Success? Or Self-Sabotage?

A MFP friend wrote me today asking for advice about her birthday party. Here is what I told her—

When I have a party, I pretty much know I'm going to overindulge. And I don't do anything special to prepare. I do not “work out” for an extra three hours every day the week before. I do not believe in “banking” calories. Doing this with the Weight Watchers program is part of what messed me up every time. It is a kind of game and when I play games I screw myself over, time and time again.

I've found that going a little crazy is okay as long as you keep your head in the game and your eye on the ball. Over the Holidays, I had a difficult time--overeating constantly, giving in to ALL the sweets and temptations. But I discovered that the most important thing is to record my food. No matter what. Every single day. Even if I feel "ashamed" of what I've eaten. And you know what happened over Christmas? Most of the time I actually ate far less than I thought I had and I got through the holidays without really gaining. Oh, I maybe gained about 2 pounds, but when the Holidays were over, I lost them right away.

Even if you go absolutely WILD at parties or special occasions, you will be fine. Even if you eat an extra 3,000 calories, it won't "ruin" your food plan or blow you completely off course. Simply return to normal the next day. You need to really pay attention to that statement at the end of each day on MFP--"If EVERY day were like today, you would weigh ---- in 5 weeks." You would have to overeat by 3,000 calories EVERY day to gain those 15 pounds. Or 20 pounds. This statement is MFP’s secret weapon. Don’t hide from it. Read it every day. Let it be your guide. It has made all the difference for me.

So indulge yourself, but do be mindful of what you’re doing. Eat that cake DELIBERATELY. Don’t try to pretend you aren’t doing it. Don’t tell yourself silly things like, “Oh! I’ll eat a tiny piece and I’ll skip those delectable quiches. And tomorrow I’ll eat only salad without dressing and I’ll walk an extra seven miles!” Why tell yourself this? It’s never helped you before and you’re only setting yourself up for heartache and shame. Don’t play games with yourself. Eat what you want—the cake, the quiche, the chips, the dip, the pie, the brie, the roast duck, the whatever. Just eat it all and do it with relish and complete awareness. It’s natural for people to feast. It’s appropriate to enjoy yourself on your birthday. On Holidays. On New Year’s Eve. So dive in. But don’t pretend you’re not overindulging and not record your food.

Do NOT get up in the morning and do what so many of us do. You know what I’m talking about. Do not start up with the self-loathing, the shame bashing. Oh no, my stomach is swollen I ate ten million calories I’m so fat I’ll always be fat there is no hope for me I’m such a cow it’s cloudy outside I had an awful childhood and nobody likes me and none of my clothes will ever fit and I will NEVER buy clothes that fit this ugly disgusting body. Oh hell, I’m going out for a huge breakfast and then I’m bringing home ice cream! Damnit! I am such a failure. And I always will be.

There are so many ways that we sabotage ourselves. So many people get in “trouble” so easily and it doesn’t have to be this way. How many times have you thought to yourself, as I have done a thousand times before, "Oh, I'm going on vacation and I'm going to take a food holiday" or "I blew it on Sunday so I'll just take this whole week off" or “I’ve blow this day so I’ll start over with a new plan, maybe no carbs, maybe walk 2 hours every single day. I obviously need to be very strict with myself” or "I've gained three pounds! This diet isn't working and it never will, it's hopeless and I'm a loser."

But you probably already know all this because you’ve heard it before. You’re probably like me. You know this is absolutely true. You sabotage yourself all the time. Just reading this makes you want to grab a Danish from the convenience store. You’re already grabbing your keys! And you don’t even like Danishes!

If you are like me, you’ve tried and failed so many times. You have become an EXPERT at beating yourself up. People like us, we are stubborn and we haven't learned the skills we need to succeed. We aren’t used to listening to ourselves. We don’t know how to care for ourselves. The very idea of it—that’s what “normal” people do, people who never need to go on diets, people who have never had “issues” with food.

And the awful part is, we do KNOW what to do. We do. We just don’t do it. Because we don’t believe we can. So we look for magic. We look for ways to somehow work around the fact that all we really need to do is be sensible. And be kind to ourselves. No, we long ago bought into the big monster hogwash/brainwash of the diet/exercise industry with its foolish promises. My favorite is—“Lose weight and never be hungry!” Seriously? Why do we believe such nonsense? We know it doesn’t work. It never will. Because we’ve tried it all before. And so have millions of other smart, motivated people. This is why “diets” don’t work. Wait a minute. We KNOW diets don’t work but we keep going on diets. We’ve bought into the idea that we have no self-control, we are helpless, powerless. We are addicted. We just can’t help ourselves. Nobody can. Not even Oprah.

But somehow, I’m finally doing it. It isn’t easy, but it is doable. I’ve stopped listening to false messages about “diet” and “exercise.” Of course I get hungry! Of course I can control myself! Of course I’m addicted. We’re all addicted to food. That doesn’t mean I can’t decide what to eat, when to eat it. And how much to eat.

And don’t think that I don’t struggle with this every day. I do! But little by little, it is working for me. I have finally, FINALLY begun to listen to what I know is true--

Changing your life is about the whole, long progression of days for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. You must take the long view--this is not about today. Today is but a drop in the ocean. It's the rest of the ocean that counts. The rest of that ocean is the entirety of your life.

When you eat three donuts, just think of them falling into the great ocean of your life. When you DECIDE to eat a bag of chips and an entire pizza, just watch that ONE “bad” day drop to the bottom of that great blue sea. Today is just one day. Last night was just one party. Most of us will live over 20,000 days. You decide what happens on those days. You can’t control everything, but there is so much you can control, especially what goes into your mouth.

If you think of eating with MFP as a “diet” you’re on. If you think of this new way of eating as something that will be over when you reach your goal weight. If you’re holding your breath so you can eat pizza again. Or ice cream again. Or real butter again. Or bacon cheeseburgers again. Or carrot cake with cream cheese frosting again. You Will Fail. You will not keep the weight off because you want to believe that this is just temporary. It will be over soon. Yes! I will be trim and fit and gorgeous and ready to eat like I did before. Only I’ll be SKINNY this time. It will be different this time. I’m not sure why it never worked before but this time I will be a different person!

Stop it! Stop believing in magic. Believe in yourself instead.

If this sounds like you, then you and I are very alike. You, like me, are very good at sabotaging yourself, at turning a blind eye to your destructive behaviors, at pretending that what is clearly so must not be so. You have become very good at wishful thinking. You have convinced yourself that the rules just do not apply to you. If you are like me, this is not just about food. This spills over into other areas of your life. You’ve gotten into a pattern of “all or nothing” thinking, so much so that it’s difficult to tease out any part of your thinking that was ever what you consider “normal.” And maybe with very good cause. Maybe it’s a childhood trauma. A depression that just won’t let go. A pattern of eating so destructive you can’t seem to break out of it. But whatever it is that has gotten you to this place, you can do something good for yourself. You can begin to treat yourself well, even if no one has ever treated you well, even if you’re surrounded by people who try to undermine what you’re doing at every turn.

You must teach yourself to think of weight loss in this way. To think of LIFE this way. One day is no big thing. Neither is a whole week. Or a whole month. It's what you do over the long haul, what you do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, that will make the difference.

I began to abuse my body at a young age, for a variety of reasons, and here at am at 51 years old just beginning to really “get” it. For years, I scoffed at the very idea of “one day at a time.” Instead, I read book after book trying to figure out a way to get around the truth. I’ve been a vegetarian. A vegan. I’ve done the low-carb thing and the grapefruit thing. I’ve done the fasting thing and I’ve done the "let me punish myself into submission" thing. And of course, none of these things ever helped me much.

So what is helping now? Eating what I want and holding myself accountable for my behavior. I no longer mire up in my awful childhood, or my bipolar disease, or my fibromyalgia, or my digestive disorder, or my unwanted teenage pregnancy, or my awful mother who hid food and embarrassed me about my weight. I just do not do it. Because it doesn’t help.

What helps is taking action. What works is being kind to myself. It’s been a long, very hard lesson but I’m finally listening myself and allowing myself to admit that really, I can have what I want. I can do what I want. I don’t have to eat Ho Ho’s or Ding Dongs if I don’t want them. I don’t have to punish myself. I am finally getting used to the idea that my life won’t fall apart if I eat the pizza AND the French fries.

Diets don’t work. I know it. You know it. Most people who go on diets gain the weight back. Not just some people, but almost ALL people. You’ve heard this. You know it’s true. So you have decisions to make. You can deprive yourself and punish yourself or you can relax, take a deep breath, and get used to being in charge of your life.

So eat what you want, what you really WANT. If you want to eat a salad without dressing, by all means do. But if you hate salad without dressing how long do you think it’ll be before you “pig” out because you’re too angry to eat another salad without dressing?

Losing weight, for me, has been accepting the fact that if I deprive myself I will be miserable and if I'm miserable I will sabotage myself. So this time, I’ve accepted that there will be days when I just don’t want a salad thank you very much. I want a bag of chips and pizza and I’m eating it! So I do. And what about those rare days when I find myself retreating into the old destructive behavior? Trying to ignore the fact that I’m eating a chocolate donut inside the very moment when I’m eating a chocolate donut? I catch myself and I think. Oh. I’m about to eat this donut. Do I really want it? Then I know I have a decision to make. Pay attention, or allow myself to ignore what I’m doing. Either way, I record what I’ve eaten. I do this every day. No matter what it is, I record it. I don’t pretend I didn’t eat it.

And I don’t lose control and “pig out” every day. Do you know why? Because I WANT to lose weight. I WANT to feel better. Most of the time I WANT to feel better and lose weight MORE than I want to eat a pizza and a bag of chips. Why? Because I am smart. And capable. Because I WANT to be happy. Because I have accepted the fact that I am who I am. Not perfect. There is no perfect body here and that’s okay. There is no free lunch here and that’s okay. I get hungry and cranky. I get angry. And sometimes I still stuff my face, even if I don’t want to! But I’m learning to treat myself the way I would one of my sons when he’s had too much Halloween candy.

Do I tell him he’s a loser for eating all those Kit Kats and Skittles? Do I tell him he’s useless and ugly? Do I tell him he can’t control himself and should just give up? That he will be a failure forever? Of course not. That would make me a monster.

Today I will not be a monster to myself. I will be kind. I will be considerate. I will be understanding. And by god I will teach myself to love myself the way I deserve to be loved. It is all up to me. I will no longer be mean to myself. If I gain five pounds I will not let that number on the scale determine how I feel for the next week. Because now I know that it’s just one weigh-in.

Now I know I can do better. Because I am in control. Because, somehow, I am learning to trust myself. Because I WANT to. So I will.



  • cariduttry
    cariduttry Posts: 210 Member
    preach on! i'm showing up today - and every day - just like you. no more ignoring what i'm eating. for me it's the eyeballing "about 1/2 cup" when i know darn well it's closer to 1 cup. no more sabotage!
  • Rachel0778
    Rachel0778 Posts: 1,701 Member
    Yes! Fantastic post, thank you for sharing.
  • SweetP27
    SweetP27 Posts: 209 Member
    At 49 I've just begun learning this same lesson. You put it perfectly - thank you!
  • zyxst
    zyxst Posts: 9,131 Member
  • maryrice702
    maryrice702 Posts: 23 Member
    Your posts nourish my heart. Thank you.
  • jlemoore
    jlemoore Posts: 707 Member
    Thank you for sharing your reply to your friend. Love this:

    "You can deprive yourself and punish yourself or you can relax, take a deep breath, and get used to being in charge of your life."
  • NHDaisy2
    NHDaisy2 Posts: 151 Member
    This is the 2nd post of yours that I have read and I totally love them... Everything you have written about are things I have thought about and know in my heart but, to see it written by someone else is a positive reaffirmation for me. Thank you for sharing!
  • rin_rae
    rin_rae Posts: 5 Member
  • sjenks145
    sjenks145 Posts: 1 Member
    Amazing post. Thank you!
  • reneedaniels13
    reneedaniels13 Posts: 3 Member
    Wow I really needed this today! Thank you!
  • positivepowers
    positivepowers Posts: 902 Member
    OP, you've expressed my struggles exactly!

  • Greenmm92563
    Greenmm92563 Posts: 1,234 Member
    Awesome post... Thank you for Sharing !!!
  • leahkathleen13
    leahkathleen13 Posts: 272 Member
    Wow! So well said! Thank you so much for your heartfelt wisdom. I love this post!
  • Mersie1
    Mersie1 Posts: 329 Member
  • littlewomensmom
    littlewomensmom Posts: 54 Member
    Love when you talked about always logging your food disputed embarrassment and shame. Why do we think lying to ourselves erases what we've eaten? And if we do t acknowledge it, it didn't happen?
  • godlikepoetyes
    godlikepoetyes Posts: 442 Member
    Love when you talked about always logging your food disputed embarrassment and shame. Why do we think lying to ourselves erases what we've eaten? And if we do t acknowledge it, it didn't happen?

    I think so many of us are used to being shamed, by ourselves, by culture, our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. Grandmothers. I'm working on a piece right now, about this shame, about me and my mother. It's so complicated.
  • juliayadda
    juliayadda Posts: 33 Member
    I want to pin this to my wall and read it every morning!
  • Vanessalookingood
    Vanessalookingood Posts: 135 Member
    You are Awesome! I really enjoy reading your posts. They are so full of truth and wisdom! Thank you so much for sharing!
  • French_Peasant
    French_Peasant Posts: 1,638 Member
    Love when you talked about always logging your food disputed embarrassment and shame. Why do we think lying to ourselves erases what we've eaten? And if we do t acknowledge it, it didn't happen?

    I think so many of us are used to being shamed, by ourselves, by culture, our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. Grandmothers. I'm working on a piece right now, about this shame, about me and my mother. It's so complicated.

    I suspected you were a writer. I hope this shows up someplace as a polished essay. Very well done.