Reaching your goal weight it is an exhilarating and terrifying experience all at once. There’s the excitement of having actually achieved your goal and at the same time there’s the fear of failing in maintenance and regaining the weight you lost.
Our mind starts churning out all kinds of interesting thoughts like:
- “I’ve never been able to maintain weight loss in the past.”
- “I don’t want to disappoint my friends and family by regaining the weight.”
- “I’m so afraid that I’m going to fail!”
This is just a natural cognitive process of the mind that we refer to as Radio “Doom and Gloom”: our mind likes to broadcast a lot of gloom about the past, a lot of doom about the future, and a lot of dissatisfaction with the present.
Now, it’s lucky for us that our mind can conceptualize the past and the future. It’s a hugely useful ability. It allows us to reflect on and learn from the past, and to predict and plan for the future. As we grow older, our mind gets better and better at doing these tricks: conjuring up the past and the future. But unfortunately, this starts to create problems. As children, we can easily live in the present, but by adulthood our mind is like an out-of-control time machine that constantly pulls us back into the past or forward into the future. As a result, we spend a lot of time in the past reliving old hurts, failures, rejections, and mistakes, or a lot of time in the future, worrying about everything that could go wrong. And meanwhile we’re missing out on life in the present. It’s hard to get any satisfaction or fulfillment from your life if you’re not actually present to appreciate it!
Therefore, one of the most effective ways in which to deal with the fear we experience in maintenance is by contacting the present moment. When we experience fear and worry our focus is too broad and we are thinking about every possible future and the ways they could all go wrong. We can narrow our focus by engaging fully in whatever we happen to be doing at that moment. For example, if you find yourself getting caught up in all your fears and worries when you’re doing household chores then try and refocus your attention primarily on the activity you’re doing. If you’re ironing, notice the color and the shape of the clothing and the pattern made by the creases. Notice the hiss of the steam and the creak of the ironing board. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron and the movement of your arm and shoulder.
If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When fears and worries arise, simply acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you’re doing. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
Too often we spend our time caught up in worries about the future. What do you miss out on when you’re trapped inside your mind? Is that really where you want to spend your time? Next time you’re worried, anxious, or otherwise caught up in your head, would you be willing to really engage in whatever you’re doing, and notice what happens?
Adapted from ACT Made Simple by Dr. Russ Harris