In the Army, we called it an after-action review. In my life, I call it “digging for gold.” But, either way, we’re talking about learning from the past so we can take what’s important forward and leave the rest behind.
For the most part, when I talk to a new client, they are ready to rehash all the diets/programs/tools they’ve tried in the past.
But, there are usually a few pieces of the past that cause some resistance.
Sometimes it’s because they regret that they tried something that, in hindsight, feels pretty extreme, and they worry they may have done more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s because they feel shame that they “got results,” but weren’t able to maintain them (side note - “failed diets” are always the fault of the system, NOT the individual. Diets are made to fail. The diet failed you, not the other way around).
Sometimes it’s because they feel embarrassed that they worked with someone without formal training.
No matter the outcome, you can learn from it
But, here’s the thing - no matter what the program was, or who was leading it - I think it's important to talk about it so we can honor it for what it was, use it as a learning opportunity, and then leave it behind. Here’s why:
1. There's probably at least a little nugget of gold you can glean from whatever weight loss program you’ve tried. Unfortunately, most of the time once we stop a plan for all the reasons they don’t work and aren’t sustainable, we also leave behind the behavioral shifts that actually did feel supportive.
2. If we don’t really reflect on and honor the past, our diet “failures” may linger in the back of our minds, taking up more brain power than we want to give them.
So, let’s talk about how to learn from the past without feeling the need, or draw, to go back there.
And before we do, I just want to say: you don’t have to hide. Trying all. the. things. is completely normal and:
1. I’ve probably tried it too. I was completely wrapped up in diet culture and struggled with food and my body for almost 25 years, starting when I was 10 years old. I’ve tried a lot of things and, even as a dietitian, I tried things that weren’t supported by clear evidence. So, whatever your past is, it’s safe here.
2. Of course you’ve tried all the things, right? We live in a society that tells us if we’re not dieting and obsessing over our bodies, we’re doing it wrong. It’s not you. It’s the culture we live in. And together, one person at a time and together as a community, we can work to shift that culture.
OK, so now let’s talk about how to take a clear look at the past in a way that feels productive and supportive, and actually helps you identify the health-promoting behaviors you want to incorporate moving forward.
How to start learning from the past
First things first - as we do this, we want to do it from a place of understanding what felt supportive to your definition of health - not through a lens of what helped you lose weight. Check out this post on separating health from weight for more on what that means and how to do it.
1. Jot down any diets/plans/programs you’ve tried in the past. Don’t overthink this, just jot down what comes to mind and then add on others as they come up.
2. Then write the following categories:
What did I enjoy about this?
What did I learn from this?
What felt good when I was doing this?
In the Army, we also reflected on what didn’t work. I don’t usually find that super helpful in this exercise, because most of us are pretty clear on what didn’t work. However, if that feels useful to you, go ahead and add that as a category.
3. Go through each program and answer each question.
4. Send a little gratitude to all the teachers from your past and then release them. No need to hold on anymore. We’ve gleaned what we need.
Now, look at that paper/doc/whatever you did this exercise on. You’ll probably see many insights into the health-promoting behaviors you want to get back in touch with.
If you feel so inspired, go ahead and do this exercise again related to your biz - all those coaching programs, courses, launches, social media strategies… All waiting to be mined for gold and then honored and released.
Want some support honoring your past and creating a future you desire? Book a consult HERE.