Dr. Cassandra, I know that to be healthy I need to lose weight. But whenever I try a new diet, I can only keep the weight off for a while. Then I gain it back again. Do you have any ideas for keeping the weight off?
Changing unhealthy habits can be hard. Whether you want to lose weight or change another unhealthy habit, it can be tough to get started. It can be even tougher to make the changes last.
Things may go well in the beginning. It might be easy to ignore the left-over piece of cake in the refrigerator. And even if you’re tired after work, it’s not hard to find a little extra energy to go to the health club. Before you know it, you’ve lost five pounds.
But it gets harder over time. The opportunities to cheat are always tempting you. Someone brings cookies to work and you don’t want to be rude, so you eat a few. Your spouse brings a pizza home for dinner and you can’t resist eating an extra slice. You miss your workout because you have to go to your child’s soccer game. The next time you get on the scale, you’ve gained the five pounds back and you feel like you should just give up because it’s hopeless.
The process of changing unhealthy habits can seem hopeless, but it’s not. Not if you understand how energy expenditures work.
Energy can seem like a mystical New Age concept. But you can work with it in a very practical way. I like to think about energy in terms of units. You can compare it to money. You can imagine having 100 units of energy to spend every day. It’s like having $100 to spend every day. You use your energy as the fuel for your life. It fuels all your thoughts, activities, and interactions with other people.
When you’ve spent your 100 units of energy for the day, you get tired and need to rest. In an ideal world, you’ll let yourself rest and replenish your energy bank. You’ll get a good night’s sleep and when you wake up tomorrow morning, you’ll have another 100 energy units to spend.
But often people don’t get enough rest. They push themselves physically and mentally. They push their bodies too hard. They also have trouble getting off the thought treadmill and calming their minds. It doesn’t matter why you push yourself. If you don’t rest when you’re tired, you’re at risk for developing an energy debt.
When you have an energy debt, you don’t have your entire 100 units of energy to spend every day. Maybe you only have 60 or 70. By late afternoon, you’re exhausted and your mind and body want to rest. It’s hard to make it through the day.
This energy debt is part of the reason why people develop unhealthy habits in the first place. When you’re low on energy units, you may take short-term energy loans from a number of different sources. You can use food, caffeine, tobacco, and other drugs. You can get short-term boosts of energy from activities you enjoy. You can even get a burst of energy from a drama you create with your spouse or a coworker.
It’s not a big deal to occasionally eat a donut or do a little on-line shopping to pep you up when you’re tired. But when you overuse these habits on a regular basis, they can start to hurt you. These habits can get a life of their own and become addictions.
Now fast-forward to that moment when you decide that you’ve got to change your unhealthy habit. You know it’s not good for you. You decide to stop it. In the case of being overweight, you decide that now is the time to start eating a healthy diet and exercising again.
Things may go well at first. You may be able to change your diet and exercise regimen for a while. But you can’t make the changes stick. If this happens, the problem might be that you don’t have enough energy units to follow through and make the changes permanent.
It takes energy units to change habits. It may take a lot of energy for a long period of time to change the more deeply-entrenched habits. You’ll need energy to plan your changes about things like what diet you’ll follow. You’ll need energy for willpower so you don’t eat that extra piece of cake. You’ll need energy to act on your plans and go to the health club.
Your new lifestyle may seem easy at first. You may be able to borrow energy units from other areas in your life for a little while. Maybe the thrill of imagining fitting into your favorite dress will give you a few extra energy units. Maybe the support of a friend who is also on a diet will buy you some energy units. Maybe a massage or acupuncture treatment will also buy you some energy.
But if you’ve been living in a state of chronic energy debt, the few energy units you borrow here and there aren’t going to be enough to sustain you over the long haul. You won’t be able to keep borrowing enough energy units to make up the chronic shortfall.
So you slide back into your old habits. On busy days, you eat some junk food or skip your workout to buy some extra energy. And the more you cheat, the easier it gets to do it again. Before you know it, you’re back where you started. You’ve regained the weight and you feel hopeless.
This is why the concept of energy is so important. If you’ve tried to change unhealthy habits but you’ve had trouble making the changes last, pay attention to your energy flow. If you have energy to spend, make the changes.
But if you don’t have the energy, take a new approach. Step back and take some time to get to the root of the problem. Figure out the ways you’ve let your energy flow get out of balance. Find out how to buy back energy units so that you can apply them to changing your life.
For more information about energy flow and how it affects your life, sign up for a preview of the New Healing Connection course. For a limited time you can view the 10 videos in the energy module for free!
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