As a specialized nutritionist and mindfulness coach, I often meet people with all kinds of worries. Many of them are struggling with their weight, others are suffering from a poor self-image, some are desperately trying to rekindle the fire in their relationship. Then there are those who have lost the ability to fun doing just about anything.
Their common problem usually is not a lack of effort. Their problem is that they keep trying the same approach, but expect different results.
Does that sound familiar? Here are three signs you're stuck in a pattern of old behaviors, and how to break free of them.
1. You've wanted to lose weight for so long, but can't shed the pounds.
You try every new diet, count calories and points like a champ, often drop a size or two — then gain all the weight plus some bonus pounds back because you feel you just can't live without junk.
How to break the pattern:
Instead of aiming to lose weight through iron discipline and sheer willpower, focus on the dos rather than the don'ts for a change. Restricting calories and cutting out certain foods works about as well as NOT thinking of a pink elephant (gotcha!).
Make a list of healthy snacks and meals you actually enjoy and put it onto your fridge.
Start small and replace one crappy meal per day with a healthy alternative every other day. Once this starts to feel natural, have one healthy meal every day. Go on until you've replaced about 80% junk with simple, real and delicious food and enjoy the remaining "unhealthy" 20% without a guilty conscience.
Of course, this takes time. After a while, however, you'll realize that you're starting to feel better, losing weight AND acquiring a taste for your new lifestyle that fits your new wardrobe, too.
2. You tell yourself you're not good enough.
When I was still suffering from depression, I always heard a nasty little voice in my head. When something work-related went wrong it said, "You're stupid!" When I was trying on new clothes and saw myself in underwear from behind in a wardrobe, it whispered: "Your thighs and belly are so fat!" When a relationship ended, I heard it scream, "You'll never find the man of your dreams!"
Because this voice was always there, I actually believed what it said. Does that sound familiar?
How to break the pattern:
Make a list of all the things you like about yourself. Can you sing or cook? Put it on this list! Are you an awesome friend? Put it on this list. Do you have beautiful eyes? On the list!
Stick this list on every wall in your apartment and also keep it in your email inbox. The next time you hear that nasty voice and start to feel stupid, fat or worthless again, read this list aloud until the voice fades.
Practice and you'll become more self-confident by the day.
3. You fall into codependent relationships and friendships.
As a formerly codependent person, I've had my share of really bad relationships and friendships. Although the men I was with all looked different, had different jobs and different cultural or educational backgrounds, there was one common denominator:
They had all suffered serious childhood trauma, which triggered in me the urge to "fix" them. This pattern made any happy ending or mutually beneficial friendship impossible.
Do your relationships and friendships feel like running around in circles, too? Are you more often unhappy than full of joy? Giving more than you get?
Then it's time to get the hell out of them!
This is how to break the pattern:
Make a list of all the people in your life who actually make or made you feel miserable. Analyze and scrutinize. Find their common denominator. If you're stuck in old behavior patterns, it will not be hard to define.
And the next time you meet someone who turns out to be a perfect match for your "black list," there's only one thing you need to do: run and DON'T LOOK BACK!
Also, make a list of all the people in your life whose company you enjoy. Where did you meet them? What do you have in common? Where do these people hang out?
Think about what you're really looking for in a friendship or partnership and keep your distance until you find exactly that!
Being stuck in old behavior patterns is not only incredibly exhausting and frustrating, it's also keeping you from unleashing your true potential and finding your very own "je ne sais quoi."
It doesn't matter whether your relationship with yourself, food, other people or your job is suffering — there's always a way to leave unhealthy habits behind and begin building new and empowering routines.
Don't give up, if you've already tried (so many times) and failed.
Simply try something completely new!