Why do we sometimes manage to lose weight successfully, and then end up putting on those same 10lb again?
Or why do some women manage to lose it once, and never put it on again?
The answer all lies in our associations. The people who succeed in weight loss learn to associate more pleasure with working out and eating nutritious foods that fuel the body; compared to not doing it.
Want to know how you can do that too…?
The Power of Focus
If you’ve ever lost weight before you know how you got the job done.
Whilst you were working on your weight loss goal, your focus was all around THAT goal – to move you AWAY from the pain you experience being overweight or out of shape, or unable to fit in to your clothes. A wedding day is the perfect example!
The pain of imagining not fitting in to your wedding dress is a pretty good motivator. As is the pleasure of all those lovely compliments you’ll receive on the big day. All of a sudden you have a lot of leverage you can use to get the job done.
You associated pleasure with reaching your weight loss goal, and pain to not achieving it.
Unfortunately when you attained your goal weight (or near to it), the pressure was then off (or the pain of being overweight goes away). When the pressure is off, your motivation lowers or disappears all together.
Ever known a bride who regained all the weight she lost before the wedding? It’s super common. That’s because all of a sudden the pressure was ‘off’, and because the pleasure was ALL associated to the wedding day / honeymoon – one event – after that was over, they simply went back to how they were before.
The Pain-Pleasure Principle
One of my favourite coaches is the life-changing Anthony Robbins, who made me aware of the Pain-Pleasure Principle a long time ago when I started investing in his programmes in my early twenties.
When it comes to motivation most people are looking to avoid pain (not fitting in to the wedding dress) and gain pleasure (looking fabulous as a bride).
Maintaining motivation is all about our associations. This is essential to achieving any goal. You have to look at finding more pleasure and less pain in the PROCESS and JOURNEY rather than just the end term goal itself, otherwise it will never last.
For people who struggle to maintain weight loss results, these are some common associations: –
- Exercise = short term pain / long term pleasure
- Eating Chocolate = short-term pleasure / long-term pain
- TV = short term pleasure
- Eating salad (rather than something else) = short term pain
- Attending a gym = short term pain
- Being overweight = long term pain
- Trying on jeans = short term pain
For people who maintain a more consistent approach to a healthy lifestyle, they may have started with the above associations, but these have now transformed.
- Exercise = short and long term pleasure
- Eating chocolate = short term pleasure
- TV = short term pleasure
- Eating Salad = Short and long term pleasure
- Attending a gym = short and long term pleasure
- Achieving a healthy weight = short and long term pleasure
- Trying on jeans = short term pleasure (and pride)
So you can see in the first person, there is a lot more conflict. They know what they ‘should’ be doing, but it all feels too painful, therefore they opt out in favour of short term pleasure (or the avoidance of short term pain).
With the second person, the associations have changed in the activities that REALLY make a difference to the long term goal and there is a lot more pleasure associated with those crucial things.
So how can we make this happen?
The 6 Human Needs
We’re always trying to fulfill our 6 basic human needs to get more pleasure and less pain, according to Anthony Robbins.
Here’s what our 6 human needs are: –
- Security – the need for certainty and the feeling of security / safety
- Variety – the need for adventure and change
- Connection – the need for connection with others
- Significance – the need to be seen, heard and recognised as important
- Growth – the need to keep developing and moving forward
- Contribution – the need to give to others
In order to change your feelings with exercise and healthy eating long term, you need to change your associations.
So for example, for exercise and diet, score the activity against your 6 human needs.
- Certainty – does exercise feel comfortable, certain, safe for you?
So for me, it’s a 10. I am committed to a bootcamp and attend a mimimum of 3 times a week on the same days at the same time – I know the bootcamp is on every single week and what days I can attend. I feel secure and safe in the group with no judgement and I am certain it gets me closer towards my long term goals.
2. Variety – does exercise give you a feeling of excitement, variety, and challenge?
It’s a 8. Yes it gives me a real buzz and variety to my life physically as my body is doing different activities – this bootcamp never does the same workout twice! And it gives me variety emotionally as all those endorphins flood my system. It also adds variety in terms of the people I see and meet there, and chat to.
3. Connection – with others and myself
It’s a 10. Working out with a great bunch of women, interacting with them daily on a FB group and in person at classes has given me the most amazing feeling of connection again. It’s like a community and you know everyone is on their own journey and has their own struggles, just like me. It also gives me huge connnection with my own soul through the movement, music and teamwork.
Yes It’s a 7. Working out gives me lots of self-worth and when people start to notice your results, you start to feel like you’re being noticed again.
Absolutely it’s a 10. I’m pushing myself every single time to my limits and am seeing the results mentally and physically.
Yes it’s an 8. Often working with partners or in groups, it feels great to help other members, as they do with you, when you’re pushing your body that hard.
Tony said that whenever we have a habit, emotion, or thought that meets at least three of our needs on at least a level of 6 out of 10, then we form an addiction or habit – they can be negative or positive. The fastest way to break an addiction is to replace the addiction with a vehicle that meets the needs on a higher score OR meets more needs positively.
So exercising meets 6 out of 6 of my human needs in a positive and self-serving way, which is why I get pretty good results from it. However it did take a while to get to this stage! It didn’t happen overnight.
However, additionally, when I don’t work out, I experience pain. Physical pain. I ache, I feel tired, I want to eat more rubbish than I usually would. I fall off my clean diet. I feel flabby and my clothes go tighter within days. I feel sluggish and don’t sleep as well.
This has, as you can imagine, become a huge driver in my weight loss results because people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. I associate pain with not exercising.
Timing is Everything: Will Power Rules
The closer something is to the moment, the more we associate pain or pleasure to it, and the more will power is required.
For example pain tomorrow (guilt of not working out) isn’t as painful as the pain today (going out in the cold / making your body exert itself.)
The pain of being the same weight / shape in a year from now, is absolutely far less motivating than the pain from putting a bikini on in Mexico in 6 weeks time. That’s usually how people find that the last 6 weeks before a holiday they are on a diet. In reality a summer body should start in the winter but the pain isn’t real enough that far in advance.
People want to avoid instant pain and gain pleasure in the moment. Even if they know it will cause then great pain further down the line!
This is where will power comes in to play. Will power is all about resisting the urge for immediate pleasure (eating the doughnut) and avoiding immediate pain (refusing the doughnut).
Immediate pleasure is much more motivating that avoiding long term pain. For example, it’s dark and snowing outside at 8pm and I still need to get changed in to my workout gear and head out in to the cold to a bootcamp class outside. OR….pop my pyjamas on, make a hot chocolate and watch TV.
Studies have demonstrated time and time again that people will do much more to avoid short term pain than they will to gain pleasure.
Why do people constantly lose and regain weight and never keep it off. The answer lies here.
When people DECIDE to lose weight they are focussed on the outcome they want (long term pleasure).
This motivates them to take action.
After week 3 or 4 of taking action (and if dieting, often feeling ‘deprived), the results aren’t coming quick enough, and the end goal seems far away! They’re in limbo.
They still want the end goal, but it all feels just too painful. This is when you really have to push through the barrier, and this is when long term change happens.
Nobody likes being on a diet. Diets make women hangry….. or cry…. or both!
Dieting (or depriving yourself) feels PAINFUL.
Diets = Feel painful
Fuel = Feels positive
However feeding our bodies with the correct nutrition is ESSENTIAL to results. It’s 80% of a good body.
Forget dieting. Start FUELING your body for the day. Just seeing it in this light makes it feel better already.
If you love to eat chocolate every day, you need to find a way to associate so much pain to eating too much of it, it will put you off for life.
To decrease the urge, imagine what you’d need to do to that chocolate (or whatever your weakness is) to make it disgusting to you. Possibly add some tinned tuna on the top. Sprinkle it with frog-spawn. Add some tomato ketchup. Imagine the fat of that chocolate biscuit gathering in the fat cells on your tummy and making them expand.
On the other hand, hate drinking green juice? Imagine it cleaning your body so your body is practically sparkling. Envisage your skin smooth and soft and youthful and the bundles of energy you’ll have after drinking it. The compliments you’ll get from perfect strangers on your glowing skin.
Here are some questions I use to focus myself when temptation to give up or give in is in front of me.
- How will I feel after I’ve done it?
- Will I regret this?
- Am I taking the actions of the person I am now, or the person I want to become?
- What do I really want to achieve? Will this help me?
- Am I ok with settling for an ok version of me, or do I want to be truly brilliant?
- Am I willing to do what it takes for my goal?
- Do I want to be the strong person who went to work out anyway; or the weak person who gave up and watched TV?
Or my personal favourite. I think of someone I REALLY admire. So for example Gal Gadot (Wonderwoman) who looks strong, healthy and toned. I ask myself in that moment of weakness….”What would Gal do?”
It’s a really quick one to snap yourself out of bad habits.
Word of the Year
The other one is to use your key word of the year. I always have a word of the year to give me focus.
This year my word is ‘Together’. Together in terms of family, connection, but also in terms of having my sh*t together 😉 and a cracking plan of action to adhere to.
In 2016 and 2017 when I felt unfit, overweight and depressed I desperately wanted to feel ‘strong’. This was my word of the year. It provoked an emotional response deep within me every time I said it. It was a way to focus me when I felt like I wanted to indulge in being weak.
As long as you let short term pain or pleasure win, you’ll never change.
So to wrap up what is the solution? You need to develop more pleasurable feelings with the things you know are good for you now and in the long run.
If you hate working out, you need to find positive ways to meet your 6 human needs through moving your body and fueling it right. These are some possible suggestions.
Certainty – try committing to a weekly routine, planning it in the diary and committing to someone else who will call you out if you don’t show up. Make sure you have a diet full of foods you know you’ll love and look forward to. PLUS measure your results so you are certain you are getting results.
Variety – mix up your routines, use different equipment, methods, workouts or environments. Make sure your diet is full of fun and variety so you don’t get bored. Try different cook books and recipes.
Connection – workout with a friend, join a healthy cooking class with your husband, or join a bootcamp to fulfill your need for connection to others. It’s especially powerful if they do have a tool like an FB page as this intensifies the daily connection.
Significance – find ways of how your efforts with your health, nutrition and exercise program can inspire and motivate others and make you an inspiration, rather than a victim who people should pity because you ‘can’t’ lose weight.
Growth – measure your results! Not just your weight and measurements, but also your mood, motivation, fitness, results. Keep a journal and look back to see how far you’ve come. Take before photos and then monthly weigh in photos to stay on track.
Contribution – Give back to others by sharing your experience and what you have learned. Motivate fellow class members when you’re working out, contribute with your favourite healthy recipes on FB pages.
The pain / pleasure thing is a tough one to crack – but once you understand the principle it can really open up your eyes to why you feel like you can’t make progress in certain areas of your life.
I hope it helps you, as it has helped me.