How can you create a balanced healthy lifestyle?

If you tuned into ITV last night, you’ll have watched the MoreLife team in action as they joined forces with the Tonight show to help three individuals – Gemma, Steve and Richard – to lose weight and live a healthier life.

Working with our three participants over the past six months has been a great experience. They all represented a section of the population who are struggling with their weight for vastly different reasons.

But there’s a common and reoccurring theme in their weight loss journeys that connects them all: the need to find a sense of balance in their life.

The art to our existence is finding a balance between demand and pleasure. Life is demanding and we can’t escape that, so we must offset this with pleasurable activities. The brain is preprogrammed to seek pleasure and this needs to be remembered when committing to a new, healthier lifestyle.

“The main thing I’ve learnt is to be kind to myself”

– Richard 

James Roast MoreLife's Clinical Lead for Psychology

So, here are our top tips for creating balance and how they helped Gemma, Steve and Richard on their individual journeys.

Avoid the trap of restrictive goals

Gemma came with a clear agenda and bags of motivation.  Her mindset was focussed on a goal orientated system: she wanted to start a family and needed to lose weight to improve her chances.

Unfortunately, life isn’t black and white, and in Gemma’s case there are simply too many factors influencing the outcomes.

In a goal orientated system, in which we couple together starting a family with weight loss, every time we stand on the scales and fail to lose any weight, we’ll feel like a complete failure.  This makes the primary goal feel further and further out of reach. It’s an all too familiar approach and has been largely encouraged by our society.

Our initial work with Gemma was based on separating her desire to start a family from the need to lose weight. After all, leading a heathier lifestyle is a value we want to live by, rather than a goal to achieve.  We don’t reach a point of healthy; we must continually live it.  In turn, a healthier lifestyle can support what we want in life – to weigh less and start a family.

When we place less emphasis on restrictive agendas and goals, we gain control over our lives and make better choices.  More control and better choices naturally bring greater achievements in an organic way.

“Unlike diet clubs, MoreLife is a service that teaches you things you can carry throughout life and not need to keep paying. It’s a life journey with lessons for life.”

– Gemma

Be self-aware and keep enjoying life

Steve had a significant life event in the form of his stroke. Like Gemma, he had been schooled to do what the doctor says and reduce his weight or face the consequences.

Driven by crippling fear (a toxic motivator), he set about changing his lifestyle to achieve his goal – to stay alive.

Without diluting the severity of what he had been through, we wanted him to recognise he ran the risk of creating a miserable existence if he believed he had to cut everything enjoyable from his life.

Food is unique in the fact that we both need it to fuel our system, but we also really enjoy eating it.  Certain foods are indulgent and pleasurable.  Why would we want to remove this enjoyment from our lives?

Where many go wrong, and as Steve did, was cutting everything out.  By fixating on the symptoms (weight), we sacrifice so many other important ingredients in our lives – happiness, closeness, fun, enjoyment, pleasure.

We can have it all! By increasing Steve’s self-awareness and understanding around food and what he wanted in life, we enabled him to make balanced choices which suited his new lifestyle. He could eat the foods that he enjoyed, just not every night.

He began to understand why balance in all areas of our life was important and that we mustn’t focus on just one area.  With this new mindset in place, we saw Steve go from strength to strength with the added bonus of losing weight too!

Make holistic choices

Richard was like so many other clients we see. They are desperate to lose weight but have competing agendas, such as losing weight while maintaining an active social life.

Unfortunately, high street diets thrive off individuals like Richard.

For example, somebody is going to a wedding and wants to fit into their new suit/dress.  They join a weight loss club and achieve their goal.  After the wedding, they return to how they were eating pre-diet which results in them regaining the weight in most cases.  And so, the cycle continues – a great business model, but unhelpful for those who want to make a real, long-term change.

Richard had to recognise that weight loss is not a tick box exercise. After all, our brains will always seek out quick comfort and food offers us instant gratification – pleasure in a packet!

With life moving at such a rapid rate, it’s often helpful to slow down and think holistically about other activities which might be enjoyable too. As Richard demonstrated on the show, being open to new experiences can help us find that balance between demand and pleasure in a healthy way.

Ultimately, we create a richer existence by doing the things we enjoy, but food does not have to be the ‘go to’ pleasure.

If you missed the Tonight show’s ‘Losing Weight: Six Months to Save a Life’, you can read all about the participants and their progress here.

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