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Real Talk… How Do You Challenge Your Lying Eyes

In Ask Coach Tony, you can put my Operation Melt coaching to the test by asking me questions about how to achieve your goals. 

Because a question asked by one is often a question had by many, I am regularly sharing these answers via the Operation Melt blog.

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Real Talk… How Do You Challenge Your Lying Eyes

Are you ready for some real talk?

Do you want to know one of the lesser-discussed parts of seven years of transformation?

Are you tired of feeling like you are the only one triggered by seemingly innocuous things?

Are you sick of the crap your brain is giving you about being “too much” or “not enough” after you have experienced changes – especially changes in your body?

Today’s Ask Coach Tony is for you. I’m going to share a brief story about how a simple photo provoked a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Today’s real talk exemplifies the saying, “Your mess is your message.” So, here’s my mess…

I’m seven years into my transformation…

As many of you are well aware, I have experienced seven years of transformation, which have changed many aspects of my life.

  • I finally corrected my lifetime of obesity, losing over 100 pounds in under a year
  • I changed my habits, hobbies and priorities
  • I changed my relationships with food, exercise and many people
  • I became an athlete
  • I changed my job
  • I changed how I think
  • I started pursuing a new mission in life
  • I leaned into vulnerability and shared my journey publicly

Throughout this transformation, people have asked me what the hardest part has been. As I have explained in multiple posts, it has been the mental portion of the journey and adjusting to the near-constant change.

Occasionally, just when I think my brain has successfully adjusted, something reminds me there is still work to do.

Surprise: I’ve got more work to do

Recently, this photo popped up in my Facebook memories, and it gave me all the feels – and not the good ones. This photo was an immediate reminder of the adjustment work I have left.

This is a photo from February of 2019. For a little context, I will explain what was happening in my life when this photo was taken.

  • It was four months after celebrating the symbolic finish line in my weight loss journey as I crossed the finish line in my first half marathon.
  • It was six weeks after concluding my eighteen-month weight loss journey.
  • It was just a couple weeks after reaching my lowest weight since I was a child, 194 pounds – which was 131 pounds lower than where I started my journey. For a point of reference, I was still considered “overweight” from a BMI standpoint – that’s insane.
  • I was about nine months into working with my trainer on post-weight-loss muscle development.
  • I was twenty months into a prolonged calorie deficit that my body would eventually reject.

To anybody outside of my head, this appears to be a picture I would celebrate as a reminder of my successful journey. But that isn’t how my brain processed it. My high-achiever brain found a way to look at that photo as a failure instead of a success. Hint: it involves numbers.

Fast-forward 5 years…

That photo of me at my lowest weight was five years ago… a lot can change in five years. This isn’t where I am today.

Here is a recent picture of what I look like today:

I am about fifty pounds heavier, two or three inches bigger, and my runs are slower. Needless to say, because all those numbers have gone the wrong way, they weigh heavily on my high-achiever brain. This picture really triggered my brain to focus on all the numbers that have gone the wrong way.

In short, I felt like the old picture was a better reflection of all the work I have put into my fitness journey, and today’s body doesn’t reflect my hard work.

Conversely, while I was spiraling from this picture, this was my most effective experience with pulling myself out of that spiral. I’m going to share why the spiral happened and how I escaped it so quickly.

You see with your eyes… or do you?

Here’s the problem with this situation… I’m full of crap!

Here’s a secret that I didn’t know until I went through such a radical body change… you don’t actually see with your eyes. Seeing isn’t believing.

Your eyes collect information and feed it to your brain. Once your brain gets that information, it is processed through lots of emotional filters. Everything we see is evaluated by our brain, which is loaded with subconscious biases. This is why I can look in a mirror multiple times within a day (or even an hour) and see a very different body on the other side. That’s not hyperbole, but it is a terrible pain in the ass!

So, how was I full of crap? I just explained three numbers that show that I have slipped backward: weight, size and speed. My brain tried using those numbers to prove that I was failing.

Those three numbers don’t tell the whole story… they are selective facts my brain chose to reinforce my emotional view that I’m not successful.

Sometimes you have to challenge what you see…

There are a variety of other facts my brain could have focused on that would have told a different story.

  • My strength has increased significantly. In the picture from five years ago, I could barely lift more weight than an empty barbell. Since that picture, I have set many new weightlifting personal records.
  • All of my scrawny muscle groups have grown since that original picture. My biceps have increased by over an inch, and lower body workouts have done wonders for my legs, thighs and glute (you certainly don’t see a big butt in that original pic).
  • I run more than 500 miles every year, and I prioritize recovery and balance in my workout routine.
  • My current body’s “problem areas” were the same “problem areas” on my smaller body, but my core is bigger now (lots of weight training can do that). The only “solution” to those “problem areas” is a high-risk, invasive surgery I am unwilling to consider.
  • I have stopped logging my food and haven’t weighed myself since fall!

But it doesn’t all have to be about my weight and body; there are lots of other facts that reinforce my success… here are a few examples:

  • I have published four books since that first picture.
  • I have become a coach and am helping many others achieve their goals – my new-found mission.
  • I stopped climbing the corporate ladder and found a company that feels like home.

Not to mention, I need to give myself more credit and maybe compare my body to this picture instead.

By challenging what I saw and the story I was telling myself, I reminded myself that I was not failing. I am kicking ass like few others!

When in doubt, talk it out…

As I have repeatedly said, one of my Project Manage Your Life strategies is “don’t go it alone.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I was doing when I got triggered by that old photo. So, I decided to follow my own advice.

I reached out to three people I trust to discuss the situation with them instead of stewing in my emotions alone. By talking to other people about my feelings, I was able to process them more effectively. Like many high-achievers, I am also an external processor, which means my brain works best by talking, writing or creating versus quiet contemplation (or stewing).

Not only did talking through my story help, but I also got other perspectives. I got to hear points of view from people who were seeing me with eyes that were NOT being processed through my filters. These objective perspectives (hey, that rhymes) were unbelievably helpful.

How do you challenge your false story?

I know I’m not alone in my experience with getting triggered by photos or other things. This is a common occurrence that happens for all of us. We all tend to tell ourselves stories that aren’t necessarily based on facts. Here are some tactics you can try when it happens to you:

  1. Ask yourself if you’re full of crap: yes, you might be seeing something that’s simply not the truth. When this happens, ask yourself if there are other facts you aren’t seeing that might change the story.
  2. Silence the lies: if this keeps happening, it might be time for you to silence the lies you are telling yourself. In my Operation Melt Resources, I have a free downloadable tool you can use to reprogram your brain if it keeps telling you the same lies.
  3. Don’t go it alone: when you are struggling with a crappy story you are telling yourself, reach out to a trusted friend or supporter and talk it out. There is no need to try to carry this by yourself.
  4. Friend or foe: stop being a jerk to yourself! When you continue looking for ways to demean yourself, your brain will start believing you. Maybe consider only saying good things about yourself. One effective way of doing this involves PostIT notes. On a PostIT, write three things you would want your BFF to tell you when you are having a bad day. Hang these PostIT notes on your bathroom mirror and read them to yourself every morning (and whenever you are struggling). This is a great way to start becoming a friend to yourself. This worked wonderfully for Kate in Seasons of Transformation!

Finally, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that nobody gives a shit. Nobody but you is paying attention to how much weight you lost, gained or lifted today. Nobody but you is paying attention to the inches you’ve lost, gained or miles you’ve run. You are the only one paying close enough attention to see your flaws and imperfections. I know that doesn’t magically change the feelings, but I hope it makes it a little less painful to know that you aren’t failing in the world’s eyes.

Are you struggling with the negative stories you are telling yourself? Are you feeling like crap and want to feel better about the path you are on? Do you want to take control of your brain and turn it into an ally instead of an adversary? These are all things that coaching can help you achieve. I am a certified Master Life Coach who has experienced these issues myself. I would be happy to help you find a different path. Let’s go!

I believe in you; let me help YOU believe in you!

Click here to schedule a chat about your goals.

Meet Coach Tony

My name is Coach Tony, and I am a coach, author and project manager on a mission. I am working to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

I almost allowed one of my biggest life goals to die without ever being attempted for forty years. My goal almost died, not of failure but of loneliness. But, I took a risk and leveraged a simple, logical process that helped me wildly exceed my goal. 

I transformed my life, and you can do the same with the help of Operation Melt. 

Operation Melt provides engaging, practical content and hands-on coaching to inspire, motivate and equip project managers and other left-brained high-achievers to pursue and accomplish their biggest goals. 

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Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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