“No matter what I’ve tried, nothing changes.”
“I have been on a diet most of my life and I am at my heaviest weight.”
Have you ever said something like this to yourself? If so, you can probably relate to the feeling of being stuck. Stuckness often pervades our feelings about our eating patterns, how much we weigh, how we feel about ourselves, and leads to a hopelessness we can’t seem to shake. Needless to say, it certainly can get in the way of reaching a healthy weight and staying there.
The Power of Possibility
Possibility can move us out of black and white thinking, challenge our fears about change, and through the use of language, give us the option to do something different without feeling like we are fighting against a list of “shoulds”. For example, I should eat vegetables, I should exercise more, I should drink 64 ounces of water a day, I should eat fish twice a week.
When we start to consider possibility, we alter our thinking only slightly and consider that there is a “possibility things could be different.” We don’t HAVE to change anything, we can simply consider it. This opens up choices we might not have considered that can help us move beyond being stuck.
Take eating, for example. At Green Mountain, we talk about optioning, which helps us stop to think about whether we really want to eat something that goes beyond a basic meal, such as a hot fudge sundae. We stop to consider whether we really want it, and if we do, we make decisions about when and how much. Then we go on to enjoy it fully without guilt. How different is that from the common automatic reactions of either “see it, eat it, feel guilty about it” or “I can’t have that, obsess about it, then binge on it”?
Another example can be gleaned from children with behavioral challenges. Some of them just can’t hear the word “no.” It often escalates their acting-out behavior, creates a power struggle with others and sets them up for not succeeding at a task. We were all children at one time (even though it might feel like ancient history) and so some of us can still feel that internal reaction to no, which often feels like deprivation. Possibility allows us to move from a position of entrenchment and digging in our heels, to thinking in terms of options.
Giving Our Rebel a Break
So stepping into possibility could be called an attitudinal shift from either/or to “Hmmm. You know, I could do this, but I don’t have to.” Many of us have a strong rebel voice inside our heads that immediately reacts to any restriction by saying, “Just try and make me. I’ll do whatever I want!” Some of us develop this voice as a way to deal with other people defining us. Or we develop it to help ourselves toughen up if we have had to live with a lot of external criticism. Our rebel is to be celebrated and appreciated for all the creative ways she has helped get us through impossible situations. But maybe she needs a vacation or some time to go ride a motorcycle or take up belly dancing. Possibility thinking can give her a well-needed break. We can give ourselves the choice to take a different path if we want to.
Opening Up the World of Choice
Possibility allows us to experiment with another way of thinking or feeling or behaving, if we decide that we want to. When we move into the realm of possibility, we let go of the limitations that our patterned behavior presents to us.
When we’re in a funk and the potato chips are calling our name, we can stay in the chair and eat/stuff. Or we have the possibility of making another choice. We can get out of the chair and pick up the phone and call a friend for support. That is possibility.
Do we have to do it? NO! Do we want to do it? Maybe NO! Is there part of us that would like to experiment with doing something different? Maybe. Will we pick up the phone? We don’t know, but we have the possibility of doing it. No pressure, no rules, just allowing and internally giving ourselves an option. If a healthy weight is our goal, options give us different paths to get there.
What are your possibilities?
Thanks to Bill O’Hanlon, MS, for inspiring our ideas about possibility.