I am always looking for strategies to motivate myself to eat well and exercise. A few weeks ago, I came up with an “angel on my shoulder” type idea which has been very interesting to explore. First, I visualize myself in 10 years. The future me in this scenario has achieved all the goals of present me. She has a healthy body and a fulfilling and lucrative career. Her relationships are flourishing because she is living intentionally which allows her to communicate clearly and be present to what is really important to her. She looks remarkably like the woman on the cover of the Raveis Marketing and Technology Brochure, pictured here. But I digress.
How is she helpful? Well, when I am sitting a few feet away from cookies that someone has brought in to my office, I call on her for help. She’s pretty credible because she has overcome all the obstacles between where I am now and where she is now. Not only does she know what it takes to get there, but she can speak to the rewards on the other side. She is a great cheerleader because no one has more insight into the way my mind works and more desire to see me succeed than future me does.
Prior to the appearance of future me, the cookie situation went something like this…I’ll think, “Those cookies look amazing, but I know if I eat one, I’ll eat at least 5.” Which deters me only slightly. To banish that unwelcome roadblock between me and the cookies, I enter this familiar mental minefield, “Well Annie, It’s not good to diet. If you deprive yourself of all sugar you’ll just end up bingeing on sugar and gain even more
weight. The right thing to do is just have one cookie like any normal person would.” Now I am fooled into thinking that all will be well – that eating the one cookie is really the best possible thing that I can do for myself. So I casually stroll over and extract the biggest cookie. Down it goes (and it is gooooood). There is a lovely moment where I enjoy the pleasure of the cookie-eating experience and as I sit back down at my desk, I congratulate myself on my self control. Fast forward ten minutes. Now, invariably, we enter the “all I can think about is eating more cookies” phase, which by the end of the afternoon, leads to the “shit I just ate all the cookies, what is wrong with me?” phase.
Now let’s bring future me into the picture. This time, when the cookies arrive and the familiar mental battle begins, I visualize her. Just looking at her lovely figure is a good start. She’s even wearing my favorite camo jeans that are a size 8. But it seems like a long journey from here to there, and immediately all my past self control failures pop into my mind. “You can do this,” she says, “If you look like this in 10 years, you must have found a way.” Hmmmm, I think, maybe I did, and maybe it starts right now! If I can just resist eating those cookies…”You know you’re an emotional eater with a sugar addiction, don’t you?” she’ll ask. Of course she is right.
We then debate what is going on mentally, how I am feeling. Is there some internal stressor that could be banished a different way? Or can I distract myself, buying time in hopes that other people will eat the cookies instead of me? What if I move the cookies out of my line of vision? Go for a walk instead? Drink a big glass of water or tea?
“You’ve done this before and you know that it will get easier once you start to see results, but you have to start!” she says, and I know she is right. “I’ll help you”, she assures me. Then she tells me what a pleasure it is to get dressed in the morning, how all her clothes fit perfectly and how confident that makes her feel. I look down at the same black jeans (size 14) that I have been wearing every day this week and think, “I want that.”
She helps, she really does.