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A Weight Loss Lesson From The World Of Golf

I don’t know about you but I find wisdom in the strangest places sometimes. A case in point presented itself to me while sitting in my doctor’s office waiting for an appointment recently. In an effort to pass the time, I found myself leafing through a magazine when a quote from an article caught my eye. After giving it a closer look, it dawned on me that this particular quote offered some keen insight for all of you who struggle with healthy living and weight loss. What was really fascinating about this article was that it was about golf and had absolutely nothing to do with dieting and weight loss. Nonetheless, it provided me with further evidence of something that I firmly believe – successful weight management is significantly more about what you think than what you do. With that said and since the 2019 Masters Tournament is underway at Augusta National Golf Club, let me offer you some low calorie food for thought today with a healthy dose of golf wisdom.

The article was about the mental part of golf and the quote that caught my attention was attributed to world famous golf coach Butch Harmon. It was his explanation regarding the basic difference between teaching and coaching that really grabbed my attention and made me think about all of those well-intentioned people who struggle with weight loss. First, let me share with you the quote that started me thinking about all of this. It concerned Mr. Harmon’s thoughts regarding the key difference between teaching and coaching when it comes to improving one’s golf game. All of you golfers out there should take notice. According to Harmon, “Teaching is creating a mechanical motion, within the framework of who they are and what their body can do,” whereas, “Coaching is getting through their head”.

As I read those words, I was immediately reminded of the slogan for the emotional eating program that I developed called The Inner Diet. The Inner Diet slogan goes as follows: You can’t change your weight until you change your mind! Mr. Harmon’s comments, regarding the difference between teaching and coaching, and The Inner Diet motto both allude to the following basic and undeniable fact that is best summed up in this famous old proverb: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. In other words, you can provide all of the pertinent information in the world to someone regarding change but until that intangible switch is thrown inside their head, all is often for naught. If you’re a professional who works in the health, weight loss or wellness world or just an individual trying to live a healthier life, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

Creating change, even though it absolutely requires learning some basic technical and strategic information, is primarily a cognitive event that takes place inside the individual’s mind. According to Mr. Harman’s quote you might say that teaching is knowledge and skill oriented whereas coaching is motivational and commitment oriented. I bet all of you golfers out there are nodding your heads in frustrated agreement.

In applying this notion to the health and weight loss arena, the obvious conclusion is this. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you must do more than simply acquire new knowledge regarding health, weight loss and nutrition. You must also change the way you think about food, eating and the significant role that you play in determining the actual outcome! After all, there is no doubt that what you do is a direct result of what you think because it’s your thoughts that direct your behavior. The key to taking new learning and turning it into new behavior, be it in golf or weight loss, lies in that intangible something that happens inside one’s head. Mr. Harmon has proven to be quite adept at making that happen with the professional golfers he has worked with over the years. A great professional golf coach will teach you much more than simple mechanics. They will also help you learn how to change the way you think about and approach the game.

I used to teach Educational Psychology and Learning Theory to college students years ago so I know a bit about learning and the best way to usher it in. In learning theory, one of the primary goals of teaching is something called Transfer. Transfer simply means taking the intellectual information that you have learned and then applying it in the real world. This is where the golf club truly meets the ball and it is also the flashpoint where many dieters run into trouble. That is, some people are very good at acquiring all of the technical information they need to know about nutrition and weight loss but fall short when it comes to transferring and applying that knowledge in their everyday life. Just like the golfer who is magnificent on the practice tee but then absolutely folds when the competition begins.

So, if you want to feel incredible power, a strong sense of personal satisfaction and give yourself all of the mental, emotional and physical health benefits that accompany weight loss, you must be both a great teacher and a great coach. As Mr. Harmon said above, coaching is getting through their head. Those who succeed at weight loss are those who are successful at actually changing the way they think about food, their body and their health.

For example, I have found that perpetual dieters are often great teachers. They do an incredible job of researching the data and teaching themselves everything there is to know about nutrition and, as a result, are an impressive fountain of information regarding the cold hard facts of weight loss. However, all of this information is of very little value if the technical and fact finding teacher can’t get through to the motivational and make-it-happen coach inside their head. I see this happen all the time and, as a result, what you too frequently end up with is someone who is a virtual encyclopedia of facts regarding nutrition and weight loss but always seems to fall short when it comes to applying that information to their daily life.
In summary, it takes much more than knowledge from the teacher to win the war on weight. It also takes motivation, dedication and a never give up attitude from the coach inside. Because, when all is said and done, I agree with Mr. Harman’s premise. It’s the coach inside you that really makes things happen. Even though I don’t claim to be bringing you any ground breaking, Nobel Prize winning information today, I do think that reminding one of the obvious is a good idea every now and again. So if lifestyle change is a goal you seek, Mr. Harmon and I have a golfing tip for you today. We suggest you have a real heart-toheart talk with your inner coach. Why? Because, in both golf and weight loss, you will never become who you want to be by remaining who you are!

Dr. John H. Sklare

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