A dose of tough love, from Michelle Bridges

"When a camera comes out, game players switch into a higher gear" … Michelle Bridges.

"When a camera comes out, game players switch into a higher gear" … Michelle Bridges.

One way or another, we all play games with ourselves. Games that allow us to justify our behaviour, conceal our fears or avoid being judged by others. I play them too (but I try not to when it comes to food and exercise) – games like trying to out-exercise a crappy diet, or skipping a morning training session by telling myself that I'll squeeze a workout in later in the day. (Trust me, it never happens.)

Some of my friends claim, "I can't lose weight even though I walk the dog four times a week." It's a game they are playing with themselves to justify their activity levels. Sometimes I have to stop myself from thinking that it is okay to eat something unhealthy because I see someone else eating the same thing. (Good game, that one.)

A lot of my clients play the if-I-eat-it-behind-closed-doors-it-doesn't-count game. It does – eat in private, wear in public, I'm afraid. Or they'll order a chocolate-chip muffin and a skim latte with artificial sweetener. Or hot chips with a Diet Coke. Silly, eh?

A favourite for us girls with an event coming up is the drop-a-dress-size-in-five-days game. This prompts the use of detox potions, starvation diets and the wearing of wetsuits in saunas. Any result will be spectacularly short-lived, yet still we play the game. Magazines are the chief cheer squads for this sort of game. They bark from the sidelines about celebrities losing "five kilos in five days – how she did it!" and spruik crash diets.


When a camera comes out, game players switch into a higher gear. The overweight quickly offer to take the photo so they don't have to be in the shot, or grab a toddler to plop on their laps to conceal as much of themselves as they can.

These games happen. I know. Clients tell me. When their clothes don't fit any more because their bodies have got bigger, game players go shopping for larger outfits, rather than attempt to return to their original size by changing exercise and nutrition habits. It's only when we take a long, hard look at our behaviour that we are able to see games for what they are – and to realise it's time to change the rules and the game.

Michelle's tip
Ask yourself if your behaviour is motivated by a fear of being judged, or to justify unhealthy habits. Introspection is a game changer.