One of my first suggestions to most clients who ask advice about their nutrition is to re-frame the way they think about food. For most people the first inclination with food is to look at what can be eliminated from their diet to improve their weight loss or body composition. A far more positive way to look at this is to re-frame the question to “what do I need to put into my body?” With that you will still get the same answers but you will think about food in a far more positive light. You will not feel guilty for eating but feel empowered because you are fuelling yourself correctly.
What a topsy-turvy World we live in when it comes to our views on weight. I would bet my collection of shiny shoes that if we surveyed Australians most would not consider themselves overweight or obese (but 70% of males and 55% of females ARE overweight or obese according to 2011-12 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. What if we asked these same people if they think they could or should lose weight? I think the response would be that most people would respond ‘yes’. So how can most Australians think that they aren’t overweight or obese but then also think that they need to lose weight? I think this problem is a cognitive one. We are used to thinking that we need to lose weight because we constantly compare ourselves to stereotypical media images but we are also not objective in the way that we assess ours own weight. This leads to an acknowledgement of an obesity crisis by most individuals but a lack of recognition that we are part that same crisis. I suggest that we re-frame this weight loss mentality to an ‘ideal weight’ mentality and there are many ways to approach this.
We can empower people to take control of their weight (I haven’t met anyone yet whose actions and experiences don’t see their weight adjust accordingly), then learn our ideal weight. Determining our ideal weight can be based on a mixture of: clinical measures (BMI, body composition, girth measurements); performance (sport or simple daily activities like climbing stairs, carrying heavy objects, running); and aesthetics (we all have some level of vanity that is perfectly natural and healthy as long as it doesn’t overtake the other factors determining a healthy weight).
You may have noticed that society is already evolving. We have stand-up desks at Universities, cycle lanes, walking meetings and treadmill authors. Make yourself part of this solution. One of the major reasons that smoking became so popular besides its physiological addictiveness was because of its social acceptance and ‘cool’ reputation. That same social acceptance and ‘cool’ reputation are now being eroded away. I encourage you to be a social influencer. Be a leader. If you want to make a change to your work practices, home life, sitting habits, exercise habits, eating habits or work-life balance it is up to you to RE-FRAME the way you think about your lifestyle and act appropriately. If one person at your workplace has joined a gym, a second and third person are far more likely to join in. If one person packs their runners and goes for a jog at lunchtime then a second and third person are far more likely to join. Make sure you’re that person.
This is the power of cognitive re-framing: you can not only change the way you perceive an experience but you can also change the way that others view the world.