When It’s Not Working | Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms with Dr. Priyanka Venugopal

Episode #17: When It’s Not Working

Jul 26, 2022

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How often have you crafted a plan and put it into motion, only to be disappointed with your results? If you find that you often default to an automatic, reflexive three-word thought that sounds like, “It’s not working,” you’re in the right place.

“It’s not working” is a simple but potent sentence that is a myopic, surface-level interpretation of your results, and I like to call it the poison pill of your dreams. I know it might sound dramatic, but when we’re constantly focusing on our outcomes and labeling them in this way, we’re quite literally working in opposition to the keys to reaching your ideal weight: simplicity and joy.

Join me this week to discover how, “It’s not working,” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and how to obliterate it from your life and weight loss journey. I’m showing you why we tend to define our results in this way, what happens when you hold on to this sentence as a proclamation, and how to stop steeping your brain in this habitual thought.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:


  • Why we tend to think about our results through the lens of either, “It’s working,” or, “It’s not working.”
  • How your myopic interpretation of your results is keeping you from reaching your ideal weight.
  • Why “It’s not working” is a lazy thought.
  • 10 problems with keeping your brain steeped in this three-word sentence.
  • What you can do if you notice, “It’s not working” coming up for you often.
  • How believing, “It’s not working” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.



Listen to the Full Episode:



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Full Episode Transcript:

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Hey, I'm Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms, Episode 17: When It's Not Working.

Today is the baby sister of last week's episode, Partnering With the Scale. We are talking all about a potent, three word sentence I'm all too personally familiar with, and I think you might be too.

The sentence is: "it's not working." 

How often have you crafted a plan, put it into motion only to be disappointed with your implementation and the results. And this simple yet potent sentence becomes a pretty automatic and reflexive thought that you have about your results. It is also a self-fulfilling prophecy that I want to help you obliterate today.

If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions [00:01:00] infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you. 

Ready? Let's get to it.

Hey, Unstoppable friends. 

We are in my house right now in throws of packing up our home and moving.... and it's really been a bittersweet past few weeks because while I am so thrilled and excited about the adventure that lies ahead for us, I feel quite sad about leaving my home and leaving New Jersey, which has really been home for me for, I mean, forever. 

And right now what I would say I'm at that moment where my home looks like some wild animals got in and emptied out every drawer and closet onto the [00:02:00] floor, but I'm also allowing myself to see the progress that we have been making and we are getting it done. I think that, I keep thinking about our moving date next week.... and I know we're going to get it done just because we will, but here's what is so interesting and why I'm even sharing this is I have no evidence yet.


Like the moving trucks are coming next week, but I have zero, absolute evidence in hand that we are going to get it done by next week.... And yet here I am telling all of you that I just know we're going to get it done, because I just know it and I believe it so deeply. 

I would say this group right here, all of us here in this room, listening together are an evidence based group.

Am I right? 

We are working moms driven by science and evidence and I would probably say that I am in biggest evidence camp.

I love the evidence and the science and the data. I'm someone that will [00:03:00] say, show me the facts and I am on board. I think that we have spent decades really defining when something is working or not working based on tangible evidence. 

It's like, I get results that I want and then I get to believe it's working.

Or I get results that I don't want and all of a sudden, I start to believe it's not working. 

And while this might be true, in a sense, I would also argue that it's a fairly my myopic and surface level interpretation of the results and the data that keeps what I like to call... not to be too dramatic the poison pill of your dreams.

Am I being a little bit dramatic? maybe a little bit.

Now while this myopic and surface level way of thinking it's working or it's not working has been incredibly useful in some areas of our life, when it comes to reaching your ideal weight, it is the poison pill to reach [00:04:00] your dream.

First, let's just talk about how this surface level way of thinking has worked well. When you think "it's not working," you will feel that swift kick in the butt. Right. Your inner monologue screaming, "go make it work then!!!" This is extremely effective in the short term, that emergency situation to squeeze out some adrenaline into your body to put you into massive action.

The example that immediately comes to my mind is, of course, a medical emergency. You have that unstable patient in front of you, and you're going down your list of medical interventions. You start with the very first thing and it doesn't work.... and then you get to the next thing and then that doesn't work... and then the third and then the fourth and the whole time, because you are the physician running the code or handling and managing the unstable patient. 

Your brain is yelling at you: "This isn't working, make it work." 

And so that adrenaline drives you to make quick decisions, driving you to take massive action, [00:05:00] to help stabilize the patient.

Now, if you're a physician listening to this, you know exactly what I mean. You're running the code, you're leading the team and you're making fast decisions until you can get to a stable patient.

Let me share a less emergent example just for a second. My moving story is probably a good example. When I think "it's not working, go make it work." 

I am taking some massive actions over this next week. I'm staying up late. I'm delegating, I'm hiring help. I might even push back the moving date to make it work. And the adrenaline that I'm feeling on a moment to moment basis every time I look around my wild animal house, I feel that rush of adrenaline in my body that drives me to take some massive action in this short period of time. And this is what I have called on here as grit and grind. 

We're able to have that kick in the pants that rush of adrenaline to do temporary work in this very grit and grind, massive action way. 

[00:06:00] Now what I would say about this rush of adrenaline and this grit grind is it's very functional and normal when it's for short periods of time.

And I also want to just share that it's very normal for your brain to go here because we have a natural bias towards looking at negative outcomes to be able to scream, "make it work!" 

Now our bias towards negative outcomes or evaluating "negative results" is simply a survival mechanism. Now here's the question that I really have for you.

Do you want to lose weight and to reach your ideal weight and then maintain it from this place? 

I would say for most of us listening to this podcast, that for most of us, the answer is no. 

I want to bring you back to the very, very first principles that I shared on this podcast. To really reach your ideal weight permanently really [00:07:00] does mean infusing your life and your weight loss journey with more simplicity and joy. And when we're constantly focusing on outcomes and labeling them as negative and thinking "it's not working," we're literally doing the opposite of simple and joyous. 

Am I right? I would say, if you experience a lot of worry or nervousness or anxiety around your weight loss results, it might be because you've been steeping your brain in that three word sentence: "it's not working" for quite a while or some flavor of that, like "it might not work." 

Now, first of all, let's just preface this by saying it's completely okay and you're not alone if this is something that you've been doing. And it's the reason that I'm dedicating today's whole podcast episode to this three word sentence.

I'll be the very first to raise my hand and say, I am completely guilty of thinking it's not working, or it [00:08:00] might not work. All too often. And when we go to a thought very reflexively and very commonly, it's what I like to call a habit thought. 

It's just two neurons in your brain that have fired hundreds and thousands and maybe millions of times so much so that your brain very quickly goes there.

Now here's the trouble when our brains very quickly go to a habit thought and especially a thought like this. We become a little too reliant on this way of thinking. And I'm going to go out on the limb and be really scandalous for just a moment. This thought "it's not working" is the laziest thought that we can have about our results.

 I know that this is really tough to hear, but when we go to "it's not working" and we just leave it right there, we don't dig any deeper or evaluate any further the reason that I'm calling this a lazy thought is because we then never have to really uncover the truth. We never have [00:09:00] to do the deeper work that I'm going to be sharing with you today.

So the reason that "it's not working" is the lazy thought is because it blocks you from the real work and the real work is answering the way more impactful question, which is: why isn't it working? 

Now before we can get to that and really answer that question with honest vulnerability, let's just stay here for just a moment.

This potent three word, very reflexive, very practiced thought that we all have: "it's not working." I'm going to share with you the 10 problems with keeping this three word sentence in your very automatic way of thinking and then we are going to move on with what you can do if you notice that this comes up for you.

Now, there are probably way more than 10, but I'm going to share with you the 10, most common things that I see when you think "it's not working." 

Number one: you throw it all away and you keep starting from scratch. [00:10:00] How often do you create a game plan and you start making progress towards something and maybe you don't love the result and so what we do is we throw it all away and we start back from scratch.... wasting a lot of time and bandwidth reinventing the wheel every single time we don't like the result. 

Number two:, when you think "it's not working" you hold back and you never really go all in on implementing and executing the plan that you created.

Number three: you're unwilling to be flexible ,experiment and really make potent decisions. So you stay in a holding pattern longer. This means that you don't make those clear and potent decisions because you're waffling back and forth in indecision. When you waffle back and forth on the decision making and you don't make clear and potent decisions, you end up staying at a standstill and in this holding pattern for even longer, creating more of that result.

[00:11:00] Number four: when you think it's not working, you're way more likely to hold onto perfectionism thinking, which is going to get its whole podcast episode at some point in the future. The perfectionism mindset is really to be very honest, just a fear of failure in disguise, and it goes back to points number one, two, and three, where you're unwilling to be flexible, experiment and make really potent decisions. 

Number five: when you think "it's not working," you're way more likely to blame, shame, and judge the actions that have created the result rather than practice, complete curiosity around what created the result.

Number six: when you think "it's not working," you won't actually see very clearly what is working and build on it. 

Number seven: when you think "it's not working," you are way more likely to quit at the smallest obstacle, which [00:12:00] is the real reason that it stops working. Or you go into extreme impatience, which means maybe you just give it a day or a few days, or maybe a couple of weeks and when you don't see results, fast enough, you're quick to quit also. 

Number eight: because you keep starting, stopping, starting, and stopping you end up doing a lot more work than is actually necessary to lose weight with ease. And so you start burning out, which leads to the ultimate quit. 

Number nine: thinking that "it's not working," keeps you at the surface level. This is kind of what I was sharing a few moments ago around it being the laziest thought that we can have. It takes you off of the proverbial hook, where you can just throw your hands up in the air and never have to do the deeper work. And yes, this requires more of your attention. Honestly, it might feel like relief in the moment to take yourself off of the proverbial hook, but I promise you when you withhold these results for longer, it [00:13:00] doesn't actually feel good. 

And number 10: when you think "it's not working" often enough, you start to make it mean something about your inherent self. You start to think. I'm not working. You make it mean that you're incapable, you might make it mean that you'll never figure it out.... and you start to make it mean that somehow you are missing something. 

Worst of all, when you think "it's not working" often enough, you make it your reality. Like I shared in last week's episode, it becomes your self fulfilling prophecy because of these 10 reasons that I just described. 

And guess what happens?

It doesn't work... and it stays not working because you don't figure it out. 

Just proving yourself right. 

So, what we are establishing here is that regardless of the evidence, right in front of you, regardless of the three digit number that you see when you step on the scale, [00:14:00] when you think "it's not working," there are at least 10 reasons that you continue to prove yourself right.

So let's be really clear.

It's never that three digit number that does this. 

It's the way that you think about three digit number. 

And yes, while this thought that you have thought thousands and thousands of times feels like a fact, this thought is completely optional. And what I'm sharing with you in this episode today is that this three word sentence, this potent thought of it's not working, starts to become your reality.

Now the real facts are that the three digit number on the scale and what your body looks like and feels like right now is just a neutral fact. And what we get to do together is to decide what we want to think about that three digit number on purpose. 

Hold up, but Priyanka, what if.... just for real, what if it [00:15:00] isn't working?

Okay. So I hear you, I hear what you're saying, when you have those real life examples of the number going up or the number not changing despite you taking action. 

I totally hear you and listen. Even if you have that tangible evidence right in front of you, I'm still going to say that, that three word sentence, while it might even be true, is a completely useless thought. 

Because it's 100% of the time wasting bandwidth away from figuring out a solution. When you think "it's not working" like a proclamation, you will never, ever, ever discover specifically what it is that isn't working. And so then you completely block yourself from crafting a solution.

Now let's just get into a specific example, when it comes to weight loss. 

Let's say you want to lose 20 pounds over the next six months. And so you break this down and [00:16:00] you create a plan and you start implementing, and then you step on the scale this morning and you see no change, the same three digit number that maybe you saw yesterday or last week or last month.

Now we can totally make the argument, "it's not working" because the data hasn't changed. The evidence in front of you is like, it's not working. You wanted that three digit number to be down and it isn't. So absolutely we can totally make the argument: it's not working. 

But what really happens when you say this three word sentence, like a proclamation, like a sentence, and that's the end of it-- you completely block yourself from really uncovering the specific reasons for why it's not working. 

It ends up being your end of the road. 

And it naturally leads to those 10 problems that I was sharing with you, which keeps it not working longer. 

And when we keep this paradigm of "it's not working" like a proclamation, you end up throwing away the whole [00:17:00] plan, starting and stopping from scratch, breaking up with your goal for a few moments for a few weeks, for a whole season, you start worrying about tomorrow's ability and you start questioning your past.

So much of your bandwidth thinks that you're missing something and it prevents you and holds you back from deeply doing the deeper work. So yes, the number hasn't changed, but what happens when you keep that potent three word sentence is your discovery of why doesn't change either, which keeps you at this number longer.

Do you see what I mean about this being a self-fulfilling prophecy? 

I'm way more interested in us discovering why something isn't working and honestly, with a vulnerability answering that question. Rather than staying at the very surface level statement of it's not working. 

Now, here's the caveat with this. Answering the question of why [00:18:00] something is not working while it can be simple, might feel hard for you. And I'm okay with that because yes, it might be hard to answer some of these questions and step into ownership for how your decision making might be creating this result.... but when you truly answer these questions, you will start to discover data and information and start to utilize that to pivot and create actual results.

So let's just talk through turning your bias towards negative outcomes around. 

So no matter what that three digit number ever reads on the scale, you never have to swallow the poison pill for your dreams ever again. 

Let's just do a model together. 

Just a quick recap for how the think-feel-act cycle can really help create the results that you're creating.

When you think "it's not working," what emotion do you feel? [00:19:00] 

And when you feel that way, what do you specifically do or not do? 

Just pause here or come back to this moment in the episode and really get granular and detailed and write down what it is that comes up for you specifically.

I know for me, when I don't like a tangible result in my life and I reflexively think it's not working, the emotion that I feel is defeated.

I'm very familiar with this emotion.

I feel a sinking feeling in my body that starts in my chest and it's this pulling sensation down to the pit of my stomach. And when I feel this way and I stay here, there's a few things that I do. 

I absolutely do a mini quit. 

I proverbially hide under the covers and forget my goals.

Sometimes I wander into the pantry and eat and drink without much attention at all. 

And I'll find myself overworking and over planning for tomorrow and creating [00:20:00] more strict and harder timelines. When I'm feeling that defeat, I don't naturally access my curiosity or my patience because I'm in such a rush to feel better.

I want to get out of the feeling of defeat. 

So pause here and come back and do your model. 

When you see something, a result that's tangible that you don't like, and you think reflexively, "it's not working" how do you feel? 

Just describe that for a moment. What does it feel like in your body? And then write down how you show up, what do you do or not do when you think that way and when you feel that way? 

Now, because this is such a reflexive and practice thought, you might think it's not working often. So what is it that we can do together starting now to really help resolve and solve for this? The very first thing that I want to invite you to consider doing is to catch it with [00:21:00] compassion.

So now that you've written your model out, you can catch yourself in action. You can catch yourself in that emotion. You can find yourself about to do a mini quit and gently notice, "oh, this is just me telling myself that very practice thought of it's not working." 

Catching yourself in compassion is truly the very, very first step that we can ever really take to turn it around.

And when you catch something with compassion, you get to create just a little bit of distance between you and that result. 

And then step two is to ask yourself the harder question. I wonder what it is exactly that isn't working and why. 

Spend time here and be comprehensive. 

If the answer had nothing to do with your inherent abilities, what would you come up with?

Now this answer and really answering this question [00:22:00] requires some effort to uncover and I want to have you sit with this question for more than just a few moments. When you answered this question and know that your answer has nothing to do with your inherent skills for abilities, you start to write the roadmap to reaching your ideal weight and let it take however long it takes to uncover.

Don't be in a rush to answer this question, just sit with it and see what comes up. 

What we know is when we aren't thinking "it's not working" I want you to imagine what you might be thinking instead. And before we can really answer that because your answer's going to be completely unique to you I want to share a visual that I think is really helpful.

When we really think about that future result that you don't have in hand yet when you don't have the evidence or the data right in front of you, it requires a stretch of your imagination. 

It [00:23:00] requires some belief and faith, like a seed that you can plant in the ground and your only job is to show up and water it daily... to take care of that seed, to ensure that she's getting a warm sun and some water and know that it's not exactly your business to know when she's going to sprout out of the ground. 

And it's not exactly your business to know when every flower will bloom. 

But just know that she absolutely will if you are committed to her showing up in consistent care.

You have to believe on purpose to drive you to water her daily and make sure she's getting that warm sun and the nutrients that she needs, that she is going to sprout, that it will absolutely work and it's of course going to happen. 

Because when you think that way on purpose, often and daily, you start to create that feeling in your bones, that committed motivation, which is what drives you to stay [00:24:00] consistent.

And the beauty of this is that that's when you start to reap the benefits of your belief and faith. Because that's when she gets to sprout out of the ground. 

And here's, what's so fun about this. When you start to reap the benefits, when you start to see her sprout out of the ground and bloom her flowers, you start to strengthen your belief and your faith.

Talk about a real self fulfilling prophecy. 

Here's what I want to leave you with. 

The thought when it's done like a proclamation "it's not working" is literally a poison pill for your dreams. It's the wet blanket that will slow you down. And it is the wrong turn, you will make down a long detour. 

And there is an antidote to this poison pill that we are talking about today.

It's to notice yourself with compassion when you're thinking it. 

To catch yourself in the act, when you're about [00:25:00] to do one of those mini quits. 

To feel some patience and compassion for yourself here, knowing that it's really practiced.... and then to remind yourself of that UN- sprouted seed, knowing that it's only your business to show up consistently to water her and care for her.

And she'll sprout when she's ready and she's supposed to. 

And when you're feeling that belief and faith deep in your bones, will she actually sprout that you will in fact reach your ideal weight and lean into the harder work by asking yourself those more important questions. 

Sometimes it seems really hard or impossible to believe new things.

And if that's you, that's totally okay. 

You don't have to jump to brand new beliefs right now. But what I want you to start with is catching yourself in these old belief patterns and really uncovering what those old paradigms are creating for you. And when it [00:26:00] feels available to you, when you start to see the deeper impact of keeping this old belief pattern, you get to start making small shifts in 1% increments towards a much more powerful belief, which is "it's always working or I'm learning."

If you are loving this podcast, you are absolutely going to want to be on my email list. I love sending my email list with value dripping content. And if you wanna make your way into the Unstoppable universe, you absolutely can at theunstoppablemombrain.com/magic. 

I can't wait to see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms. It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more information or resources from the show, visit [00:27:00] theunstoppablemombrain.com.

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