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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why a happy career is good for your weight + 7 principles [Wise Wednesdays]

A client asked me recently about what she could do to feel healthier and fitter. Working together a few months she feels much more clarity and direction in her career, has stepped up in her leadership and now wants to turn her attention to her health and wellbeing.

As someone with a PhD exploring obesity, it’s tempting for me to respond with obvious health advice, particularly when it comes to weight. I can say with some certainty that the magic formula for a healthy weight is two things that you know already:

  • Eat less

  • Exercise more

However, this isn’t what helps my clients recover a sense of vitality and shed pounds in parallel to transforming their careers and leadership impact.

You see, I’m in the root causes business and operate at the level of common denominators.

Root causes and common denominators

So what do happy careers, effective leadership and (sustained) weight loss have in common? A healthy, flexible self-image nurtured and cultivated over time.

The work is at the level of your relationship with yourself.

With a healthier relationship to self, things start to fall into place and pounds may fall off. For example, my client Y could never lose more than 3kg with the best of her efforts. While we worked together, she managed to lose 10kg over 3 months of deep work together.


The core principle: intention over compulsion

Your body doesn’t care if you have a six pack or a beer belly. Your mind is behind all of it. When you’re getting into energy, food and exercise you’re digging into very primal instincts. It’s a great personal development challenge to master these!

Be the person whose intention is a self-evident truth rather than the person who gets derailed by compulsions.

Here are seven powerful principles to help you along:

  1. 1) Reimagine your set point

I was mentored by one of the world’s foremost experts on the psychology of obesity. She pointed out that we both had an internal set point (partly genetic, partly cultural) that kept us at our particular weight. I’ve had to re-imagine this as I aged so as not to fall into stereotypes of “slower metabolism” and expect weight gain as I get older.

Make sure you’re clear about your own set point and how you want your body to look and feel to you. Don’t let anyone else tell you how it should look or feel. At the same time be honest with yourself.

You can use visualisation for this.

2) Give yourself something better to do than eat

As Nietzsche said: if you have a why you can endure any how. When those hunger pangs or sugar drops assail you, what might you love doing more than reaching for the cake?

  1. 3) Give yourself a reason to enjoy exercising

Love podcasts, a particular series or motivational videos? Put it on while you exercise. Give yourself a helping hand at least at the beginning.

  1. 4) Have a self-check in system (shift state)

Check in several times a day with yourself on these 3 levels:

  • Body:

  • What are you doing with your body? Are you caring for it or using as a distraction from difficult emotions? Most eating is emotional not nutritional i.e. it serves as a distraction from uncomfortable emotions that should be dealt with differently.

  • Language:

  • how are you talking to yourself? Are you harsh and critical? Are you deluding yourself? What do you really need to hear?

  • Focus:

  • you may not be responsible for the thoughts in your head, but you are responsible for which ones proliferate. Focus your attention wisely. Mindfulness meditation is perfect for this.

  1. 5) Melt your stories to melt the weight

Upgrading your relationship with yourself involves dealing with old beliefs that no longer serve you. Just identifying your beliefs around food, exercise and the concept of control will help. Some of these include:

  • I can’t control myself

  • It’s society’s fault.

  • I can’t fight the hunger.

  • I can’t take the muscle pain

  • I don’t have time.

  • I’ll die if I don’t eat now.

  1. 6) Treat yourself like royalty

If you treated yourself like a queen or a king whose health and wellbeing was of the utmost importance (not at the mercy of capitalist consumerism), what would your royal retinue be doing to help you eat less/well and exercise more? What kind of environment would they create for you? One of my clients said they'd be feeding me grapes from a platter :D Give yourself that in your own way to tell yourself subconsciously how important you are.

  1. 7) Make your system non-negotiable.

At the beginning of change, I’ve found that it’s most helpful to implement without thinking too much:

  • Set times

  • No rest days (I know this goes against conventional advice). Just “light days”.

  • You can skip a day after 30 days once the habit has set in.

Sustainable versus fast weight loss

I put a message out on Facebook asking if it would help to do a live on the subject of weight loss, although it’s not my main area of work. Someone wrote to me suggesting I focus on sustained weight loss. She pointed out that most weight loss programmes focus on sensational, dramatic weight loss which had worked nicely for her and her husband.

But there wasn’t much on sustaining the weight loss afterwards unless you wanted to keep paying for the programme…

I believe that without addressing the root causes of poor diet and exercise – at least the ones within our control - weight loss programmes cannot provide the full solution. In the same way, a quick-fix job change won’t necessarily result in a fulfilling long-term career. While it may take longer and require some self-searching, a healthier self-image is ultimately the surer road to true health and wellbeing.

GOT QUESTIONS? JOIN WISE WEDNESDAYS LIVE AT 4PM UK TODAY Wise Wednesdays Live is available to you exclusively as a Wise Wednesdays reader.

Have a great week, Amina

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