those in the study who did not use the identity technique ate unhealthier over time, even though all participants were given the same nutritional information and kept food diaries too. Still, participants who thought ‘I am a fruit eater’ actually ate more fruit. Easy, Peasy, right? Not so fast.

What I see with my clients is not that they don’t really mean it when they say they want to stop/start whatever it is. And it’s not at all that they are weak. On the contrary, there is simply something else they very much want, very much more. And the strength of whatever that is overpowers everything else, no matter how sensible and desirable the everything else is, e.g., healthy eating. Let’s say someone is packing on the extra pounds for a reason that has little if anything to do with quality of food or health. What if it’s emotional? Emotional Eating. You’ve heard of that. What if, without even knowing it, wrapping the self in that extra layer, makes the self feel safer somehow. And what if that sense of safety matters more than whether one becomes a fruit eater. You do the math. Cheese and crackers wins all. Now, since this self-identity technique showed some promise, what if we just dig a little deeper than self as fruit eater and designate self as safe, self as successful, self as whatever you deep down really want your self to be.

A client, we’ll call him Mark,* told me that the better things got in his personal and professional life, the more he wanted to be someone who takes care of himself so he can be around for a long time to come. With this mindset, Mark’s extra pounds just melted away without even thinking or talking about dieting at all. Mind Over Matters. And speaking of mind, here’s another example. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are touted everywhere these days, a training I offer to all of my clients. An achievement-oriented woman, let’s call her Jane, said that although she wanted to meditate regularly it wasn’t happening. What is it that Jane wanted much more than she wanted to be sitting in meditation? She wanted to be up and active on her feet. Woman on The Move, a self-identity she loved. Now Jane can run a couple of days a week and meditate every day too.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. So what is yours? What self-identity do you love more than you love the one the bards and sages (read: other people) think you should? When you figure out what that self-identity is, you may close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and gently through your nose; belly out on the in-breath, belly in on the out-breath. Continuing with the breath, sit with this image, fill yourself with it, become it, breathe into it everyday, breathe it into every day. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, call or write at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:  202.617.0821

Amanda M. Brouwer et al. Motivating Healthy Diet Behaviors: The Self-as-Doer Identity, Self and Identity (2015). DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1043335

*Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2016. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


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