Nearly 15 years ago, when I still lived in New York and was doing PR, I interviewed a high school social worker about a unique program she had implemented at her school called Resiliency Training. At first, the idea of training yourself to become more resilient seemed a bit odd to me--I had always thought that resiliency was something that people either had or didn't have. But after speaking with her, I learned that resiliency is actually a skill that can be learned.
I've been giving this idea a lot of thought recently, especially as I approach my one-year maintenance anniversary. In my past weight loss efforts, I've been wildly successful at losing, but never successful at maintaining until now. Although I have pinpointed a number of different reasons for my current success, I've only recently come to realize that I've developed a sort of resiliency that I previously hadn't had (or at least hadn't put into practice).
According to the Mayo Clinic, which has conducted a great deal of research on the subject, the idea of resiliency is connected to how well we can adapt to stress and adversity, as well as how quickly and successfully we're able to bounce back from life's difficulties. People who are resilient face life's problems head on and with seeming ease, while those who aren't often turn to unhealthy coping strategies and experience psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. We all know that stress and loss and pain are often inevitable parts of life. How well we deal with those realities depends on our level of resilience.
The idea of resiliency has been further broken down into four separate categories: cognitive (attention, memory, judgment and problem-solving skills), physical (healthy habits, including diet, sleep and exercise), emotional (facing and accepting your problems) and spiritual (practicing forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, true meaning and purpose). Although physical resiliency seems to be the most connected to weight loss, I think that developing resiliency skills in each of these four different areas can be a huge help in fostering our development of the skills we need to live a healthy lifestyle.
So, how can we improve our resiliency and how can we apply the skills we develop to our weight loss/maintenance efforts? A large part of that comes down to learning from past mistakes. If you're like me and have lost and regained large amounts of weight multiple times, take a good look at your past experiences. What worked for you and what didn't? Can you pinpoint what went wrong and led to your regains? Was there a specific incident that directly led to your backslide? How could you approach that situation differently in the future if something like that happens again? If you're a binge eater, can you develop a step-by-step plan that you can put into action once your binges start to help minimize their duration and frequency so they don't turn into full-on backslides? What were you doing when you felt the happiest and most positive about your progress? Were you doing things that you think you could sustain forever? I can attribute a large part of my success in losing and keeping my weight off to doing precisely these things. Persistence, trial and error and understanding what works for me and what doesn't finally made all of the pieces of the process come together for me in a way that it never had before.
Another important, and sometimes overlooked, component of how developing resiliency can help us in our weight management efforts is the emotional one. I know from my past involvement in Weight Watchers, as well as from reading many of my fellow Sparkers' blogs and comments on the site's threads, that I'm not the only one who has used food as an unhealthy emotional coping mechanism. Learning to accept and deal with your emotions without turning to food is how we can build up our emotional resiliency in this area. This can be achieved by journaling, developing a plan to deal with your problems rather than ignoring them, goal setting, practicing relaxation techniques and, in some cases, seeking the advice of a trained therapist who can help guide you through this process.
Other than continuing to maintain my losses in 2013, I don't have a specific New Year's resolution. On a more general level, I'd like to continue to work on developing my resiliency skills to ensure that I'm well equipped to deal with life's inevitable challenges and that they don't steer me back down the road to unhealthy habits.
I wish all of my SparkFriends a very happy and resilient New Year!
Sources on Resiliency Training: