Being a military spouse is exhilarating and wonderful until…
…your spouse goes on training or deploys for the first time and you’re left alone, with or without kids. It doesn’t matter if he’s deployed for the first time or the fifth time…part of the foundation of your wonderful life was removed from under you and you’re faced with going through a change in your life on less stable ground than you’ve been accustomed to.
Sometimes, the loneliness that shows up can lead to self-doubt, nervousness, insecurity, anxiousness, or depression. And a lot of times, to cope with these feelings, we turn to food. One source of our comfort is now deployed, so we replaced him or her with another source: food.
This doesn’t just happen to military spouses – it happens to anyone who isn’t aware of the immense feelings that arrive when our environment shifts rapidly.
And not everyone turns to food. Some turn to alcohol and start drinking more than they intended, some turn to shopping and spending money out in town or online, some turn to social media and bury their heads and their attention in other people’s lives, others turn to work and overwork themselves so as not to feel alone at home… Coping mechanisms are different for everyone.
There are consequences to some of the ways we cope. If you’re anything like I was when my husband deployed on a submarine, then you turned to food to feel better. The consequence was weight gain. And with weight gain came the stress and anxiety of wanting to lose it quickly – definitely before he came back home.
But no matter how much weight I lost, the weight always came back. Even on his second deployment (and his third, and fourth, and fifth…), I ALWAYS decided that I would use his deployment as my time to “get back in shape.” I don’t think I ever managed more than a five-pound loss. I think I actually gained weight instead, which made me feel even more like a failure, like all I did was eat while he was defending our country and working long days and sleeping a few hours a night.
I wanted to know how to actually lose weight and keep it off. And I wanted to know how to do this for myself without needing my husband to be deployed to start focusing my weight and health. That’s where nutrition education, personal training, and life coaching came in to complete the trifecta of permanent weight loss.
Losing Weight is Easy
Losing weight is actually easy, but weight loss is more than just losing weight…it’s keeping the weight off.
And that’s the real weight problem so many of us face today. We don’t know how to stop the pounds from coming back on.
If you’re overweight, then it’s because you’re overeating, meaning you’re consuming more food than your body actually needs. When your body receives more food than it needs, it stores the excess as fat.
Ideally, you want to eat in a way where your body is so efficient at using both the fuel (fat) already on your body and the food you feed it. Right now, if you’re overweight, then you’re just eating more than your body needs, which means you’re overeating. If you’re overeating, it does NOT mean you’re a neglectful wife, a bad mother, a pathetic role model, or a hypocrite, or anything demeaning like that.
Losing weight is easy because there are so many ways to lose weight. Just Google “weight loss” and you’ll find the latest of everything in the fitness, health, and dieting industry. In case you were curious, all diets share the same secret but in their own different flavors: you lose weight because they put you in a caloric deficit.
That’s how weight loss works in any diet.
However, the reasons diets don’t work is because:
1.) You can still gain weight or stall your weight loss if you eat too much of the food within that diet (such as Keto…eating too much fat and protein can still be a caloric surplus)
2.) When the diet is over, if you go back to eating the way you were before, then you start getting back your former results.
Here’s the thing…
It’s not the food or the diet that is the reason for the weight regain. That’s where the diet and fitness industries fall short and just keep filling our inboxes and Facebook feeds with the latest and newest supplements, Keto-friendly donut, Whole30-approved meal, etc.
If you’re like the majority of people in this day and age, when you start a diet with the intention of feeling better, slimmer, and healthier, you can barely remember the other half of the reason why you started the diet in the first place: you want to KEEP your weight loss results.
Otherwise, you’re losing and gaining weight so often that you become so mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted from the yo-yoing that you give up on that diet.
Like a lot of smart people, you know there’s more to living than constantly dieting. You want to keep your hard-earned results, but you don’t know how to, exactly.
That’s because that component of a successful weight loss plan isn’t easily Google-able. It’s not provided by the health and fitness industry because, honestly, they don’t know how to do it themselves.
So, How Do You Make Weight Loss Permanent?
You learn to manage your mind.
If you’re overweight, then it’s because you’re overeating. It’s as simple as that… but it’s also not so simple.
Food doesn’t get eaten just because it’s there, sitting in front of you. Just like you don’t go to the gym just because there’s a gym – it’s just a building with heavy stuff in it. Even if you have a home gym and workout videos – those videos don’t play themselves. So why do you eat the food you put in your mouth, and why do you lace up your shoes and go to the gym?
The reason you eat or drink the food that you do – the reason you do ANYTHING in life – is because of how you think it’s going to make you feel.
Our feelings are the most powerful experiences in our body because they compel us to act. Feelings are what drive our actions. They are the fuel to our actions.
We eat the salad because we think we’ll feel lighter, healthier, and happier. We go to the gym because we think we’ll feel strong, skinny, and sexy. We don’t feel that way after we arrive at the gym, we feel that way beforehand, on the way to, at the gym, and after our workout.
Think about it…why are you able to stick to a diet so well at the beginning?
You may not have been feeling very confident or happy with yourself in a particular moment. Maybe you were scrolling through your favorite fitness idols’ feeds on Instagram, or one of your friends on Facebook just announced another “weight loss success” milestone on her own journey to lose weight. You weren’t happy with your current body shape or you were sad about how the diet you had just tried a month ago got so easily brushed aside when “life got in the way,” like school, family visits, or work events and requirements.
In that moment, you decide to start again, or try something new that you’d been thinking about incorporating into your life, like workout bands for your legs or a new kitchen gadget, like the InstaPot, to help make meals ahead of time. You don’t like feeling defeated or sad about your current physique and your current daily habits, so you find a weight loss plan online, read some reviews, and sign up for it.
The motivation and excitement you feel when you think of what this new diet and workout plan will do for you is almost more than you can handle, especially after seeing all the Before-And-After pictures and reading their success stories from following that diet.
You get the workout bands and the InstaPot and you spend the first days and weeks diligently learning and applying everything you know so that you can make this your new lifestyle.
But then life starts getting in the way again, and you notice a familiar pattern beginning to show itself. You either feel determination to keep going or you feel the early stages of defeat, and your old lifestyle habits start coming back before the new ones you were working on even had a chance to become solid habits of their own.
You had been sticking to the new diet well at the beginning because of what you were making the diet mean to you and about you.
You made it mean transformation, a beautiful life, a desirable body, a healthier outlook on negative situations, and an abundant amount of confidence. These were feelings that you wanted to experience, and they felt so compelling that you decided to take action to get there. That’s how all diets start. It’s also how we hope all diets stay and last, but we know that every day isn’t easy, that confidence comes and goes.
So where do our feelings come from? And why aren’t certain feelings like motivation, certainty, confidence, and commitment with us all the time?
The answer is because every single one of our feelings comes from our thoughts. We have a thought, and at the atomic level, the thought literally materializes itself in our body as a feeling. A thought begins in our brain, and the neural connections that are made cascade their way down our body signaling a feeling that corresponds best. So, when you think about how good you’ll feel at the gym, you feel motivated, and you get in the car. You think about how successful you’ll be at managing your weight by eating a salad, which might make you feel encouraged, so you eat the salad.
This is the most important thing to understand because it will help you begin to manage your thoughts so that you can start losing weight the permanent way – whether your spouse is deployed or not.
One crucial concept to understand is this:
There are circumstances in our life, things that happen outside of us, that we cannot control.
These circumstances include things like the weather, our past, our spouse being deployed, other people, what other people say out loud (either about you, to you, or about themselves or others), the environment, death, etc. They are things that everyone in the world can agree on.
Where we make the mistake is that we think circumstances make us feel and act in certain ways. We blame what our supervisor said for making us feel ashamed and inadequate. We blame our kids for making us feel angry and upset. We blame the military and deployments for making us feel lonely or alone. We blame our diet for making us feel deprived. We blame the gym for being so far away to justify how lazy, bored, or insecure we may be feeling.
The thing is, circumstances never make us feel or do anything.
It’s our thoughts about the circumstances that make us feel the way we do. And, believe it or not, that’s the good news…We don’t have to control circumstances in order to feel better. We are always in control of what we think, how we feel, how we act, and over time, we’re in control of the results in our life.
Our thoughts, which are opinions we have about things around us – or images we visualize in our mind – are what we have control over 100% of the time. This is where your ability lies in feeling committed to staying on track with what you eat and when you exercise.
The thing is, just thinking about eating better and working out more is not enough. You must bring up that thought, that image that you visualize, as often as is needed so that you feel compelled, empowered, honest, and aware to show up for yourself. The more you show up, the closer you get to your desired results and the more they stick and become true habits.
You are in control of the images you visualize.
This is the kind of work that takes frequent, deliberate practice, like brushing your teeth every morning and evening, learning that you need to have your military dependent ID card with you at all times, and wearing the right attire when shopping at the commissary on a military base.
Think back to your past when you were incorporating brushing your teeth into your life. It wasn’t easy at first. When you were learning how to brush your teeth when you were little, you sometimes forgot the toothpaste on your brush, or you only brushed the bottom jaw, or you missed brushing your teeth in the mornings entirely. Now, you’re so efficient at habitually brushing your teeth that you can brush your teeth and check messages on your phone at the same time.
Think back on when you first got your military dependent ID card. It wasn’t a part of your lifestyle when you first got it, so sometimes you forgot it when you wanted to drive on base and the gate guard turned you around, or sometimes you forgot it when you were on base with your spouse shopping but you couldn’t make a purchase because you needed your dependent ID card, which you had left at home. Remember learning about wearing the “proper attire” at all times on base? I mean, come on, uniform rules for civilians? These changes didn’t feel natural at first, so they didn’t happen perfectly at first. Maybe you wore sandals to the commissary one day and a soldier stopped to correct you. Sometimes you forgot that tank tops weren’t allowed in the base theater, so you were asked to cover up. You messed up a few times, they were mistakes.
You learned from them.
You made more mistakes in different situations and learned from those moments, as well.
And now, brushing your teeth, wearing close-toed shoes, and leaving your depended ID card in your wallet feels natural to you.
That’s the level you want to get to when it comes to eating only what your body needs for fuel and exercising so that it’s something that is a part of you.
It takes cognitive effort at first, and that’s where a lot of people give up. The results don’t come as quickly as you want, so you think the process is not working.
But it is.
The more you think about the result you desire, the more your brain will learn to pay attention to it because it feels better than anything else.
Remember, we only do things because of how we think we’ll feel when we do them or when we get them.
This is the way the world works and how weight loss becomes a permanent reality, not a temporary glimpse of what’s truly possible.
Circumstances trigger our thoughts.
Our thoughts always create our feelings, which fuel our actions.
Over time, our actions create our results.
It all comes down to what you’re thinking and what you choose to think. That’s what the health and fitness industry don’t know how to bottle up and sell. It’s such a unique journey for every single person that it’s impossible to sell its solution in mass.
Only you can determine what you choose to believe, how you feel about your goals, and if you’re committed and willing to see them all the way through until you get the result you truly want.
The Question Now Is… How Do You Stop Overeating?
It’s simple. Eat the way that you envision yourself eating for the rest of your life. Eat in a way that will help you lose the weight but also in a way that you will live it, that you will want to be sustainable. Eat in a way that gets you the results you truly want for yourself.
The way you eat (your actions) determine your results (your weight and the shape of your body).
What you are feeling is driving the actions of eating and working out, and you’re only feeling compelled to do those things when you believe that you can.
That you can do it. That it’s possible for you (yes, even for you, even if you don’t quite believe it just yet).
Your commitment and your willingness come from a decision.
The thing is, you can follow through on any feeling, good or bad. You can follow a diet feeling deprived…same as you would go through a deployment feeling deprived. Or, you can follow a diet feeling fulfilled, same as you would a deployment. It all comes down to how you choose to feel as you work towards your goal.
You can take action from a place of feeling abundance or from a place of feeling scarcity. Only one way guarantees a more enjoyable experience, one that you will want to continue to experience.
That’s the work you must do. That’s the work that can be done if your spouse is deployed or not – you do it for yourself.
Losing weight for the last time, once and for all, is a mental strategy first and foremost.
Nicole Terwey is a Lieutenant and an Intelligence Officer in the Navy Reserves in Nashville, TN. She completed eight and a half years of active duty service in the Electronic Warfare community and earned her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership before building the next chapter of her life as a certified Life Coach, Weight Coach, and Fitness Coach. Nicole specializes in helping military women lose weight confidently and permanently, especially if they are struggling with losing weight and keeping the weight off after being on a diet. Her personal struggles with years of weight loss and weight regain at the Naval Academy and her time in Active Duty led her to find the true solution for permanent weight loss, which is the cognitive component, or the mental strategy. Combined with her knowledge, experience, training, and coaching skills, she now works with women in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard who are either in Active Duty, the Reserves, or the National Guard who want to lose weight once and for all.