I talk to a lot of “professionals” who think that losing weight or getting fit is just a matter of eating less and moving more.
This is especially something that experts preach – highly credentialed people that often (apparently) don’t really understand behavioral change.
What if, rather than all the advice that “people know,” there are some other hidden reasons why many of us self-sabotage, especially when it comes to losing weight and just living a better life?
The Strangest Weight Loss Secret
The Quest for the Perfect Body and Dr. Maxwell Maltz
Behind what you see a person doing or not doing is psychology, is emotion, and it’s driven by their inner mindset. Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon born in the late 1800s who learned this early on.
What he discovered in his plastic surgery practice was that there was a certain percentage of patients that, no matter how much he changed them physically – no matter how much he gave the woman the perfect nose, the perfect boobs, the perfect butt, gave the guy a flatter stomach, fixed something about his face, or removed a mole – there was a certain percentage that never recovered their self-esteem.
Presumably they were getting surgery because they wanted to feel better about themselves, but when he did the surgery and they objectively looked beautiful, they still had the same self-esteem “problems” that they had before.
They thought changing the outside would actually change the inside, and for some reason it didn’t.
This subset of his patients confused him so much that he ended up pondering this problem a little bit deeper.
What he later wrote about in his book called Psycho-Cybernetics is this idea of the self-image, the self-identity, and concluded that our actions are only aligned with our self-identity.
If we believe we’re beautiful, we act as if we are.
If we don’t think we’re attractive, no matter how objectively beautiful we are, then we will not act confident.
He found this really interesting because the self-image is totally different than (although related to) the external.
You could change how you view yourself in an instant, however, it’s usually built off of repeated frustrations and experiences that confirm that we’re ugly, we’re dumb, we’re smart, we’re beautiful, or we’re something else.
Insight #1: Sometimes We Don’t Lose Weight Because – Yes – We Prefer Being Unhappy
The first “secret” insight of weight loss is that sometimes people don’t lose weight to protect their self-esteem.
I knew this kid in high school who was always getting bad grades, and whenever the teacher would call on him, he would always make a joke.
He would say things like, “Oh, yeah, I was busy, because I had to poop for three hours,” just a ridiculous joke, and the whole class would laugh.
It’s funny because he never got good grades, and he was the class clown – but he was playing it off.
What I realized later in life is that class clowns like this often make jokes to play off low self-esteem.
He does feel bad about himself, and he did that to get the pressure off him, diffuse the situation and avoid facing the fact that he didn’t know the answer.
It’s often true with weight loss, too.
Maybe there’s a friend you joke about, where you’re like, “Oh man, maybe you shouldn’t be eating that doughnut,” and then he laughs and he’s like, “Yeah, but I’m a fat ass.”
We say that, but often when we go home, that’s when we feel the pain, where it really does bother us.
We say that because it’s socially acceptable to make people laugh, rather than snap at somebody and bite their head off for making such a direct comment.
Insight #2: It’s Sometimes Easier to Just Knowingly Be Unhappy (Rather Than Change)
Surprising insight number two is that sometimes we don’t lose weight because it’s easier being the way we are now, than losing the weight and seeing our life change, which may affect our day to day routine in some unknown way.
That sounds abstract, so let me explain it a bit better.
I have talked to multiple women on the phone that have told me if they lose weight, they are going to have to date again.
They want to date, but if they lose weight, they’re going to have to date again.
Why wouldn’t they lose weight? Don’t they want to have boyfriends?
Of course, but there’s a lot of fear there.
There’s a lot of fear of being judged, about being good enough, of it not working out – tons of little fears and insecurities we all have.
For some of us, guess what?
It’s easier just to stay in that realm of comfort, which maybe means being 50 or 100 pounds overweight, or it’s financial stress, or it’s relational stress, or something else – but at least we know the enemy.
Maybe it’s just easier to be in that zone where you can count on it.
You can count on it, it’s predictable, and at least it’s going to be there for you even if it’s not what you want. If you lose 50 pounds and you’re like, “Wow, I’m getting attention the first time in a long time” then you have all this emotional stuff come up.
Once you do that, things change, whether or not you want them to.
If your self-identity is still, “I’m unlovable. I’m not confident, I don’t deserve to be in a good relationship,” that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
It’s going to manifest – no matter how fit you become and no matter what changes on the outside.
The inside, the inner self-identity, is still there and it still might be screaming that we’re not good enough.
Insight #3: We Don’t Lose Weight to Prove That We’re Unlovable
The third insight here I actually talked about in my book.
This one particular woman was a high-powered exec, and she was doing the “New York City lifestyle,” but deep down she had this belief that she was essentially unlovable.
She thought that she wasn’t attractive, she thought that men don’t like high-powered women, and she thought that men don’t like aggressive, dominant women.
The underlying narrative was that, “I’m unlovable.”
What happened next wasn’t really surprising – she got into a relationship, and then did a great job sabotaging it.
At first I was really excited for her because she finally was in a relationship (and I thought was busting her inner narrative).
I was like, “Look, see, you’re blowing up that narrative in your head.”
Eventually what happened though was that as it got more and more serious, she ended up very clearly sabotaging her relationship because there was the subconscious belief, “he cant possibly love me.”
Every little thing he did that was off became, “he’s cheating, he doesn’t love me, and I know he’s not really that into me.”
It was this crazy neuroticism that came out of nowhere, but it stemmed from that belief she had behind it all.
This guy was crazy about her and he was going to propose to her, but because she started acting all weird, he noticed. She changed the way they interacted, she changed her commitment levels, she changed how she talked on the phone and more.
Eventually he said, “listen, I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re acting a bit funny. Maybe you should just take the time to think.”
They ended up taking a break because her inner belief, “he can’t possibly love me,” manifested, even though he very obviously did and was going to propose to her.
This belief became a literal, physical reality (and sabotaged everything that was going fine) because of that inner, core, self-identity.
The identity drove her reality.
Your Tiny Daily Habit Today
Your tiny habit for today is very simple.
I want you to start thinking about in your own life, what are the inner beliefs that may be stopping you from getting the body, the health, and the life that you want?
Most “professionals” that we talk to just won’t get this stuff, because the strategy of dishing out advice (without really knowing what’s going on underneath) is so common.
If you’ve been sabotaging yourself and you know it, what’s the real underlying narrative behind it?