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Mental Toughness . . . revisited?

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Many of us here at Spark People followed Steve Siebold's impossibly in-your-face Mental Toughness "fat loser" program: back in the day. It was a 21 day program developed probably in the late 80s/early 90s and delivered (free!!) by daily 15 minute video clips. Based on the unwavering, uncompromising premise that if you're fat it's your fault and you just need to become more mentally tough!!

Many many people loathed fatlosers. And most quit before finishing it. Particularly when Siebold spoke about excess weight impeding career success. Or excess weight meaning you're a "bad parent" role model for your kids. Or excess weight meaning that your partner/spouse didn't really find you attractive . . . Oh yeah, he said all of that. He pulled no punches, he intended the ambiguity of the program's name. If you didn't lose weight, you were a "loser" in every sphere of life. Harsh!!

I didn't quit. I completed that 21 day program at least four or five times and I learned a lot from Steve . . . not only about weight loss but also transferable skills entirely applicable in other areas of my life.

Since then, Siebold has followed up with a couple of other books/programs on weight control using Mental Toughness, and there are a couple of YouTube videos out there too . . . Right now I'm following the regular blogs of a Sparkie here who's working her way through a current iteration with considerable diligence and success!!

But for me, I've seen nothing that matches Siebold's original fatlosers.com program.

So last summer, a couple of Sparkies (including me) wrote to the Mental Toughness folks to see if we could get Steve to post the "original" program again. And we got responses, too, indicating that something was in the works. And yup, I'm a subscriber to his regular email blasts and have been notified that Siebold is now selling a "fat loser" coach program based upon his principles of mental toughness.

These are the same mental toughness principles he has applied as a corporate keynote speaker to major American corporations for decades with multi-million $$$$ success. That's his main gig, for sure . . . But his current fat loser coach offering comes from his awareness of how many people have acquired a few pounds during the COVID pandemic (including, he says, himself). And at this time he believes there's a real "work from home" business opportunity for people to become certified FatLoser coaches. He seems quite genuinely to want to help.

So: how about me? Would I be willing to pay the fees (not so very much) and become FatLoser certified?

Uh, no. Not thinking so.

And in fact my disinclination is because of those Mental Toughness underpinnings. Increasingly I would distance myself from Siebold's firm belief that losing weight is hard. And maintaining weight loss is hard. That it's a struggle. That it's painful. That it requires sacrifice. Which is a price most people aren't willing to pay. And that's why they fail to lose and why they stay fat.

Although I'm grateful for what I learned from Dr. Judith S. Beck, and from Susan Peirce Thompson, and from Susan Estrich and so many others . . . it may be I learned the most from Steve Siebold. And perhaps that was less because of what he says and more because Steve really seems to care. Underneath all of that toughness and confrontation, I couldn't help but feel: he really wanted us to be successful. He wanted ME (whom he's never met, of course) to be successful with weight loss and also at peace in every area of life.

For me, and at this point in my life, I'm more and more about something other than brash in-your-face Mental Toughness.

Such as maybe::

Mental Moderation
Mental Tolerance
Mental Tenderness
Mental Responsiveness
Mental Presence
Mental Openness
Mental Trust
Mental Confidence
Mental Balance . . . .

Not sure which one of these alternatives expresses it . . . is there one YOU like best? . . .

But I do know that ongoing efforting and armouring myself against myself and disciplining myself and arguing with myself and dividing myself against myself and waging war against myself . .

Based upon what had happened in the past ("I ate too much!! I got FAT!!") or

Based upon what might happen in the future ("I've gotta be TOUGH!! I've gotta stop eating so much!! Or I'll get fatter and fatter!! More and more of a total loser in every area of my life! except weight loss! And more and more filled with self-loathing!!") . . . .

Nope, that kind of mental toughness really just didn't work, for me, in the long run.

It wasn't sustainable. Because: it didn't feel good.

What did work was the very genuine sense of caring and concern that deeply infuses every aspect of Steve's message . . . and is truly the bedrock in his message. UNDER the "Mental Toughness".

How very important it is to feel good.

And feeling good is what I wanted . . . not just my body feeling good, at a reasonable size and reasonable level of fitness, but all of me feeling good.

That warm, expansive feeling. In the moment.

That I can take care of myself. That I can trust myself that I WILL take care of myself.

From a place of love and abundance in the present, not fear and scarcity from past or future. . . .

Love and abundance being something Steve actually does speak about, again and again. And which it seems to me he demonstrates and models, in his own caring attitude.

Food will always be available when I get hungry. . . . and I can count on myself to feed myself lovingly, for optimal nutrition in the present moment of hunger. I don't need to over eat. I don't need to over-exercise.

I can trust myself to care for myself. From a place of calm love and abundance, that's also always available.

All of which feels WAY less tough than Mental Toughness.

WAY more tender!

Now if Steve were promoting a FatLoser coach program based upon Mental Tenderness . . . ya never know, I just might take him up on it!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • PICKIE98
    I would never work on me. The P.A in my doctors office tried that approach and all it got was depressed patients, a frustrated doctor, and her dismissal. I guess if it works for some people...
    Verbal abuse does not work on me, but set routines and goals does. Spark is the perfect fit.

    30 days ago
    I remember when I first learned about that 21-31y fatloser.com free offering from the Beck team. It was an important start to my journey back then as I needed that in-your-face approach to bring me face-to-face with my inner bratty child that was in my head repeating I want, I want, I want. Some days I think I still need to hear a lesson or two from that program. However, at this point in my journey I am working more on achieving Mental Balance and Mental Peace.

    Thanks for another great blog, Ellen.
    40 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2021 8:15:41 AM
    emoticon emoticon
    41 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/18/2021 8:28:01 PM
    41 days ago
    Its amazing Siebold can have such a harsh message for people needing to lose weight and yet also be considered caring and concerned! Seems to be contradictory. For me, its mental mindfulness. Right from the start I resisted having a weight 'number' that I wanted to be. It was I will achieve a weight that is good for me based on eating right and exercising regularly. I prefer things to be kept simple. Your body will always respond more to loving and compassion then beating it up. The first rule of qigong is to find the joy in the practice. Deep love for yourself and your fellow human beings. Change yourself, your attitude, change the world.
    42 days ago
    I like Mental Confidence. emoticon
    42 days ago
    Mental tenderness and mental confidence for me. I tried for decades to follow all the plans ...none worked for me... then I listened to my body and fed it what helped it lose fat and gain muscle ... I found my Zumba that excites me to do ... and I lost and lost and lost ... with plateaus and gains and kept at it ... today I am happy with myself.
    42 days ago
    I am just glad I found sparkpeople. More importantly that my sister Thoms1 said she would join me on the journey!
    42 days ago
    My thoughts are all over the place … so bear with me.

    Mental toughness … one of the synonyms for toughness is durability. Mental durability … the train of thought that stays with you until you reach YOUR place. No one else’s but YOURS.

    Gone are the days of people telling me … it’s OK to eat an entire 2-pound bag of Peanut M&Ms coz I deserve it due to having an emotionally draining life event. That’s not support. It’s TOUGH for a friend to say out loud … why did you do that; did it help the situation???

    Gone are the days of hunger is not an emergency. True physical hunger is my body telling me it needs me to pay attention to … me. And if I TOUGH it out and not eat when physically needed … I learn not to trust ME. And that contributes to the over all problem.

    Suffering through changing long standing behaviors is TOUGH. Certain behaviors may have served me at the time … but very quickly became self-sabotaging. So, short term suffering/uncomfortableness to change those behaviors … is doable.

    Short term suffering to change is easier than the long term / recycling of being over weight.

    Being fat equates to not being a good parent … I think the message was, as a parent being fat is not a good role model to your children.

    And that’s where tough talking, tough thinking gets jumbled up for most of us. As blunt as the speaker is … the receiver chooses what they hear.

    God love ya for being a … mentor, teacher, coach Ellen !!!
    42 days ago
    Still have my completion certificate. And yes, it takes mental toughness with some tenderness thrown in. emoticon
    43 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
    43 days ago
    I'm following her blog too just as I remember yours about Siebold's philosophy.

    Maintaining weight loss takes thought and planning as well as toughness.
    The statistics are dismal but some succeed.

    "Hunger is not an Emergency" How many times has that kept me from diving into the ice cream!

    43 days ago
    I'm liking Mental Confidence!

    I'd like it if you were the coach to all the above. Hey, wait...you already are!
    43 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    Mental Trust
    Trust in myself that I can keep my weight in the normal range most of the time, that the future will work out OK and I’ll be able to handle whatever comes.
    That one rings right just now.
    I really enjoyed Siebold’s approach at that time. I would probably still mostly agree with him but have a gentler attitude to myself and others than I did.
    43 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    43 days ago
    I would never support someone who was so callous. "You're an awful parent cause you're fat!" Not only is that downright mean, not mental toughness, it is so not true.

    43 days ago
  • NANCY-
    I liked Mental Openness.
    As I change my needs change. Think I'm stuck on the "fluid" thing. LOL
    Steve's words were harsh, but I needed that wakeup call then. A dose or reality then opened my eyes, kindness/self love is what I need now...how to nourish myself.
    43 days ago
    Mental Confidence rings the bell for me, without that it's very difficult for most to achieve the others. I would not have the patience to listen to his ranting, takes me to the "tough love" place where people hit their kids to "smarten you up buddy".
    43 days ago
  • ALICIA363
    I hit like before I even finished reading.
    Be your own best friend! Yes! Mental Kindness!
    (cheerleader)(we can do it)

    43 days ago
    Yes, I think that metal caring, mental self-love is a better approach for me. Sets us up for success more than harshness.
    43 days ago
    Interesting post lots to think about I thought.
    43 days ago
  • TWEDEE777
    I agree!
    43 days ago
    I think we all evolve in our approach, over the decades. I remember well a day when I sat in a Burger King in Baltimore, in 1996 or 1997, looking over my latest "diet" book, and writing in my journal that what I wanted was not someone else's approach. I wanted my own!

    And so many of those pushing programs are pushing what worked for them at some point in their lives. One of the things I love best about Sparkpeople.com is that we can blog our own stories, our own approaches, and for the most part, find ourselves supported in our own "experiment of one"... finding not someone else's program, but our own.

    emoticon emoticon
    43 days ago
    Well said.

    43 days ago
    Doubtful it'd work for me...the rebel in me would likely do just the opposite, even though I've been doing fine just as I am... I think the mental balance is the best fit in verbiage for me. Self-kindness for me and for others is also a fit... Have a kind day!
    43 days ago
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