Before I help patients develop a personalized weight loss plan, I want to better understand each person’s weight journey – and how they got to where they are today.
I have a technique I’ve used where I ask patients to plot their weight at different times of their life.
For most patients, they are able to recall associated life events that influenced their body weight. Here are some common examples:
- going away to college
- getting married
- starting a new job
- getting pregnant
- having children
- suffering an illness or injury
- having a sick child
- losing a job
- becoming an empty nester
- caring for an aging parent
- getting a divorce
- going through menopause
- having a death in the family
- starting a new medication
Although the listed weights may just be estimates, the effect of the life event and pattern of weight change is recalled by the majority of patients I see.
Here is one graph example:
This ‘Life Events Weight Graph’ exercise can be quite revealing.
In one place, individuals get a snapshot of their personal weight journey.
I encourage you to do this same exercise.
You can draw 2 lines on a piece of paper with the vertical line being weight and the horizontal line being time. Then you want to fill in your life events and weight.
Here are 3 things you can learn from doing this exercise:
1 – Acknowledge that Managing Weight is Complex
You can see the multiple life challenges that can affect one’s weight.
Managing weight is not just about the proportion of carbs and proteins in the foods on your plate.
Also, there is no role for shaming or blaming yourself!
Life has ups and downs for everyone.
2 – Appreciate the Health Impact of Life Struggles
You can make more specific connections between weight gain and other life changes.
Examples may include a change in your physical health that caused joint pain or less mobility.
Or maybe you grieved the loss of a loved one, leaving you emotionally drained.
Time may have also been given away to others needing your care and attention, like a new baby.
3 – Use Thoughtful Reflections to Build Success
You can use this graphing exercise as a reflective and educational tool for moving forward and making positive changes.
Think about things you remember doing at certain stages of your life when you were able to maintain a healthier weight.
Spending time understanding the past provides a treatment direction for the future.
Putting a plan in place for de-stressing on a regular basis can also help you better manage future life challenges.
I hope this graph exercise helps you bring more self-compassion and understanding to your weight journey.
If you’re looking for a program that helps you build healthy weight management into your busy life, check out my book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!
Robert Kushner, MD