By Becky Karush
Resistance to new weight loss habits is normal. It’s often driven by your hormones. A simple writing practice can help you move through the Resistance and stick with your weight loss plan.
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I have a small companion with me on my MamaSezz weight loss journey.
Small, but loud. She is the one who says, “NO.”
No, I don’t want to have soup for dinner.
No, packing apples for a snack is dumb.
No, I don’t have to schedule my snacks.
No, I won’t stop after I start eating lunch and drink two glasses of water because I forgot to do that first.
No, I won’t stop to heat up dinner when a slice of bread with peanut butter is faster. By all of three minutes, but still faster.
No, I’m not going to be grateful for anything.
No, I will have a huge bowl of granola before I go to bed.
No no no no no no.
This bossy companion is Resistance. (I call her Belinda.) She is the part of me who hits the brakes anytime I try to change my behavior or habits.
I’m guessing you have experience with Resistance, too.
Any shift we make comes with these reactions of “NO, I WILL NOT DO THIS.” They’re part of the normal rollercoaster of change, when we risk upsetting the familiar in favor of something new. This illustration from MamaSezz co-founder Lisa Lorimer captures the rollercoaster well.
But we experience a special kind of Resistance when we seek to lose weight by eating a plant-based diet. Belinda has specific things to say when she sees us moving away from refined flours, sugars, and long-standing eating habits!
The key to managing Resistance lies in two things:
In general, Resistance can arise from two sources:
The first one—that Resistance arises from hormones—may well be the most powerful. It’s also, for me and perhaps for you, the hardest to believe.
When old Belinda starts talking, it feels personal, as if these thoughts are true, and real, and saying something important and original about my life or personality. How could my thoughts, which are showing up in words, be anything less than truth?
But what we eat has an immense impact on how our hormones function — and our hormones influence how we feel and how we think.
For example, simple flours and sugars trigger the release of a lot of dopamine, a “feel-good” hormone. When we eat a lot of these triggers, our brains make us less responsive to dopamine. So we need to eat more muffins to feel normal!
Switching to a plant-based weight loss means that suddenly we’re going from trigger too much dopamine to triggering a whole lot less. Our “feel-good” system is, to put it crudely, out of whack, along with our hormones for feeling full, regulating sugar, and sensing that we have enough food over time.
So when we change what we eat, we’re affecting this entire hormonal interplay. The Resistance voice may well be the thought-expression of hormones in disturbance. That may be the truth they’re telling. (Not that “snacks are dumb”!) The weight-loss Resistance voice may not be personal or literal.
Emotional distress, challenges at work, lack of sleep, unexpected or difficult events at home, skipped meals — all of this and more activates a stress response in our bodies.
This is normal. But a stress response is a hormonal response, and if the stress response is activated a lot, then our hormones change. With stress, levels of cortisol (among other hormones) go up. If they stay up, then we see a bunch of consequences—less sleep, poorer mood, lower levels of serotonin. And more sugar cravings!
So being in a stress response a lot of the time makes us more likely to...
In other words, Belinda may show up when we’re in a stress response that hasn’t let up for a while. She could be the voice of the body saying, I need help calming down.
When you hear your Resistance thoughts, they may not actually be telling you to ditch healthy snacks or eat a frozen burrito instead of a salad. The Resistance may be standing in front of important information.
When I listen to Belinda as if we’re chatting at a coffee shop, she yells for a while. No, I hate heating up food! No, I won’t change. No, you can’t change.
She starts to contradict herself. No, it’s too hard. No, it’s too simple. you’re too busy. No, you waste too much time.
And, more quietly, at last, she says: I’m just a little lonely.
The physical truth is probably that I’m coming off the hormonal hurly-burly of refined flours and sugars, and plus a stress response born of sleep deprivation, overwork, and reading the news.
And this time, in this conversation, the emotional truth is feeling lonely. Another day, Belinda might end up at a different place — anger, resentment, confusion, fear of vulnerability, boredom, an old memory I didn’t even know I held.
But by listening to the Resistance, rather than acting on it or reacting against it, I get to hear what’s really going on. Knowing that gives me a moment of peace in which to choose the weight loss habit I want — to eat the snack, drink the water, go to sleep, say “thank you” for the day.
The next time Resistance shouts to you, take five minutes and write down all the things it wants to say. Let it run its course through your writing. See where it ends up. Listen when it gets quiet.
And in the moment of peace that follows, make the choice that gives your body the most plant-based love.
Resistance to new weight loss habits is normal.
A lot of Resistance thinking is driven by hormonal imbalance.
Two big sources of hormonal imbalance are changing eating habits and prolonged stress response.
Writing down the thoughts of Resistance can help you stick with weight loss habits.
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.