In stage four of our journey along the eight stages of drastic weight loss, we discussed how unique outcomes—or, put another way, unexpected results—can begin to change the way we think about ourselves. Stage five of the journey is all about taking that to the next level and giving us back the authorship rights to our own story.
As we experience unique outcomes and start to change our beliefs about our ability to stick to a diet plan, or our ability to redefine our relationship to food, there is also another part of our story that might be shifting. People are beginning to give us more attention, and that might cause us to think, “Am I worth that sort of attention?”
This is the opportunity to really look at everything we think and believe about ourselves and say, “Which parts of this narrative are really working for me, and which parts of it aren’t really working as well for me?” Stage 5 is exactly where we would edit the parts of our narrative that aren’t working as well, using weight loss as a springboard for that process.
How the process plays out
In order to illustrate how we can edit our narrative, I’ll use one of my clients as an example. David (whose name has been changed for privacy reasons) was a contestant on NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser who participated in my study of people who appeared on that show. His narrative, up until he began to lose weight, was that of the “funny fat guy”. He famously said, “I don’t know anything about nutrition. I never read a label on the back of a food product before. I don’t know what it means to exercise.” Being an un-athletic failure was part of his identity.
When David reached stage 3 on the 8-stage process of drastic weight loss, he recognized a lot of that identity came from a childhood of being overweight in a weight-shaming society. In stage 4, David then experienced unique outcomes through weight loss. He did things in the gym he never thought possible, like sticking to a weight loss program. He also had this internal transformation where he started to have confidence in himself that didn’t fit that dominant story of the funny fat guy who was a failure and who was un-athletic.
In stage 5, David cemented his new identity, and began referring to himself as thin and athletic. He drew a straight line with a red pen through the old story of being the funny fat guy that was a failure. That’s what I mean by re-writing your story.
How long does it take?
People often wonder how long the process of re-writing your story takes, and the answer might not be what they want to hear. That’s because while the process of re-writing your story begins in stage 5, it never truly has an ending. It continues through stages 6-8 and even on into the maintenance phase of drastic weight loss. You will have to continually remind yourself of your new story, and there will be times when your old story makes a comeback. However, the important thing is to realize that when that happens, it doesn’t mean that your old story has to stick around. You re-wrote it once, and you have the power to re-write it again.
I know that this last statement is true because I’ve lived it myself. After initially creating a new identity for myself as a runner during my own drastic weight loss journey and running in several half-marathons, I stopped running for five years. The old story made a comeback, and I started returning to some of my old bad habits. However, when I reminded myself of everything that I had accomplished, I was able to once more shift it. Now I’m happy to say that I’m back training for another half marathon, not because I want another medal, but because I want to cement my identity in this health journey and really transform who I am. That’s really what it’s about for me.
Old stories will always make a comeback. Stage 5 is about starting the process of rewriting our story, a process we’ll continue for our entire lives when it comes to our weight loss journeys.