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Weight Loss: If at First You Don’t Succeed…


…do you try again, or give up? There are plenty of stories about how one or two Clean Language sessions radically changed someone’s life. And what about all the sessions that gave someone a fantastic insight or two, but which did not result in the desired behavioural change?

…do you try again, or give up? If change is hard, do you see it through, however long it takes, or do you compromise on what you really want? There are plenty of stories about how one or two Clean Language sessions radically changed someone’s life. And what about all the sessions that gave someone a fantastic insight or two, but which did not result in the desired behavioural change?

My story is about losing weight. Not based on a single flash of inspiration, but with repeated attempts – and Clean Language sessions - over a long period of time, each of which has moved me forward in my quest to eat in a healthy way for good. After five years of accumulated learning, I believe I am now finally doing this.

Before that time, although I ate three meals a day, I also ate quite a lot of snacks – mainly biscuits, crisps, chocolate and cereal. And I didn’t like vegetables at all.

Then, about 5 years ago I decided to give Symbolic Modelling a go and I kept some notes from my session:

What would I like to have happen?

I would like to be at a healthy weight but not be on a diet, to have nice food without indulging and to know what’s healthy and to not miss out on treats.


  • When I have to stay in control it feels like being in prison
  • I want to be free - like flying on a seagull towards the sun with a long white tube in my body

I did well with my eating for a few weeks after the session. I counted calories, which meant cutting down on the snacks - but my old habits soon returned. Not I look back I think this was because (a) I didn’t really have a strong enough reason to take action and (b) although I had said I didn’t want to be on a diet, what I was doing was counting calories!

A couple of years later, after having given birth to my son, I had created another diet plan for myself and again needed help with sticking to it:

What would I like to have happen?

To stick to my diet plan and for it to be easy, so I don’t have to think about it, and to keep the weight off forever.


  • Being on the diet is represented by metal discs on the left side of my body. I don’t like the discs as they are very harsh and could cut me.
  • On my right side is ‘eating whatever i want’.
  • In the middle is a nice feeling, like a fluffy cocoon, like being carried along in a support. This represents ‘not thinking about it, second nature’.

Then what happens?

I develop a new metaphor of a hollow white metal tube that will prop me up and allow me to live in alignment with the centre of my body. I have to fill up the tube with all the things I want from my life, which includes eating in a healthy way.

And is there anything else about that?

This was all linked to concerns I have about living sustainably.

As with my first attempt, the session was followed by a few good dieting weeks, and then I slipped back into my old habits, then another long gap before the next session, which was in November last year:

What would I like to have happen?

To lose weight and be in calm control of my eating and my exercise.


  • A naughty hand that wants something different to what my head wants; it doesn’t like rules and refuses to believe it can’t have what it wants.
  • The pole now has some special rock in it. Life is about finding the rock, which is exciting and other people can capture some of your rock dust.

Then what happens?

It becomes very clear to me that I can’t have this rock unless I eat ‘greenly’ (growing my own food, eating local food, not eating too much meat, and not more food than I need). I am desperate to be able to do this, but although my head understands the theory of how to do this, my body doesn’t want to.

At this time, I was coming to the end of a permaculture course which had really opened my eyes to just how badly I was eating - in an environmental sense as well as a calorific sense. I’d had loads of ideas for things I could do to help people live a greener lifestyle, but when I imagined carrying out the ideas, I felt hypocritical. How could I ask other people to reduce their energy consumption when I was clearly having more than my fair share of food? I thought about how to get my own energy in balance before I started trying to help other people with their energy consumption.

These realisations gave me the ‘strong enough reason to bother to do it’ that had been lacking in the past. I decided to start on January 1st this year, and this time I asked myself a few clean questions:

What would you like to have happen?

To balance both my personal energy and my financial energy by the end of the year.


A circle around myself that encloses both my head and my hand and keeps them together wanting the same thing.

I wanted to eliminate all the reasons and excuses that would stop me achieving my goal, so I began recording everything I notice myself doing. This will also allow me to create my own model of how I lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

The first few months went really well and what I noticed was that if I did want to overeat, it was generally because of an emotional attachment to food. I couldn’t overcome this on my own, so I had one further Clean Language session:

What would you like to have happen?

I want to eliminate my emotional attachment to food.


  • I am on a running track, and I have jumped over lots of hurdles.
  • But the emotional attachments are a giant hurdle – lots of white boxes stacked on top of each other - and I am not allowed to knock them down. I have to climb over them.
  • Once I get over this hurdle, I will be allowed to run freely on a path, without hurdles or obstacles, between two beautiful hills for the rest of my life.

After the session I realised I can only start on the path once I reach my goal weight and not before. And then the obstacles will be gone, because I will have done it, and will be on that path.

Today is July 30th, and so far I’ve lost 2 stone (28lb / 12.7kg). I have at least another stone to lose, but I know with absolute certainty that I will do this by the end of the year. I am finding it easy, and although I slip up occasionally, I am able to get back to healthy eating within a few days because I now prefer to eat this way. I still have some work to do to reach the point where I can be on the path, but I know what I have to do and know I can do it. And I would also like at least one more session to find out ‘When I’m losing weight at my best, that’s like what?’…

By the way, the pole is still there, and all the things that I’m doing well and that are now part of me are inside the pole.

PS. When I read through all the notes I’d made of the various sessions, it made me laugh to see that in all but one I’d said I still need to be able to have a slice of cake!

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay 

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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