Karen’s Immunity to Change Map for Weight Loss

Last week, I wrote a long post about immunity to change. This week I promised to share my immunity to change map and to explain how to test big assumptions. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

But in the comments section of last week’s post, tribe member Susan Millard stopped me in my tracks. She wrote, “Wow! This is heavy work. Maybe it’s because I am tired right now, but I am having trouble following it all.”

Mea culpa, folks. I probably should have held off introducing this idea at one of the busiest and most stressful times of year. I should have reassured everyone that there are maybe 500 great methods for personal change, 499 of them easier than this one. The 80/20 post is one example, and looking for the bright spots is another. We will be considering many more over time. So if you aren’t feeling ready for this granddaddy of all change efforts, please stop reading right now. Come back when you are ready. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

Why I Have to Make My Immunity to Change Map at this Worst Possible Time of Year

I’m really tired, but not from a 9-5 job, family commitments, or even Christmas shopping and baking. I am flat out exhausted and demoralized from making plans. 

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

I make plans for EVERYTHING. All of my plans fail because they are about me doing things perfectly. For example, at some yet-to-be-determined future date, my morning routine will include: a vigorous hour of cardio, morning pages, work on a book, meditation, and art. I will also eat only healthy foods and won’t ever crave sugar. I will enjoy a deep and restful eight hours of sleep every night without ever getting up to pee. You get the idea.

Before I enact any of these plans, I need to clear the decks. Clearing the decks is my all-time favourite activity. It’s when I give myself permission to not do any of the above. Instead, I organize papers and computer folders, clean out my inbox, and research my plans. I also eat like I’m never going to see candy, BBQ potato chips or chocolate ever again. Eventually my chosen ‘day of perfection’ rolls around and I try, I really do. By mid-morning I am exhausted and angry that I am putting myself through this torture. I decide that I need a few more days to clear the decks and I set a new date.

2017 is around the corner and I simply cannot go into a new year behaving this way. Things have to change.

Why my Immunity to Change Map is about Weight Loss

It’s understandable if you’d expect my immunity to change map to be about perfection. And, in a way, it is. It is also about a larger issue for me – transformation. I love the concept of transformation, which is defined as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.” In fact, transformation and immersion (absorbing involvement) are my two favourite words. You can see my problem.

My improvement goal is about perfection specifically as it applies to weight loss because I am so tired of feeling enslaved to this issue. I see myself, and others see me, as a highly disciplined person. During my big career, I always had book deadlines in the midst of major speaking tours but I kept going. I kept going to the point of massive burnout,  which admittedly wasn’t good, but I didn’t quit.

I got rid of thirty pounds when I was recovering from burnout. Losing that weight wasn’t difficult. After all, I wasn’t eating conference centre danishes and room service pasta. I was getting eight hours of sleep along with an afternoon nap, and I was walking a lot. I may have been feeling obliterated and demoralized but I was  free of obsessing about weight for the first and, as it happens, the ONLY time in my life.

However, instead of continuing and losing the final twenty pounds, I am back to sabotaging every tiny moment of progress. I am an intelligent woman but this is not intelligent behaviour.

This is So Personal

My publisher was always asking me to blog about my life– “Talk about walking around your pond with your dog. Talk about what you do in a typical day. Your readers want to feel that they know you.”

I refused every time, arguing that I was too busy and, anyway, no one would care. Now I’m writing constantly about every little detail of my journey and I’m asking you to write about yours. Life is funny.

What is most personal is most universal.

Carl Rogers

I bought Right Weight Right MindRobert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s book about their immunity to change process applied to weight loss. They write that, “Over and over we have seen that when one person creates an honest and probing immunity to change map for herself, it speaks to something within all of us.”

That’s why I’m writing. Whatever issue you are struggling with, I hope this post speaks to you.

The rest of the post details what I have learned from completing the immunity to change map. I talk about new learning one column of the map at a time. If you decide to try this process yourself, you should therefore read both this post and the first, more detailed, one about immunity to change.

I give some examples from my map as I talk about each column, but if you want to see the whole map, you can download it here

Column 1: My Improvement Goal

.weathervane in a clear sky to show setting an improvement goal
My first attempt at a goal was “Lose 20 pounds.” But that’s not an improvement goal, it’s a result.

The second effort wasn’t much better. While I  want my “outer self  to match and reflect my inner self–fit, strong, and energetic,” I’m missing the focus on what I need to change.

Using a sentence starter helps. “I am committed to getting better at making mindful choices and decisions in the moment.” I like that this goal applies to many aspects of my life, not just weight loss.

By the way, I came to this final version of an improvement goal while in the shower. Filling out an immunity to change map is hard work. Be prepared for answers to come when you least expect them.

Column 2: Behaviours that Work Against My Goal

This was an easy column to complete. I am all too aware of my failings. Here are six behaviours that work against achievement of my goal. Do any of them resonate for you?

  1. When people compliment me on losing weight or looking rested or being strong, I immediately (that very day) eat lots of sugar with mindless intensity.
  2. I choose dates in the future when I plan to be perfect, and I eat like a starving woman up until that moment.
  3. Work (even unpaid work like this website) takes priority over sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and self-care.
  4. I am harshly critical of myself when I eat compulsively.
  5. I binge on large quantities of candies, BBQ chips and chocolates and try to sicken myself with them before the Monday/first of the month when I’m going to be perfect.
  6. When I feel any intense emotion, especially anger, I crave food.

If you record reasons for undermining your goals or plans for what you will do differently in the future, you have gone off track. Remember to keep these notes focused exclusively on current behaviours.

Column 3: My Hidden Competing Commitments

This column was really difficult to complete. The idea is to look one at a time at the behaviours in column two. For each behaviour, imagine doing the exact opposite of what you’ve written. So, if I say “When people compliment me on losing weight I immediately eat lots of sugar,” I need to imagine accepting the compliment, feeling pleased and maybe grabbing a piece of fruit.woman battling way through undergrowth of jungle

Then I need to sit with that idea, really letting it play out in mind and body, so I can identify what scares me about accepting the compliment.

I make the common mistake of coming up with a fear based on continuing the column two behaviour. My first draft response was “I am afraid that if I keep eating sugar in response to compliments, I’m going to develop serious health problems.”

My fear of accepting the compliment is quite different and rather scary. I am afraid that if I am satisfied with myself and don’t have a major transformation to anticipate, my life has no purpose – to me or to others.

The final step in this column is to convert the fear into a commitment. To continue my example – “I am committed to not losing the excitement and promise of transformation.”

I did not put my most significant fear in the worry box. I don’t need to do that to see how my hidden competing commitments are keeping me with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. The car that is my life is revving like crazy and going absolutely nowhere.

Column 4: Big Assumptions

I found that once I got the column three language right, my big assumptions wrote themselves.

To continue with my example, the big assumption I am making is that “transformation is the only meaningful purpose of my life.”

If you need more help with your big assumptions, Kegan and Lahey remind us to look for places of all or nothing thinking; ideas about what we absolutely cannot do or should not do.

Next Steps in my Immunity to Change Map

I reviewed my map. I checked to see that my big assumptions made the third column competing commitments absolutely necessary; that the third column commitments led to my second column behaviours, and that those behaviours are undermining my first column goals. Yup, yup, and yup.

The immunity to change map is supposed to fascinate me and it does. It also horrifies and exhausts me. I am deeply distressed by what’s going on in my brain. Kegan and Lahey go to great lengths to reassure. They remind me that my immunity to change system is being “intelligent, reasonable and faithful to hidden parts of myself.”  I just want my problems to be gone.

I’m not alone in my resistance. A publisher who declined publishing Right Weight Right Mind wrote, “People would rather buy a book that will give them a fast solution that doesn’t work than a slower one that does.”

I am fighting an almost overwhelming desire to do some more research and make a new plan. At the very least I want to take the next step in this process, which is to test my big assumptions. But it turns out that there is a step I have to take first and that is simply to observe. For the next two weeks, without changing any behaviours, I’m to notice and write down situations where a big assumption gets in my way. I am also to record what the big assumption cost me and what I am thinking and feeling.

I will be back to you in a couple of weeks with a progress report, and the next steps in the process.

Please share if anything in my experience is resonating for you. I’d love to know that I’m not alone!

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  1. Wow, Karen, this article had me laughing at times “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!” and silently nodding my head at times “The car that is my life is revving like crazy and going absolutely nowhere.” A lot of what you said resonates with me too.

    I can identify with points #1,3,4 and 6 in Column Two Behaviours. You are most definitely NOT alone. Here’s the thing, though. I feel like the car that is MY life is on the shoulder of the road, stalled and I am frantically rooting around under the seats and in the glove box trying to find the manual that will get it running again.

    Thank you for sharing your Immunity To Change Map with us…it is much easier to get a grasp on how to fill one out when you have an example of what a filled out one looks like. Through your examples, I can see how I would need to apply the various columns to my life.

    That is the beauty of this tribe, though, right? We can do this together and face bigger obstacles than we ever could alone. So maybe, just maybe, we can get both our cars working properly and taking us where we want and need to go. 🙂 What do you think?

    1. I love your ‘can do’ attitude, Susan. It’s refreshing and inspiring and oh so comforting to have this wonderful tribe of women connecting and talking. I have to believe that many others of our tribe are reading my words and yours and, when life settles a bit or when they feel more comfortable, they will join in with their voices.
      I love the way you’ve extended the cars metaphor. Yes indeed, let’s get these cars off the side of the road and zipping along the highway to some wonderful destinations. We’ll do it together!

      1. Thanks, Karen, it is easy to have a ‘can do’ attitude when you have support like this website provides. I like that a tribe of women, like ours, across the globe, can all band together to be heard, understood and help each other. Who can better understand the unique challenges we face as women?

        I hope that other members of the tribe are reading our words. I don’t mind being here to use my voice to respond to articles, take up challenges and be vulnerable to prove this can work. Sometimes all it takes is for a few to lead the way before more and more follow. I would love to hear their voices too. 🙂

        LOL, I am glad you like what I did with the cars. 😉 I am really glad to read your last sentence in your response. That is what tribes are all about! 🙂 Yay!!!

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