Friday, November 19, 2010

"Should-less" weight loss

One of the "shoulds" I hear most often is, "I should lose weight."  This is such a pervasive thought in our culture that I dedicated entire chapter to it in my book, "Absolutely Should-less." On the surface, there appears to be nothing wrong with this statement, especially when losing weight could benefit one's physical and mental health.  The only problem is shoulds are not an effective motivator for long term change. They can sometimes be a catalyst for short-term compliance.  But they do not produce effective results in the long haul.

Why is that? Because "shoulds" about weight loss (and any other activity) are based on external pressures. In my book, there is a step-by-step process offered which helps you break down all the sources of learning why you "should" lose weight.  The basic idea is that none of us were born into this world looking in the mirror and saying, "I look fat today."  We had to learn to police our bodies this way.  And if we learned it, that means we can unlearn it.  

The main problem with using a "should" to change behavior is that it often produces the opposite result.  Overtime, reacting from a place of "should" leads one to become resentful, burnt out, frustrated, and then having a negative reaction to healthier eating and going to the gym.  If you have ever walked by that gym and felt guilty, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The good news is that there is an easier way to lose weight and make healthy choices.  By challenging and altering long-held "shoulds" you make room for new thoughts, new values, new beliefs.  You can begin to make choices that are rooted in love and appreciation for yourself instead of fear.  You can be empowered to feel in control of your decisions instead of complacently adhering to societal standards.  Or to put it another way, you can feel GREAT whether you decide to hit the gym or not!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, bullying, caretaking fatigue, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, and with couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a visit, email at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well put . . . concise and so true! i have always found that my body feels best when i'm not thinking about how it should look but rather acknowledging this is what it is right now and if there is anything to be done, just doing it . . .