Continuous Improvement, Part I
Inside Out Weight Loss
Renee Stephens

Episode 9 - Continuous Improvement, Part I

Today we borrow a concept from Total Quality Management, the business concept that enabled Toyota to produce such high quality cars and become one of the world's biggest auto manufacturers. Kaizen, or continuous improvement will allow you to not only sustain the changes you've already made, but also continue to evolve and improve as you become naturally slender. Plus learn the surprising truth about willpower - why your problem may just be that you have too much of it. Finally, learn a simple technique, borrowed from a golf champion, to allow you to get better and better.



Renee Stephens: Welcome to Inside Out Weight Loss. I’m your host Renee Stephens and together we’re accessing the control panel of your mind/body system, bringing ease and joy to your weight loss journey and fullness to the rest of your life.

Renee Stephens: So what could building Toyota’s possibly have to do with becoming naturally slender. It has an awful lot, because what the Japanese learned is a concept called kaizen, or continuous improvement.

Renee Stephens: You have an incredible amount of willpower. The reason that you are not naturally slender already now is not for lack of willpower. Perhaps it’s for an excess of willpower.

Renee Stephens: Each night before you go to sleep you’re going to run through your day, and you’re going to think, “Is there any situation that I would like to do better next time?” This is not the woulda/shoulda/coulda, aren’t I a bozo. This is instead take a second chance. This is what you get to do. And you get to do it any time you want.

Renee Stephens: This is episode 9, Continuous Improvement. Have you listened to the prologue yet? Because if you haven’t, you’re missing out on some easy tips that will tell you how to get the most out of this program. You’ll also learn the details of my personal story. So be sure to tune in to episode 0 prologue. And by the way, how’s your support structure going? Remember we talked about that back in the early episodes? Do you have friends and family members who are on this journey with you? If not, now is the time. Who could you connect with? If you’re stumped, if you don’t know, go ahead and post a comment to today’s episode on the blog at Post that comment that tells us that you are looking to connect. I’ve already connected a few people as support buddies this way, and I’d be happy to do so for you as well. Also, I’m looking to start an Inside Out Weight Loss Yahoo group because I’ve had so many requests in response to this show, and so I’m looking for a volunteer to moderate it. It’s a great opportunity to support yourself by supporting others. Remember the more you put in the more you’ll get out. If you’re interested send me an email and let me know, [email protected]. I’m looking forward to creating that Yahoo group to build the Inside Out Weight Loss community.

Renee Stephens: Today on the show we’ll learn about a guiding concept in my work, a concept that will allow you to truly sustain the positive behavior changes that you’re making for the long run. So few programs talk about the concepts that we’ll be discussing today about what will really get you through the long haul. Not just surviving, but thriving. So go ahead and set your intention for this episode. Is it to soak in this information like a sponge? Is your intention to have your diet and weight loss experience be easy and enjoyable? What a concept that is. Whatever your intention is, go ahead and set it now. My intention in this episode is to enable you to break through what’s been holding you back and move firmly into living your dream. So far on Inside Out Weight Loss we learned about creating a powerful motivation cocktail and the power of positive intent and meta outcomes. We learned how to up our energy levels by resolving internal conflicts and creating inner alignment. So often we think that we’re exhausted or we’re tired just because we’ve been drinking too much caffeine or not taking care of us, and we forget to notice that it’s really internal conflicts that sap our energy. In earlier episodes we learned to resolve those conflicts. We even spent an episode going over the nuts and bolts of what foods in your diet will make your journey easier. And I won’t spend a lot of time talking about food, because really that’s only about ten percent of what’s making you successful on your journey, but there are some foods that will make your journey easier, so we spent a couple episodes discussing what they are. In the last two episodes about the naturally slender and what their secrets are to staying slim no matter what life throws at them, we learned the truth about high and low metabolisms. And we also learned that it isn’t necessarily running a marathon that’s going to slim you down. Finally, in the last episode we walked through the naturally slender eating strategy designed by Connie Ray Andreas and detailed in the book Heart of the Mind. We trained our minds to become relentless pleasure seekers, so that we can become naturally slender. Very cool stuff!

Renee Stephens: Today lets talk about a guiding principle in my work. It’s a principle originally promoted by W. Edwards Demming in his Total Quality Management or TQM system that he taught the Japanese back in the 1950’s. And for those of you who don’t know, TQM has everything to do with why Toyota is known for its quality cars. So what could building Toyota’s possibly have to do with becoming naturally slender with Inside Out Weight Loss? I’m glad you asked. In fact it has an awful lot, because what the Japanese learned is a concept called kaizen, or continuous improvement. So lets think about that for a minute. Continuous improvement, what does that have to do, how could we apply that to lifetime behavior change? Well it’s actually very interesting and very simple, because the way that lasting behavior change works is not perhaps what you think. Lets look at the pattern that many of us have had so many times, the pattern that has gotten you into this cycle that you haven’t been able to break until now. So what does it look like? You’re chatting with some colleagues at work, you’re chatting with some friends, you notice someone’s lost a bunch of weight. “Ooh, what did you do? What have you done to lose all that weight? You look great.” And they’ll tell you, “Oh well, I went on the North Beach Diet”… That’s one that perhaps that hasn’t been invented yet, but… “the North Beach Diet, and the North Beach Diet has you eating carrots for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch and lemonade for dinner, and the weight just melted off me, I wasn’t hungry at all. It was fantastic.” And you rush out to the bookstore and buy the North Beach Diet and stock up on mashed potatoes for a century, and everything’s great. You follow this diet for days, maybe a week and the pounds melt off you. It feels great. But then, you know, you love mashed potatoes, but you get a little bit tired of them by day five or six, you’ve really had enough mashed potatoes. And you’re at the office birthday party, there’s a big chocolate cake just calling your name, or you’re at a meeting and there’s a big plate of cookies right there in front of you. Or you go to a party or a friend’s house for dinner, or the other thousands of food opportunities that occur in our lives. And you think, “Well just this once I’ll have a little bit”, and oh my goodness, it tastes so good because quite frankly you can only eat so many carrots, mashed potatoes and lemonade. So what happens? You have a little bit, then a little bit more, and before you know it you say to yourself, “I’ve blown it. I’ll never be successful. I’ll start for tomorrow, just for tonight”, whatever it is that you say to yourself, and off you go. And before you know it, those five pounds that you’ve lost in a blink of an eye eating the crazy diet that you did before are back, and guess what? They’ve brought a few of our friends with them. That’s right. They, when they come back those pounds, they don’t like to come back alone, they like to bring their friends, so they’re all back. And this is your pattern. I call it the willpower weight loss pattern. It’s the burst of enthusiasm that gets you on some crazy program, no matter how crazy it is. If you have a testimonial from someone you’ll do it, right? They look great, so gosh, if it worked for them, its got to work for me. And you know what, we can do it. We can do just about anything. Congratulations! You have an incredible amount of willpower. The reason that you are not naturally slender already now is not for lack off willpower. Perhaps it’s for an excess of willpower. Because you have so much of it, you rely on it. You know that you can get yourself to do just about anything for a few days, at least in that initial burst of enthusiasm. So, what happens, the willpower runs out, you get tired… Back in twelve step programs they call it, they used to call it, they may still call it, white knuckling, really willpowering your way through it. So what I want you to do is throw out your willpower. It’s not serving you. In fact, it’s distracting you.

Renee Stephens: We’re going to take a short break now to support our sponsors, and when we come back we’ll talk about what you can do instead when you throw out your overactive willpower. This is Renee Stephens and you’re listening to Inside Out Weight Loss on Personal Life Media. We’ll be right back.

Renee Stephens: This is Renee Stephens and we’re back from our break now. Before the break we were talking about your overactive willpower and how that may be the cause of the challenges you’ve had rather than the solution. Now lets talk about what we can do instead of having that excessive willpower that inevitably leads us to the let down and disappointment that perpetuates the cycle, the lose/regain, lose/regain cycle that we’re all so familiar with. So what is the alternative? What can we do instead? Lets look at this concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement, borrowed from the Japanese. The aim of kaizen is to create a state of continuous improvement, to make that your default, so that everything that happens becomes an opportunity for small incremental improvement. Now notice that I said ‘small incremental improvement.’ We’re not talking about breakthroughs here. Breakthroughs are wonderful and they are exciting, but they don’t happen everyday. You can’t rely on breakthroughs, you can’t count on breakthroughs or sudden epiphanies to really take you through the day to day of being a naturally slender eater. So you need an alternative. You must have a way of working with the day to day. There’s so many situations in life. I went to an addictions treatment workshop about a year ago, and one of the fascinating things that the workshop leader described was how in his experience treating those addicted to hardcore drugs like cocaine and crack and heroine was that it was actually easier to recover from that sort of addiction than to recover from say an alcohol addiction. And he explained the reason like this: he said, well the reason that it’s easier is that once you leave that environment of being a hardcore street drug user, you no longer are subjected to the queues everywhere you go, like you are with alcohol, and guess what, with food as well. Once you’re no longer a hardcore street drug user, it’s not like you’re running into drug dealers everywhere you go on the street. You can effectively leave that universe, for the most part, and change your life. But with something like food you can’t do that. You’re going to have food queues at work, you’re going to have them at home, you’re going to have them socially with your friends. They’re everywhere. And so having an epiphany, going to an intensive treatment program is fine if you don’t have to go right back into that environment, but if you do you need another option. You need kaizen, or continuous improvement. So what does that mean? That means that you are mining your everyday experiences for areas where you can become just a little bit better. Areas where you can handle the situation just a little bit better next time. So what that means is that when you overeat, you don’t say to yourself, “Oh I blew it. Oh, I might as well go for it now. I’ll just start tomorrow”, because tomorrow never comes.

Renee Stephens: So what’s the alternative? The alternative is to use those experiences as springboards for improvement. Springboards for improvement. You’re going to be mining all of those experiences and using them to help you become even more successful. That’s right. It’s impossible to make a mistake that you can’t learn from. And so all of your experiences, all of your screw ups, your falling flat on your face, all that is now going to help you. You’re going to allow it to help you by creating a learning mind. A mind that is continuously learning from its experiences. And it doesn’t have to be hard work. It’s actually very easy. It goes like this; you go to a party, you overeat, things are, you’re feeling really bad about yourself as a result of it, you drink too much, you say things you wish you hadn’t said. Overall you’re thinking, “Yuck, that was so bad.” And what is it that we usually do? We think to ourselves, “Oh god, I blew it. That was so bad. Oh, I’ll never change.” Well guess what? Now you can. Because I want you to learn a technique, the learning mine technique, I call it, for shorthand I call it the redo. And let me tell you a little bit, a little story about the golfer who was popular before Tiger Woods, Jack Nicolas. Jack was an extraordinary golfer and won tournament after tournament. And he was interviewed at one point and asked, “Well  how is it you do it Jack? You’re so perfect. Do you ever make a mistake?” And he said, “Well of course I make mistakes. I make them all the time.” And what he said is, “But you know what I do when I make a mistake is something that a lot of people don’t do.” ‘Cause you know how so many of us, we make a mistake, say we say something, we put our foot in our mouths and we go over that mistake again and again in our time, in our minds. Excuse me. We go over that again and again in our minds cringing each time, I call it the cringe syndrome, it’s the foot in your mouth cringe syndrome, “Oh, I can’t believe I did that.” And we do the same thing when we overeat. We say, “Oh, I can’t believe I did that. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it, how horrible.” What we’re actually doing when we cringe over it is we’re rehearsing and reinforcing the negative behavior in our subconscious mind. We’re rehearsing an emotionally charged behavior in our subconscious minds which makes it stick. So what Jack Nicolas said is, “Well that’s not what I do. What I do is when I hit a shot and it doesn’t go where I want it to go, I imagine hitting that shot again in such a way that it goes just right. I hit the sweet spot and I see the ball in my mind’s eye going exactly where I want it to go. And I do this every time.” And so that was his secret, one of his secrets to becoming a great champion golfer. And we can use that same secret with a technique I call the redo. So what that means is that when you have a situation like that, maybe you have one right now, think of the last time that you overdid it, the last time that you overate. Now what I want you to do is I want you to see yourself behaving the way that you would like to behave in your mind’s eye. An important thing to know when you do this is that you want to feel the way that you would like to feel. So ask yourself this question: what quality would I like to have, what feeling state would I like to have in that situation so that I do a better job next time?” Is it calm? Is it confidence? Is it centeredness? Balance? Whatever it is, ask yourself that question, and as you come up with the answer I’ll tell you another little story.

Renee Stephens: About two years ago I think I was on vacation with my family and another family in Central America, and we, I had been sick. I got the travelers go knows what, but I was not a happy camper, and I was just recovering from this illness when we decided, the two families, to go to squeeze in a trip to a waterfall in the morning before lunch, so that by the time we got to lunch in this tiny little town in Central America I was famished. It must have been 2:15, 2:30, we went to the only restaurant around, we sat down, all of us with all the kids in tow and we ordered our food. Well it took about an hour for the first bit of the food to arrive, which was the kids food. We could not get help from the staff, we couldn’t get them to bring us an extra plate to share the food between the kids. We just couldn’t get anything out of them. And of course my blood sugar is so low at this point because not only had I barely eaten that day, I’d barely eaten in days and I really need to eat something. So my food comes finally, the last of everyone, and guess what, it’s wrong. I’ve ordered a baked potato, which yes, I know, that was a really silly idea of Central America, baked potatoes are not their specialty, but I wanted something bland so this is what I ordered. I get it, the potato isn’t even cooked all the way through, it’s raw in the middle. So I flipped out. I got up, I marched into the kitchen, I got an extra plate to take out the bits that I didn’t want, I complained loudly to my family and my friends. I was a grumpy, well I won’t use the words that I was, but it was not me at my best moment. Well finally after I had salvaged any available calories from that meal and recovered my wits, I went about apologizing to my friends, and I realized as I did this, and my family as well, I realized as I did this that that was really a vested of the old me, the me who used to freak out about food, that this was a context that I hadn’t yet healed. And there are really few of those left for me, but this was one of them. So I thought, “Okay, that was pretty ugly. How would I like to be next time?” And I thought about it, and I thought, “Well you know what, I’d like to notice and remember that hunger is just a feeling.” It’s just a feeling. I’d like to realize that starvation isn’t really at my doorstep. I could probably go quite a long period of time before I would have any sort of health consequences, so really we’re talking about a feeling. Alright, well that helped me a lot. Okay, hunger is just a physical sensation and doesn’t have to be a high drama moment in my life, and therefore in my family’s lives. So I thought well the quality that I’d like to have is I’d like to be calm, a little bit perhaps detached and focused on resting and chatting with the people around me. So then I ran a mental movie, this is the Jack Nicolas technique, I ran a movie in my mind of a Renee behaving in this calm way. I saw her going to the table, she’s tired, she’s realizing that it’s going to be a long wait and so she relaxes. She really relaxes and becomes present. I ran that movie in my mind a few times and didn’t think about it. A few months later I had a very similar situation. No, it was no longer in Central America, it was back here in beautiful San Francisco, we met someone for dinner. And the dinner that was supposed to happen at 6:15, it didn’t actually get served until after 9pm. It was a situation also that was completely out of my control and really would’ve activated the same triggers. But because I had run this mental rehearsal, I had redone the situation before in my mind, I now had a new pattern that I could use in my mind to run, to behave in this situation. And so I found myself being much more calm and imprisoned in this situation even though my food did seem to be the very last food to arrive at the table even though my blood sugar was really low and I was really starving. I ended up enjoying myself at the meal, because I recognized that it was just a feeling and in the end I really would be okay.

Renee Stephens: So that’s the power of the redo. And because of that simple mental technique I was able to heal a context or trigger situation that I hadn’t yet healed. So how do you integrate this continuous improvement concept into you life, the kaizen of weight loss? The way that you’re going to do it is each night before you go to sleep you’re going to run through your day? And you’re going to think “Is there any situation that I would like to do better next time?” Now this is not, this is a very important distinction here, this is not the woulda/shoulda/coulda, aren’t I a bozo. No. This is instead “let me take a second chance”. It’s the Groundhog Day technique, if you ever saw that Bill Murray movie where the same day repeats again and again and again until he gets it right. This is what you get to do, and you get to do it anytime you want. I encourage you to find a regular time to do it, like that time at the very end of the day. You think, “Alright, well there were those donuts at work and I ate five of them, and I wish I had eaten a bite of one or chosen the carrot sticks instead”, or whatever the heck it is you wish you had done. Think first, “What is the quality or feeling state I’d like to have?” What’s the quality or feeling state? And then imagine yourself having that quality or feeling state and now behaving differently. And go ahead and adjust this movie until you get it just right, the way that you like it and run that movie. If you like you can break state, which means see a blank screen, clear your mind for a moment and run it again. And clear your mind with a blank screen and run it again. You can do this several times, but at least do it once. And I’d like you to do one of these, no more, each day. If you don’t have anything in the day to redo then congratulations, that’s wonderful. But if you do go ahead and do your one redo. I don’t want your evening to be about redoing every moment and breath you take, so really limit it to one, and do a redo each night. Think about it. If you were to redo situations like this every night, you did one a night, why after a month you’d have 30 or 31 done. Wouldn’t that be great? It doesn’t mean that you’re going to get 31 situations exactly right after a month, but it does mean that you’ll be better off than where you were a month ago. And it’s a beautiful thing how your improvement can compound, because that’s the secret of kaizen, compounding improvement, continuous compounding improvement by doing these redo techniques. So check it out. Experiment with a redo. You’ll be surprised and delighted by the results. And set your expectations low. All we want to do is be a little bit better than the time before or learn. All we want to do is be a little bit better or learn from the situation. If you do nothing more than learn from a situation about what doesn’t work, you’re ahead of the game.

Renee Stephens: That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you for being present. And thanks for all of your comments on the blog. If you haven’t visited yet go to and check out all the other postings I’ve placed there like my ten rules to create slim kids. And if you’re interested in moderating the Inside Out Weight Loss Yahoo group, please let me know. It’s [email protected]. Also if you’d love to hear your voice on air and you have a question or a comment, call 206-350-5333. I’d love to have you join me on the show. For other shows on the Personal Life Media network, please visit our website at There’s loads of intriguing content to feed your mind, body and spirit. This is your host Renee Stephens, and I am on a mission to eradicate the weight struggle from the planet. Join me as we evolve the world by evolving ourselves one step at a time, because world peace begins with inner peace. Bye for now.