I did not suddenly wake up one morning with all the answers to my weight loss. Quite frankly, when I first set out on this journey I was just fed up with food and its, all-too-apparent, effect on my body. Initially, I launched out in the same manner I had many times before, with two significant exceptions. First, I decided to journal my experience for the first fifty days, which I had never considered before. Secondly, I committed to staying away from the scale for the first three weeks.
I got the idea to avoid the scale from some articles I had read on the Paleo diet. While I didn’t agree with all aspects of that approach, I did like their suggestion that the scale does not provide the best feedback for determining success in weight loss or management. Now, to a girl who has always lived and died by the scale, this was a revolutionary concept, so I settled on the three-week mark for banning the scale.
Reading back through my journal entries, I can see that the light bulb turned on sometime around the end of the second week. Until that point, my observations largely centered around the physical sensations and behavioral modification that dieting requires. However, I eventually started noticing just how essential my mind was to the whole process. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry, Day 12:
Alright, today I am back on track. It is becoming more and more clear to me that the true key to weight loss and management is in the mind. Of course, weight gain is caused by excess food; however, I am the one who ultimately makes the choice of what, when and where I eat. I like this idea… I have a choice. If I overeat one day, I can choose to right things the next day without heaping on unwanted feelings of failure and discouragement. Just get back on track; finished and done.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing three mental blocks to controlling our weight. I believe these are the greatest hindrances to progress along the weight journey.
Today, I want to explore the idea of learned helplessness with weight. As a yo-yo dieter with well over 20 diets under my belt, I had developed an attitude of helplessness in regard to food. I would not necessarily categorize myself as an undisciplined person. After all, there was a threshold that I refused to cross with my weight; however, I didn’t seem to know how to keep the weight off once I lost it. In essence, I was helpless to the draw of food, nor could I conceptualize a lifestyle scenario where moderation with food was even possible. For me, food seemed to be an all or nothing proposition.
The idea of learned helplessness is a psychological term that refers to a person’s unshakable mindset that she has no control over a particular situation. As a result, she gives up trying because she figures it’s no use or that she is destined to be a certain way.
I am a self-confessed carb junkie. I love breads and potatoes; oh, and don’t even get me started on sweets. Undoubtedly, years of yo-yoing had convinced me that I could not resist the draw of carbs outside the confines of a self-imposed diet with a clearly defined end point. Really, it was an unspoken conviction that any success I might have with dieting was only temporary. So, what did that mean for me? My eating habits would always eventually revert back to the old and familiar because I thought I was helpless to do anything else. Of course, this is not true. Many people actually live their whole lives without struggling with their weight. So obviously, the trouble was with me.
Now, the real crux of the issue boils down to addressing my flawed thinking; that I would inevitably revert back to my old habits and that I would be incapable of resisting my favorite foods in the future.
This time I am working to resist this mindset learned helplessness with weight in a number of ways:
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again, while still expecting different results. I honestly believe that you can change your way of thinking, but you cannot expect to get rid of one mindset without putting a new one in its place. What will your plan be?
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