Suffering is not a virtue

Behaviorally every living thing on the planet, from gold fish to humans have one thing in common:
We seek out and do what is rewarding, and avoid what is punishing and unpleasant/what doesn't pay.

This does NOT mean that everything we do is easy or fun. It means that there needs to be a payout that is sufficient to offset the difficulty, discomfort, and duration of difficulty and discomfort.

This, in turn, is why both weightloss and going to the gym/exercise can be so freaking difficult to stick to. The difficulty of eating a cookie is low. The reward of eating a cookie is high, and immediate. The difficulty of NOT eating the cookie can be quite high, and the reward is delayed and minor (weight loss isn't linear, stalls happen, takes a long time to see results). Same thing with the gym - it's not a habit, it's physically uncomfortable, results that are visible take a long time.

This is why it is so important to make small changes and build on them. If you jump the difficulty too high, too fast, you're not going to be able to find the 'motivation' to carry on. When we're losing weight, the reward is delayed. We have to, in fact, turn down a reward in favor of an immediate 'punishment' in hopes of a future, larger reward. Ie: You have to make yourself psychologically and physically uncomfortable, right now, in order to get to the payout of weightloss.

THE SMALLER you can make the difficulty/discomfort (psychological or physical), the better equipped you/your brain is to accept a lack of immediate payoff for future reward.

Work with your psychology. We're humans so we can argue with ourselves all day long and sometimes we succeed at reason over instinct, but that's a long, hard, row to how and maybe even impossible in the very long run. Find what will move you toward that big future reward (the weight loss) but is either actively rewarding (easy, fun, tasty), or neutral/not unpleasant.
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Replies

  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 4,261 Member
    Yup, and in the same vein: our willpower is a limited ressource. So better to make changes that require little willpower, white-knuckling it doesn't work in the long run.

    I eat foods I like, nothing is forbidden (while still being attentive to nutrition). I do exercise I enjoy or at least don't actively dislike and helps me achieve my goals. And I always aim(ed) for a small or moderate calorie deficit, no starving myself. The past two years have just flown by that way, I've never felt like giving up because I'm simply not making myself suffer.
  • wunderkindking
    wunderkindking Posts: 1,614 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Theoldguy1 wrote: »
    People's definition of "suffering" varies. Some think reducing their 4 regular pops a day, drinks before or after dinner, big bags of chips while sitting watching TV, etc. is "suffering". Same with adding any movement to their day, it's "suffering".

    For change to happen in weight loss or really any activity, one needs to get outside their comfort zone. If not willing to do that, failure to change is the result.

    Just my $0.02.

    True too. I'm sore today from my strength training. Painful? Well yes, and it will get worse before it gets better 😁 but I don't consider that 'suffering', just some discomfort and a sign that I worked my muscles.

    Is calorie counting 'suffering' too, for me? It's certainly annoying, just the fact of having to log, and on top of that restricting myself isn't always fun (would be lovely to eat whatever I want and however much I want). But the 'suffering' is really minimal compared to the benefits of feeling so much fitter and better in my skin.
    But that brings it back to the OP - the benefits outweigh the downsides. If I had to do group Zumba classes every day and only eat steamed vegetables and lean meats (just to give examples for myself) there's no way I would have achieved my current weight-loss, I would have given up after a few months, if not weeks. Too much suffering compared to the payoffs.
    Heck, if I had started with my current exercise regime at the start of my weight loss, I would never have kept that up either (too much too soon).

    Push yourself, just don't push yourself too hard.

    I think the message here is more 'push yourself in ways that you enjoy'. Or don't push yourself any more than you can help while getting results, if you're not into pushing yourself.

    You don't have to be 'driven' to be successful. the idea that you do is... kind of toxic to success for some psychologies. And you can succeed without pushing yourself in unpleasant ways. Without ever being more than mildly inconvenienced or feeling like it's 'work'.

    The idea that it has to be hard to count is bad news in most of life. If you like the work and find it rewarding - I do sometimes, in places - then the discomfort is off set by "I DIDN"T DIE/I DIE THE THING". If you don't find that rewarding in and of itself you need to find ways to make it easy and make it a good time or you're GOING TO ULTIMATELY FAIL.

    Fortunately you can succeed without ever being sore OR counting calories if you find being sore awful and counting calories horrible.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 25,278 Member
    Generally, I agree with the premise. The implicit idea that fatness is sin, and needs to be expiated through suffering - that's wrong, unhelpful for most.

    I'm not even sure everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone to progress: Depends on the width of an individual's comfort zone, and (on the flip side) to what extent they're one of those people who defines discomfort/suffering as somehow noble, so motivating.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. "Know yourself" is important. Things that are "suffering" to some can be (perverse?) fun for others (such as @Djproulx's observation about endurance events/training).

    However, I think some people lock themselves into narrowly rigid self-definitions that unnecessarily limit their options, when just loosening their self concept a tiny bit could make a big difference. (I'm thinking of the "I hate all vegetables" "I hate all exercise" kind of thing here.)

    2. The operational definition of "suffering" may vary individually. If it's "suffering" not to get anything and everything one wants in the moment, well, yeah, there's going to be suffering.

    On the flip side of that is potentially a failure to notice or viscerally recognize "suffering" that has become a familiar and comfy habit, creating distaste for change. Here I'm talking about things like mobility or energy limitations (due solely to inactivity or excess weight not injury or unavoidable/irreversible health conditions). The limitation is familiar, the change process at least mildly uncomfortable (maybe more), and the benefits on the other side can't yet yet be imagined.

    The current state of suffering may not even be clearly felt as suffering, but just as "how things are". For sure, in some respects, I didn't recognize some of past Ann's optional life conditions as actively unpleasant, until I felt the huge difference after they'd changed. Some of them, I even thought *couldn't* change, until they did.
  • wunderkindking
    wunderkindking Posts: 1,614 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    Generally, I agree with the premise. The implicit idea that fatness is sin, and needs to be expiated through suffering - that's wrong, unhelpful for most.

    I'm not even sure everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone to progress: Depends on the width of an individual's comfort zone, and (on the flip side) to what extent they're one of those people who defines discomfort/suffering as somehow noble, so motivating.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. "Know yourself" is important. Things that are "suffering" to some can be (perverse?) fun for others (such as @Djproulx's observation about endurance events/training).

    However, I think some people lock themselves into narrowly rigid self-definitions that unnecessarily limit their options, when just loosening their self concept a tiny bit could make a big difference. (I'm thinking of the "I hate all vegetables" "I hate all exercise" kind of thing here.)

    2. The operational definition of "suffering" may vary individually. If it's "suffering" not to get anything and everything one wants in the moment, well, yeah, there's going to be suffering.

    On the flip side of that is potentially a failure to notice or viscerally recognize "suffering" that has become a familiar and comfy habit, creating distaste for change. Here I'm talking about things like mobility or energy limitations (due solely to inactivity or excess weight not injury or unavoidable/irreversible health conditions). The limitation is familiar, the change process at least mildly uncomfortable (maybe more), and the benefits on the other side can't yet yet be imagined.

    The current state of suffering may not even be clearly felt as suffering, but just as "how things are". For sure, in some respects, I didn't recognize some of past Ann's optional life conditions as actively unpleasant, until I felt the huge difference after they'd changed. Some of them, I even thought *couldn't* change, until they did.


    Yeah, but all of this is where the 'to seek reward' comes in, to be honest. What do you find rewarding is going to be a matter of experimentation and it is not just the absence of discomfort. It's just that the reward has to be sufficiently motivating for YOU to offset whatever level of discomfort (physical or emotional or psychological).

    The basic learning theory for ALL living things is 'avoid what is punishing, seek what is rewarding, and the reward must be sufficiently rewarding to overcome any inherent punishment (broadly defined) involved in the process of acquiring reward'.

    In fact the definition, per learning theory, of reward is 'a thing that increases a given behavior' and 'punishing' is 'a thing that decreases a given behavior'.

    So it's kind of not debatable on the very broad. If it makes you more likely to do a thing more often, it is rewarding. If it makes you more likely to avoid it, broadly speaking, it's punishing. You NEED to find the things that make you want to make those good decisions that serve your long term goals more often. Yes, yes humans can conceptulize delayed payout better than a goldfish but our basics in learning and behavior don't change.

    The SPECIFICS of what is and is not rewarding and what is and is not punishing vary. And, yes, can be and almost inevitably WILL change in time.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 25,700 Member
    edited October 2021
    To me, trying new foods and new exercise became less of a challenge and more of an adventure.

    Will I like this exercise? Pilates sucked the first couple months, yet there was something there I liked. Trainer? OMG! The right one makes gym time like a coffeklatsch with burn.

    Oh wow! This tastes waaaay better than mom (who I now realize was a terrible, lazy cook) made. You mean asparagus doesn’t have to be slimy and mushy?

    If you can get outside the mental box of suffering and make weight loss a quest, an adventure you’ve got the secret to carrying on.

    BTW I just did thirty minutes on my stationary bike answering this and another post. That was an easy 194 calories on Apple Watch. Reframe what you’re doing as something you enjoy and forget the suffering.

    Yes, all of the MFP/weight loss experience can be a fun puzzle solving experience for me. The puzzle is to lose weight without suffering.
    • What foods do I need to eat to fill me up the best for the least calories plus some fun foods?
    • How do I need to eat them? (Slowly!)
    • How do I manage the exercise part of the equation without getting injured or bored?
    • Etc.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 25,278 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    Generally, I agree with the premise. The implicit idea that fatness is sin, and needs to be expiated through suffering - that's wrong, unhelpful for most.

    I'm not even sure everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone to progress: Depends on the width of an individual's comfort zone, and (on the flip side) to what extent they're one of those people who defines discomfort/suffering as somehow noble, so motivating.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. "Know yourself" is important. Things that are "suffering" to some can be (perverse?) fun for others (such as @Djproulx's observation about endurance events/training).

    However, I think some people lock themselves into narrowly rigid self-definitions that unnecessarily limit their options, when just loosening their self concept a tiny bit could make a big difference. (I'm thinking of the "I hate all vegetables" "I hate all exercise" kind of thing here.)

    2. The operational definition of "suffering" may vary individually. If it's "suffering" not to get anything and everything one wants in the moment, well, yeah, there's going to be suffering.

    On the flip side of that is potentially a failure to notice or viscerally recognize "suffering" that has become a familiar and comfy habit, creating distaste for change. Here I'm talking about things like mobility or energy limitations (due solely to inactivity or excess weight not injury or unavoidable/irreversible health conditions). The limitation is familiar, the change process at least mildly uncomfortable (maybe more), and the benefits on the other side can't yet yet be imagined.

    The current state of suffering may not even be clearly felt as suffering, but just as "how things are". For sure, in some respects, I didn't recognize some of past Ann's optional life conditions as actively unpleasant, until I felt the huge difference after they'd changed. Some of them, I even thought *couldn't* change, until they did.


    Yeah, but all of this is where the 'to seek reward' comes in, to be honest. What do you find rewarding is going to be a matter of experimentation and it is not just the absence of discomfort. It's just that the reward has to be sufficiently motivating for YOU to offset whatever level of discomfort (physical or emotional or psychological).

    The basic learning theory for ALL living things is 'avoid what is punishing, seek what is rewarding, and the reward must be sufficiently rewarding to overcome any inherent punishment (broadly defined) involved in the process of acquiring reward'.

    In fact the definition, per learning theory, of reward is 'a thing that increases a given behavior' and 'punishing' is 'a thing that decreases a given behavior'.

    So it's kind of not debatable on the very broad. If it makes you more likely to do a thing more often, it is rewarding. If it makes you more likely to avoid it, broadly speaking, it's punishing. You NEED to find the things that make you want to make those good decisions that serve your long term goals more often. Yes, yes humans can conceptulize delayed payout better than a goldfish but our basics in learning and behavior don't change.

    The SPECIFICS of what is and is not rewarding and what is and is not punishing vary. And, yes, can be and almost inevitably WILL change in time.

    That's kind of the cognitive problem, isn't it?

    There's a short-term vs. long-term side of both rewards and punishments (in humans, for sure; and in other animals to the extent they can recognize and manipulate that time scale). We need to make tradeoffs across the time scale. Present rewards/punishments are more visceral, future ones more theoretical (perhaps even unable to be conceptualized at all).

    If, in your post, you're disagreeing with something I wrote, I have to admit I'm not sure exactly where the disagreement lies. (One possibility, of course, is that what I wrote doesn't communicate what I was thinking. 😆)

    I 100% agree with your core premise in the OP, as I understood it. I wrote what I did more in reaction to some of the other posts in the thread.

    I do have a little skepticism that "change one small easy thing at a time" is always the optimal route for everyone, which is about my only quibble with the OP. That's probably just my inherent skepticism of "one true path" ideas, plus some sense that psychologically some people seem do better if they feel like they're on A Quest (though I'm not one of them 😆 - sooo not).
  • Djproulx
    Djproulx Posts: 2,816 Member
    [quo


    Yeah, but all of this is where the 'to seek reward' comes in, to be honest. What do you find rewarding is going to be a matter of experimentation and it is not just the absence of discomfort. It's just that the reward has to be sufficiently motivating for YOU to offset whatever level of discomfort (physical or emotional or psychological).......

    You NEED to find the things that make you want to make those good decisions that serve your long term goals more often. Yes, yes humans can conceptulize delayed payout better than a goldfish but our basics in learning and behavior don't change.

    The SPECIFICS of what is and is not rewarding and what is and is not punishing vary. And, yes, can be and almost inevitably WILL change in time.


    Agree. It took me awhile to understand what reward motivated me to change(i.e. make better food choices) at first.

    Re: first bolded comment - I started to see not only physical appearance changes, but also the potential for a return to physical activities I enjoyed previously. As this possibility became more and more attainable, I really increased my focus on health.

    Re: second bolded comment - Now, my rewards are supported by a large circle of friends who share the same passions. Being part of those groups (runners, swimmers, cyclists, triathletes, etc.) is such an integral part of my lifestyle, that the social rewards of inclusion are as strong as the health benefits to me.
  • earlnabby
    earlnabby Posts: 8,177 Member
    this is why I take the time to make tasty meals that I really like to eat. Also..why I only do exercise that doesn't feel like I'm exercising. I take nature walks and have a few at home weights to lift.
    An aggressive gym plan will never work long term for me..and eating bland lean diet food is no way sustainable.

    This is me with one exception: a gym plan made up of swimming laps and group water aerobics is sustainable and pleasure-inducing for me. I love water. I have always loved water. I live where the water is too cold to swim in 8 months of the year (and typically frozen 3 of those) so the opportunity to go and play in the water is rewarding.