Introduction: Using the F.I.R.M. program

Weight loss has to do with food. But it also has to do with the contours of your inner life, the quality of your relationships, and the nature of your commitment to making meaning and living your life purposes.

The acronym F.I.R.M stands for these four areas: food, inner life, relationships, and meaning and life purpose. If you do not pay attention to all four of these areas, you are unlikely to lose weight or to keep off the weight that you do lose. If you do pay attention to these four areas and do the work required, you will lose weight and keep that weight off.

This is not a program having to do with counting calories. It is a program designed to help you live a better life, one aspect of which is weight loss. Anyone who has wanted to lose weight knows that weight loss isn’t only about being disciplined or counting calories. It is much more about fundamental changes in the direction of living a life that makes you proud. It is much more about living your life purposes than about dieting.

I’ve worked as a creativity coach for thirty years. There is a clear parallel between a novelist who isn’t writing his novel and a person who wants to lose weight and can’t. Both have a strong desire: to have a novel written and to lose that weight. But desire isn’t enough. The novelist has to be reminded that writing his novel is not about accumulating words but about living his life purposes, one of which is to write. The overweight person has to be reminded that losing weight isn’t about counting calories but about living his life purposes, one of which is to lose weight. The central task is living your life purposes. Results flow from that fundamental orientation.

Naturally, what you eat matters. That’s why food and food-related issues come first. You will need to make all sorts of decisions about what you are eating, when you are eating, where you are eating, and so on. Those “traditional” dieting efforts all matter.

At the same time, your emotional health and inner life matter as well. If you have trouble tolerating difficult thoughts and feelings, if your past haunts you, if you don’t possess good anxiety management tools, stress management tools, and coping skills, all of that will negatively affect your ability to lose weight and keep that weight off.

Likewise, your relationships with the people around you—especially with your mate, if you have one, but also with your parents, your children, your siblings, your friends, and even your casual acquaintances if you eat and drink with them—matter as well. It will not work very well to diet during the week and then “lose your mind” and gorge with friends on the weekend. Nor will it work very well if the people around you do not support your weight loss efforts or clamor for the sorts of foods that you can’t resist. When it comes to weight loss, relationships matter.

The fourth area of the F.I.R.M. program is life purpose and meaning. It’s important that you get clear about how the psychological experiences of meaning and meaninglessness influence you, how “meaning crises” like boredom or a job you hate affect your ability to lose weight and keep that weight off, and how best to keep meaning afloat on a daily basis and actually live your life purposes.

Paying attention to these four areas—food, inner life, relationships, and meaning and life purpose—gives you the best chance possible to lose weight and keep that weight off. The hundreds of participants in my life purpose diet study group have benefited from this approach (and you will hear from some of them) and you can too. This is a complete program for living—with weight loss as the bonus!

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