As many of my previous blogs have addressed (Calories, The Great Destroyer, Dieting Is Your Enemy), watching weight and counting calories are futile concepts in my opinion. Weight should not be micro-managed, and life is too short to spend hours each day worrying about your body. If you follow my prime directive (shout out to all my fellow Trekkies) that moderation in all things is key, then no one aspect of your life (food, exercise, work, relationships) will carry a consistently heavy burden on your brain.
But regardless of my sage advice, still many of my clients and friends just can’t stop being obsessed with their weight. When they beg for a trick, tool, or pearl of wisdom that can help them relax on this issue, I have a favorite nugget, I borrowed from my years studying as a classically trained actress, that I call the Purple Giraffe.
You all know the adage of “ignoring the elephant in the room.” One of my dear old directors once suggested that instead of focusing on the Pink Elephant, you should turn your attention to the Purple Giraffe. The idea is this, the harder you try to ignore the pink elephant in the corner, the more likely you are to continuing thinking about it, spying on it, and trying to figure out how to get it out of your sight. BUT, if you redirect your attention to an albeit nonexistent Purple Giraffe you will slowly but surely stop focusing on the elephant (the issue) that is causing you such dismay.
The trick is to imagine all the minutia of the purple Giraffe. How tall is it? What shade of purple is it, and what color are its spots? Boy or girl, young or old. The more details you can fill in, the more your mind will shift focus away from the elephant. Now this may sound like a temporary fix, and it also may not make sense in relation to obsessing about food and calories and weight. However, if the elephant is your food/weight obsession – make the Giraffe be your new workout routine, or a daily goal-oriented plans for training for a 5K. Pick something that you can think about as much as food and weight, but with more productive and positive results.
Set goals, make plans, and when your focus starts to shift back to worries, redirect yourself to the details: how many more blocks will you run next time, what new class will you try at the gym, etc. Please keep in mind I am in no way suggesting that you replace one obsession with another. You should use this technique whenever you find yourself spending a predominate amount of time and energy worrying about one aspect of your life. With a little perseverance and practice your obsession will fade away and a healthy lifestyle will be in its place.