A Recent Conversation
Here’s part of a conversation that I had recently with a woman (SR) who had just fallen off the weight-loss merry-go-round for the millionth time – or thereabouts. She had started a new exercise program and eating regime on New Year’s day this year. As she does every year. (I’m CH below).
CH: “So how’s your eating going?” (I didn’t know the answer at this stage)
SR: (drops head and avoids eye contact with me)
CH: “Er, hello?” (trying to make eye contact)
SR: “Don’t ask?”
CH: “Why not?”
SR: “I f***ed up – again.”
CH: “What happened?”
SR: “I was going great, I hadn’t eaten anything bad since before New Year and then last Saturday night I blew it all.”
CH: “You blew five weeks of great work (diet, exercise) in one night? That’s quite the achievement. How did you do it?”
SR: “My husband and I had a fight, he went to bed and I ate a whole block of chocolate.”
SR: “What do you mean… and?”
CH: “Well, after you ate the chocolate, then what did you do?”
SR: “I felt physically sick and mentally disgusted with myself, so I went to bed.”
CH: “And when you got up on Sunday, what did you do then? Did you do your exercise and eat a healthy breakfast?”
CH: “Why not?”
SR: “I was depressed and angry at myself.”
CH: “So what did you do?”
SR: “I ate shit all day because I was mad.”
CH: “Did you exercise?”
SR: “No, I was too grumpy.”
CH: “That’ll help. So the girl who desperately wants to lose weight, eats junk food all day and does zero exercise because she’s mad at herself for eating junk food the night before? Your mind is a strange place.”
SR: “Well, what’s the point when I had already blown all that good work?”
An All-Too-Familiar Dialogue
Now, I know this sounds like an unlikely conversation but it’s actually not; it’s absolutely true and much more common than (some of) you might imagine. But then again, it may seem very familiar to others. I have had this conversation many, many times, with many people. And yes, mostly women. Don’t shoot the messenger ladies, just relaying the facts.
The irony of someone choosing to eat junk food on a Sunday because they are depressed about eating junk food on Saturday night is kind of amazing, but not altogether rare. When it comes to maintaining our fitness regime, our diet and our commitment to changing our body, it seems that many of us are fragile at best. Some of us have a default switch that’s permanently set to junk food, laziness, self-pity and excuses. It’s what we fall back on because we haven’t actually made those healthy behaviours non-negotiable habits in our life.
If you identify with the above story in any way, here’s a few things to consider and a lesson or two that you might find helpful.
1. The woman I was speaking with had lost 7 kgs (15.4 lbs) since New Years day 2009. Now… in order to regain that weight eating chocolate only, she would need to consume 53,900 calories of milk chocolate (her preference) and that would have to be without expending any energy – which is obviously impossible. How many calories did she actually consume on her Saturday night choc binge? 625. That is, 1 x 125 gram block of milk chocolate. How many of those 125 gram blocks would she need to eat to regain all of her weight? Eighty six – and that would be on top of her normal daily (healthy) eating – because her normal healthy diet would take care of her energy requirements for the day and the excess cals from the choc would provide the additional energy for the weight gain. Do I need to say any more? So was her “I blew it” response something of a ridiculous and inappropriate over-reaction? And then some.
2. It ain’t about about the chocolate anyway; it’s about the reaction to the chocolate. “Oh well, I blew it, I may as well eat everything that isn’t nailed down!” People respond like this all the time. I’ve watched it for years. People over-react, they create problems, they turn a minor hiccup into a major melodrama and they look for an excuse to throw in the towel. Then they wake up six months later, bigger, fatter and more miserable than ever. And so the very predictable and familiar cycle starts all over again. And again. Their life is like a weight-loss version of Groundhog Day. Some people have been losing and gaining the same weight for years.
3. Of course one block of chocolate can’t make anyone fat but constantly surrendering to destructive behaviours can. For this lady, her problem is largely emotional and psychological, while the consequences are largely physical. Whenever she has a set-back – a normal part of the human experience – she has no coping skills, so she goes back to what she knows; food. A little instant pleasure and comfort… but ultimately an abundance of long-term pain; a life in a fat body that she despises. Her propensity to lose and gain weight is merely a by-product of what’s going on in her head. Does this sound familiar? Very familiar perhaps? The good news is that anyone can lose weight and keep it off. Forever. Is it easy? Not often. Is it possible? Very. Just because you haven’t done something to this point in your life doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you haven’t. Yet. As I’ve said too many times, take your mind there and your body will follow.
4. Setbacks are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of humanity. Things only have the meaning we give them and if we decide that eating a block of chocolate is the beginning of the end, it will be. Or we could simply choose different to create different. Next time you mess up – and you will – don’t over-think, don’t self-destruct, don’t beat yourself up and don’t seek sympathy. Instead, refocus, acknowledge what you’ve done, do different and get back to work. Princess. Sure I could fluff this message up a little, make it more feel-good, perhaps explore the psychology of it all and possibly talk about your triggers for reactive eating… but that’s really not me is it?
Okay, do what you need to do.