Ep #89: Identifying the Root Cause of Distraction

We’ve all been distracted, right? It’s so easy sometimes to let outside influences pull us away from something we should be doing. But what about the times we’re distracting ourselves and don’t even know it?

Sometimes a task may seem really important, but it’s actually just a way of buffering or neutralizing negative emotions. So today, I’m going to tackle this topic and explain why we distract ourselves, how to recognize when this is happening, and how to get to the root cause of the issue in order to get yourself back on track.

Listen To The Episode Here:

In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • Why we distract ourselves—even when we don’t realize we’re doing it.
  • The reason it’s so common for people to start strong with a plan and then lose momentum.
  • What we need to figure out in order to get to the root cause of the problem.
  • Examples of distractions that may seem like good ideas.
  • How to know if something is a distraction or if it’s really time to make a change.
  • What makes all the difference with weight loss.

Featured In This Episode:

Get The Full Episode Transcript

Read the Transcript Below:


Katrina Ubell:      You are listening to the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast with Katrina Ubell, MD episode number 89. Welcome to Weight Loss for Busy Physicians, the podcast for busy doctors like you get the practical solutions and support you need to permanently lose the weight so you can feel better and have the life you want. If you’re looking to overcome your stress eating and exhaustion and move into freedom around food, you’re in the right place.

What’s up? What’s up my friends? How are you? I am back. This is like seriously the irony of the topic of this podcast and what’s been going on for me lately I can’t wait to tell you all about it. It’s so funny because this podcast is all about distraction and distractions. I’m telling you I am seriously been so distracted in putting this podcast out. So, I sort of last-minute decided earlier in the summer that I was going to take my three children by myself to Switzerland for a week. You guys all know if you’ve been listening for a while you know that I definitely value experiences for my kids. I think taking them to foreign countries is one of the best things that you can do.

A lot of this was spurred on initially because my oldest son who’s 12 has just a ridiculous travel bug. He was for real three years old when he asked me for the first time when we’re going to go to Japan. I was like, “Good question. I would like to go there too.” but I just had not really had big international travel plans as a priority in my head but this kid’s like relentless. He loves to travel so last year I took him to Peru and then earlier in the summer we went to Germany and Austria. That was more of a family type of trip. We went and saw some family there and also went and saw some of the sites and things too, but I have a friend who lives in Geneva. She was really encouraging me to come this summer and bring my kids. We had one week this summer that was not spoken for, that we didn’t have some sort of plans for.

She just kept saying, “You really should come.” You know how people are, right? They’re like, “You should come. You should come.” Then you’re like, “Do they really mean that?” Like, “Hold on, do they mean that?” You’re like, “Would it be weird if we went and did that? Like me and my three kids and we come.” She’s like, “Please come. Please come.” She has four kids. She’s sending me videos of what her house looks like. I’m like, “Okay, now I really think maybe we should take her up on this opportunity.” So, we did. So, I flew with my three kids. My youngest is five to Switzerland. I’m telling you these kids really rose to the occasion. Wow, was I impressed with them. I mean I really just have to say … and I’m not saying this as a way to toot my own horn at all, because I mean for sure obviously some parenting has been involved but for real like they in some situations would have just been completely justified to be melting down and they didn’t. They just held it together. I was so impressed with them. It was amazing.

So, anyway, we had the best trip. We had so much fine. Really just this amazing experience. So, we got back and when I got back from Germany earlier in the summer, I was home I think two days then I immediately left and had some other obligations and things that I had to do out of town and I was busy. Even though I felt tired and felt the jet lag, there was enough going on, enough novelty that I really felt like it was okay and I pushed through it. Then this time I did not have that. Wow, did I feel the jet lag. I know a lot of you have family all over the world and you guys know what I mean. Wowie!

So, I started my outline for this episode four or five days ago and I just was not feeling it. It’s like my brain was just not working. My brain was like, “Nope, try again tomorrow. Come back tomorrow.” So, finally someone I know told me and I feel like I had heard this before but I wasn’t remembering it. That it takes about a day for each hour that you have a time zone issue with jet lag. So, it’s a seven hour time difference so I thought, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess it’s going to take a week then.” That’s pretty much exactly what happened. It took about a week. So, what was different this time is that I was just patient with myself and I didn’t beat myself up or make it mean that I’m lazy or that something is wrong with me or all those other ways that I used to think about myself. Instead I thought, “Okay, well, I just need to let time pass and take good care of myself and I’ll just do it when I do it.” Really I even thought, “Okay, just B minus. We’ll just get it done.”

For real, it wouldn’t have been B minus work. Heck, I’m thinking to myself, I’m like, “I wouldn’t even want to listen to what my brain is coming up with right now.” This is not good. I need to just be patient. So, my husband actually has the kids at the pool. One of our kind of last summer pool days and I thought, “Oh, you know what, I’ll be alone. Maybe I should record this podcast.” He’s like, “Yeah, well you get it done right away so that we can just come home whenever.” I’m like, “Okay, great. Yes, I will do that for you.” So, it was just so funny though like I thought a couple days ago, about two days ago, I’m like, “No, okay. I’m just going to do it. I’m going to sit down. I’m going to make myself do it.” It’s so funny how we can get distracted. For real, all of a sudden, I realized what I was doing. I was totally like editing my favorite personal playlists on Spotify. I was like, “This is extremely important right now because I need really good music so that I can write this outline.” It was like the topic of this podcast is just so perfect for what’s going on for me personally, but anyway, we’re going to hop into it.

So, we’re talking about distraction. I want to talk about those distractions where you don’t even really think that you’re distracted. It just seems really important that you do whatever it is that you’re doing. When we don’t actually realize that those distractions are truly us just buffering or neutralizing away our negative emotions. So, I want to tell you about a friend of mine. I did get her permission to talk about her on this podcast. In fact, when I was telling her like, “Ah, my brain is not working.” She’s like, “Just talk about me.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Great, great idea.” So, she is an amazing person. I’ve known her for years. Well, after being just super successful in the corporate world, traveling all over the world, she decided to start her own coaching business. Of course, I was very supportive of that.

I thought that was amazing because she’s amazing. So, what basically happened over the course of the last maybe eight or nine months or so is she made the decision “Okay, I’m all in. I’m doing this business.” and has had just one distraction after the next after the next but they really didn’t seem like that at all in the moment. So, she started her business, started learning about what it’s like to have an online business, and got immediately overwhelmed by all the stuff, all the technology, all the new things she had to learn because it is a lot to learn. Then interestingly right during that time, immediately got caught up in a new relationship, romantic relationship.

It was very fast-paced, very whirlwind. She’s traveling all over the place to see this guy, just spending a lot of time on this relationship rather than spending time on her business. So, you can see how that’s such a distraction. It seems like, “Oh my gosh, but I’ve met this amazing guy and he’s fabulous. I really want to spend all this time with him. He’s so wonderful. Yeah, yeah, yeah I am working on my business.” You can see how that’s so much of a distraction from doing these things that she is thinking are really, really hard.

So, then, sadly the relationship ended. So, she had a bit of a grieving process to go through with that understandably. Then she replaced that time not with working on her business, so it’s not like she was ignoring her business. She was still working on her business but immediately replaced that time with volunteering a crazy amount. So, she does this amazing volunteering that it helping the world. I mean it is really fabulous. It is a wonderful thing that she does. So, to call that a distractions it’s like, “Really? But, she’s doing this amazing thing.” She was seriously spending so many hours at this place that she was volunteering and making no money. Meanwhile, she’s also not making money in her business and that’s also a distraction, right? She’s just like, “But, they need me there. I need to go in and help. I really enjoy it when I’m there.” You why she enjoys it? Because she doesn’t have to feel overwhelmed and all the other negative emotions that she would typically feel when she was working on her business.

So, this is what’s so interesting. She needs the money. She needs to have this business become something. She needs to start earning some money. She’s got a very compelling reason for why she wants this business to work. So, from within that, it’s hard to see that she’s really distracting herself. So, then she realized, “Okay.” I actually pointed out to her. I was like, “Listen, look at how you’re distracting yourself. Why are you spending so much time there? Yes, it’s amazing but for real, you have to take this seriously and really work on this business.” She’s like, “You’re totally right. You’re totally right. You’re totally right.”

So, then she’s all in on her business spending all this time on her business and just doing awesome. Then she sends me a message. She’s like, “Listen, I’m going to change my package. I’m going to change all my prices. I’m going to just change everything.” I was like, “Oh my gosh!” Because it’s so easy to see it from the outside and that’s why I’m telling you her story because many of you are not doing an online business so it’s going to be even easier for you to see it from the outside in that’s why I wanted to share her story. So, she is thinking that she needs to change her package, change her prices, change all these other things rather than working on her sales technique. What I offered her was “You might want to think about actually selling someone on what you’re offering first and then from there deciding if you want to change the package and prices, because you think you could serve your client better not because you just aren’t selling anything and that must be the problem. If you have good sales technique, you should be able to sell anything at any price.” She was little, “Oh my gosh, you’re totally right. I didn’t even see that as a distraction.” She’s like, “You need to do your podcast about me.” I’m like, “Right, but all of us do this.”

So, when you think about this, what is she buffering away? She is neutralizing away those emotions that she feels when she’s actually working on her business, when she’s asking for a sale, when she is asking a client to work with her. So, those primary emotions are frustration and overwhelmed but also fear. So, many of the emotions boil down to fear. Fear that it’s just not going to work, the people won’t sign up with her, that she’s not good enough, she’s not smart enough, she’s not going to be able to help people enough. We all know these things. We’ve all had these thoughts where we just think we’re not enough in some way. Because that feels bad, then she wants to feel something else so she can be in a relationship, she can be distracting herself at the volunteering place.

She can be doing all kinds of other things that don’t actually help her to get out of those emotions and create what she wants so those things seem more important in the moment. So, in our own lives, hopefully you can see that in her life. In our lives, we think that we just have good reasons for what we’re doing. She’s like, “Hey. I really would like to be in a long-term relationship. I should start dating this guy. He seems amazing seems like a good reason. I’m really committed to helping this place for volunteers. Seems a good reason. I really want to get a client, so maybe what I’m offering isn’t right. It seems like a good reason.”

I say this all the time with my weight loss clients too. I know that those of you who have struggled with weight loss for sure can identify with us because I think we’ve all done this. Anybody who has lost and gained and lost and gained knows exactly what I’m going to talk about. Start off strong and things are going well. Then you let yourself get distracted. It seems really justifiable. See this like I say with my clients all the time. They’re like all in for a couple of months and then something comes up at work or there’s some sort of kid stuff going on whether it could be good stuff or bad stuff, a kid could be struggling.

A kid could be just having some out-of-town activities that you have to go to, sports games, whatever, just things going on, other family stuff whether it’s your personal family relationships, with your spouse or maybe with other people in your family or even just other things going on in your life, it seems really justifiable. Like, “Oh yeah, okay. I’ve got the weight lost thing down. I’m just going to take on this next thing.” You let yourself get totally distracted. Before you know it, you are not actually doing the thing that you wanted to be doing. So, you are doing the weight loss and starting off strong there instead of continuing on in a strong way, now all of a sudden you’re back to overworking or you’re spending all this time on kid stuff or all the time on family stuff that seems very justifiable, but you’re then again putting yourself at the bottom of your priority list and then the weight is creeping right back on again.

So, we often in our kind of coaching community will say like, “Look, a squirrel.” We’re like a dog who’s just like sniffing along like, “Look, a squirrel.” and running off, darting off in another direction. That’s what our brains are like. Our brains are conditioned to respond to novelty. So, these new things can seem like a really good idea. Even when it’s within weight loss like we had these thoughts that seem like a really good idea. Like what I’m doing right now doesn’t seem to be working. So, maybe I’ll just go and do this other thing. So, I’ve seen that with a lot of my clients as well where they’ll tell me, “You know I followed my plan for four whole days and I haven’t lost a bunch of weight. Do you think I should try a different way of exercising? Should I go super low carb? Maybe I’m going to try a long fast.”

We’re just looking for any possible thing, some sort of novelty that will give us the result that we want. We think we like our reasons. We think we have good reasons, but ultimately this is the issue. We just cannot be present with ourselves where we are. If you followed your plan for four whole days and you haven’t lost a bunch of weight, how are you feeling? You can’t be present with yourself. You’re thinking, “This feels awful. That’s been four days and I haven’t lost a bunch of weight. So, I need to try something different so I can get faster results so I can feel better.” It all comes down to what emotions you’re experiencing. This goes with anything else. With my friend, she was feeling a lot of fear and frustration, overwhelmed in her business so she doesn’t want to be present with that. It feels way better for her to be focusing on other outside things, relationships and volunteering and all these other things.

So, distraction really only feels necessary when you are not willing to be present with yourself, to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling right now. So, distraction really is a way to buffer away those negative emotions in order to feel better. It’s also a way to stay really surface level with yourself so that you don’t have to figure out what’s going on deeper for you. All of the stuff about food we find this … in a my coaching groups we talk about this all the time where we think it’s all about the food. We spent all this time on the food and then as we go along we really realize that it’s so much deeper than that and that’s what I help my clients to figure out. What is that deeper thing that’s going on for you?

It’s really not about the food. The food is just a distraction. The food is the surface level issue. So, once you dig deeper than that, it’s like, “Oh, actually this is the real issue for me.” Then you can actually start figuring that out. When you figure out that root causes, then you can start solving that and then the food becomes irrelevant. That’s that freedom from food that I always talk to you about. All that chatter, it’s irrelevant once you’ve really dealt with what’s going on deeper for you.

So, how are you supposed to know if something is a distraction or a good idea? For real, it’s a real thing to consider. Often, I think it’s good to talk to somebody about it who is neutral. Like I said when my friend was telling me about what was going on for her, I was like, “Listen, I love you but I have to tell you I think this is a total distraction.” She was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re totally right.” She just couldn’t see it in herself. So, that’s how having a coach can be very helpful. If you don’t have a coach, then you can also just ask a friend or ask someone who’s pretty neutral in your life, who really is just like, “Yeah, I don’t know. When I think about that it seems like you probably could be doing this instead.” or just that neutral observer of your life. Now that doesn’t mean you have to do exactly what they say, but it can be helpful from a certain well curated small group of people that you really trust to run it past them and see what they think.

If you don’t have that or you just want to start on this on your own, when you think about continuing doing what you’re doing, ask yourself what emotion you feel. So, make sure you spend a little time here and don’t just gloss over this, because we’re like, “Okay, this is emotion I feel. I feel this. I feel motivated. I feel content. I feel whatever.” Make sure you spend some time really digging in and figuring out like what is this emotion. What’s the most descriptive emotion that I can think of to describe how I’m feeling when I think about continuing what I’m doing? You might have a few and that’s totally fine.

Then look at that list of emotions and if there is anything there that is less than neutral, meaning more negative the neutral, then it’s a good possibility that your new idea is a distraction. So, let’s take the example of eating. Think about continuing to follow your eating plan. If you are feeling, again your emotion, if you’re feeling bored or discouraged or unfocused or stressed or worried or disappointed or something like that, then switching up your eating plan is not what needs to happen right in this moment. So, let’s think about it. You have your thoughts about your eating plan then we know what your emotions now are. You could take each of those and complete those models. What is the action that you take when you feel that way? Very often, the action those emotions drive is to do something else. To distract ourselves away with something that seems very important or useful in the moment. That can be with something else within the weight-loss realm or it could be with something completely different in your life. So then you now, “Oh, actually that’s a distraction.”

Then, how do you know when you should change something? Because then it can be hard. You’re like, “Well, wait, so I just never change anything?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. Let’s just say that you’re in a weight loss plateau and if you’ve listened to my episode on weight loss plateaus and you know that I define a weight loss plateau as two to three weeks of following your plan 100% of the time and not seeing any drop on the scale.

So, let’s say you’re in weight loss plateau and you’re considering changing something up in your plan. If you think your thoughts about your plan, your current plan, and the feelings you create are feeling content, interested, focused, committed, may be intrigued, then you are trying to escape your feelings that you feel in that current plateau. You aren’t thinking that the way to feel better is to do something else so that you can lose more weight. You know that losing weight is not what actually makes you feel better. Let me repeat that. Losing weight is not what actually makes you feel better. The only thing that makes you feel better is your thought that you choose to think. Your collection of thoughts that you choose to think.

There are many overweight people who love themselves and love their lives and feel amazing. So, how can that be if they’re overweight? If it’s our weight that determines how we feel, how can they be happy? Only because what you weigh or what size clothes you wear is a neutral fact and neutral circumstance and you choose what you think about it. So, when you really understand that losing 10 pounds or 20 pounds or even 100 pounds from where you are today will not make you feel better, this makes all the difference in weight loss. You have to recognize that you can feel better now and then from that place of love and acceptance for yourself now, you can decide to choose something different like losing weight to be healthier or to feel less physical pain or to be able to move around easier.

This is how weight loss is maintained. Recognizing that you are in charge of how you feel no matter what your body ways right now. So, when that is the case then you’re so much less likely to get distracted. You’re happy with where you are always because you are happy with yourself. You’ve decided that you are awesome as you are, but then you still have goals and you still want to grow and evolve as a person. You still want to create new things for yourself, but you want to do that from a place of abundance and not scarcity. So, what I mean by that is when you come from a place of abundance, you are already whole and complete. You just want to create more because you can and you want to. You’re like, “I’m already amazing and I’m completely whole and complete as I am, but I know that my body would feel better if I lost 50 pounds. So, I would like to do that. I’d like to create that for myself.”

Coming from a place of love and scarcity you won’t be whole until you are thin enough or happy enough or loved enough or have enough. That’s that constant buying, buying, buying to try to fill this void. So, then every little thing becomes a distraction. Something that seems really important because then once you’ve achieved that then maybe you can finally be enough and feel good. That’s that treadmill, right? Just going like, “Well, I just need to lose a few more pounds then I’ll be thin enough, then I can feel good about myself.” No. You have to get to a point where you feel that your good enough and you love yourself now exactly where you are right now. Then once you drop that resistance to who you currently are, you will be absolutely shocked at what you can create. It’s like the world just opens up for you for real. It’s so amazing.

So, that’s when I have free today. I want you to really think about where your distracting yourself. Maybe you weren’t on Spotify thinking that you really need to find some new songs for your favorite playlist. There was somebody I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m distracting myself from writing an outline on a podcast about distraction with Spotify right now.” This is the best. At least I could recognize what I was doing, right? Oh my gosh, jet lag. That’s all right.

For real, this is so, so, so important and just spending a little bit of time thinking about how you’re spending your time, what is that emotion that’s driving what you’re doing, it’s going to really open things up for you big time. So amazing. All right, you guys, love you so much. Have a wonderful week and I’ll talk to you next time. Take care. Bye bye.

Thanks for joining me today. If you like what you heard here, be sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app so you’ll never miss an episode. You can also get my Busy Doctors Quick Start Guide To Effective Weight Loss for free by visiting me over at katrinaubellmd.com.



Share The Love:

  • Help improve the show by leaving a Rating & Review in iTunes (Here’s How)
  • Join the discussion for this episode in the comments section below
Recommended Posts
Showing 4 comments
  • Tahniat

    Hi Katrina!
    Thank you so much for your podcasts. I know you have heard this before : these have been life changing for me. I am feeling better. This is a comment from episode 67. Sorry I’m trying to catch up. One place I am stuck is how to achieve 100% acceptance of others. I feel like this is my weakness and a source of stress eating. Hoping you can have a podcast on this topic. Hoping to join your coaching class in the future.

    • kathyadmin

      Try Episode #68: Using a “Just like them” Statement to Navigate Conflict – katrinaubellmd.com/68 and Ep #31: Navigating Personal Relationships – katrinaubellmd.com/31. But as Katrina says, “such good work.” It isn’t easy and is something we all need to keep working on!

      Katrina’s assistant

  • Nuzhat Shaikh

    Hi Katrina,

    I just started listening to your podcast and wanted to thank you for making your knowledge available. I’ve struggled for years and find your concepts make so much sense! The week since I’ve discovered your podcast has been such a blessing. I’ve already made mental and physical progress after listening to the first few episodes. Thank you.

    Would it be possible to do a podcast on the following topic:
    How to eat well/manage not overeating at social gatherings? I find it challenging to eat well and not overeat at potlucks and buffets. The combination of seemingly unlimited food in a busy social gathering is kryptonite for my weight loss journey.

    • kathyadmin

      Hi Nuzhat,

      If you haven’t yet, give a listen to Episode #8 – Making Decisions Ahead of Time, but I’ll also add you suggestion regarding social gatherings to our list! Thanks!

      Katrina’s assitant

Start typing and press Enter to search