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Avoiding absolutes

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Monday, February 27, 2012

It is so easy, sometimes, to use absolutes - particularly ALWAYS and NEVER. I can't say that I never say never, but I do try very hard to avoid it.

One example? I really really dislike fish or any form of seafood. (Well, technically I do eat tuna / albacore, but that's it.) I dislike liver. I dislike brussels sprouts and cauliflower and lima beans.

Will I say that I would NEVER eat any of those? No. If I had a choice between starving and eating something that would normally be a no-go for me, I'd eat. I might not look delighted, but I would eat. I'm not sure if there's any edible item out there that I would absolutely refuse to eat if the circumstances were dire enough.

The words ALWAYS and NEVER often concern me when I see them used with respect to health, fitness and weight loss. There really isn't much place for ALWAYS and NEVER in a lifestyle change. ALWAYS and NEVER depend on things not changing, so change is in direct opposition to them.

"I ALWAYS give up around this point."

Okay, so? This time is a new time. Don't give up and you can immediately say you didn't give up around this point.

"I ALWAYS blow my diet on the weekends or in the evenings."

Are you sure? Can you go back and prove that every single evening and weekend have involved excess eating? Even IF you can, this time is a new time. Make this ONE weekend or evening not a blown evening and poof, the ALWAYS is defeated.

"I'll NEVER get this weight off."

So ... if you start to lose, you'll be wrong. Since internally we know that being wrong is bad (if not deadly), we're now likely to unconsciously sabotage ourself. That just sets us up to fight our own best efforts.

"I'm NEVER able to stop my bingeing or emotional eating"

This one is kind of interesting, actually. How likely are we to remember the times we overcame an urge to binge or eat because of overpowering emotions? If we didn't do so, it isn't going to be remembered. There's such an interesting way that our minds remember a few key episodes (probably the worst ones mixed with the most recent ones) rather than all the potential situations and a ratio of times we didn't to times we did, not to mention a comparison of really bad to not so bad.

If there's a trigger food, try thinking back and see if there has ever been a time you didn't binge around that food. Or recruit someone to help you by providing a single serving or less of that food and be there for you to prevent that expanding into more. Bingo, now you've stopped one binge (with help) and proven it can be done. Similarly, with emotional eating, try to think of times you've felt particularly strong emotions and done something other than eat. Crying until you felt sick? Screaming at the top of your lungs? Curling up under the blankets? If even once you've responded to that emotion without eating, then NEVER isn't the right word.

Instead of ALWAYS or NEVER, try to put things in a past tense (that acknowledges the frequency without claiming the absolute) and a present to future tense (that expects improvement over time).

I've often had trouble keeping myself motivated at certain milestones, but I'm almost to this one and I know I can keep going. I look forward to beating more of these milestones.

I'm slowly gaining more control of my binges. With my best friend's help, I was able to limit myself to one bag of chips. I look forward to being able to enjoy a single serving and actually appreciate the flavor.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Another interesting word is "should"; it isn't an absolute word. However, "should" is a word that one might consider using infrequently. "Should" gives one the excuse for not doing something. In fact with enough "should"s, a person could get in quite the mess. Best to stick with "I will do it"
    2173 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/8/2012 6:11:50 AM
    In addition work at not using "them", "just", and "only". It does not create well-being or community. I caught myself the other day saying, "It's just me." Since I said to someone I know quite well - I said, remind me not to say that again, it isn't true. It's me.
    2200 days ago
  • KIPPER15
    I had a boss who used always and never like a mantra. I don't work for him anymore. emoticon
    2212 days ago
  • KATIEK21
    you are so right! i am so guilty of using always and never a lot! I will work on it :)
    2212 days ago
    2213 days ago
    Thanks! I gave up smoking in that very same way.
    Every time I encountered any situation where I habitually thought "I can never get through this without a cigarette", or "I always smoke when..." I challenged myself to wait and breath and observe myself.
    The craving passed and I got to show myself that never and always are pretty much abstract concepts when applied to our human brains.
    I just remembered this quote:
    "Habit is a second nature that destroys the first. But what is nature? Why is habit not natural? I am very much afraid that nature itself is only a first habit, just as habit is a second nature."
    Blaise Pascal

    Yes, you do have the power to change any habit or way of being. emoticon
    2213 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/28/2012 6:46:51 PM
    Love your blog. I'm afraid I'm guilty of saying ALWAYS and NEVER too often.

    Good luck to you!
    2213 days ago
    Lots of good sense. emoticon
    2213 days ago
    Great blog..thanks for sharing!
    2214 days ago
    Very awesome and so turn. Thank you for sharing!

    2214 days ago
    Absolutes are probably the biggest reason I'm dealing with food issues. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    2214 days ago
    That is a good blog, really good - and helpful. Thanx for posting this!
    2214 days ago
    Love it! I am so guilty of the "ALWAYS" and "NEVERS"...and I have been working so hard it trying to change it and not say it any more.
    2214 days ago
    Awesome blog!
    You are so right! These can be very limiting words and restrict us from achieving more.
    Thanks for your insight.

    2214 days ago
    Brillian blog, Blue! (say THAT several times quickly)

    My favourite line:
    "There really isn't much place for ALWAYS and NEVER in a lifestyle change. ALWAYS and NEVER depend on things not changing, so change is in direct opposition to them."


    I'm really sorry we got off to such a bad start, because you insire the socks off me... and it pains me to think you might not believe that when I say it. I know you will surpass even your own greatest hopes for this journey!
    2214 days ago
    Good reminder!
    2214 days ago
    Thanks for sharing, I particularly like what you had to say about how we sabotage ourselves with our negativity. Have a great week!
    2214 days ago
    Lots to think about here!

    2214 days ago
  • SASSY5468
    Excellent blog! Thanks for laying this out there for us. It is definitely a fantastic reminder :)
    2214 days ago
    emoticon It makes me realize how much I use those absolutes without even knowing it. I need to work on it and not beat myself up when I do slip. This is a new life for me and I intend to make the most of it.
    2214 days ago
    Very true! Thanks for sharing!
    2214 days ago
    This is so true! Thank you for the reminder. I worked really hard on cleaning my house this weekend, and I'm trying to use the same mentality. Instead of I always mess it up again, I'm trying to think things like just do a little bit every day and it won't get as bad.
    2214 days ago
    This is a great and encouraging blog. Thanks for sharing. I do think that we do too many absolutes and I hadn't thought about it. And this time around I'm really not using them but I hadn't realized. Thank you for bring this to my attention. I will work at continuing, maybe that is why I have done better in this past year and few months. I am pleased with my progress and even when I have set backs I know why and when now. I'm more aware and that is part of it.
    Again thanks for sharing.
    2214 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this, I know sometimes I can eat a small amount of chocolate and be satisfied. Other times it pushes me over into a binge. I'm still trying to work on what my trigger is, I think is probably linked with my low self-esteem "oh I've eaten chocolate...might as well give up..I'll never lose this weight". It's a vicious circle of being down on yourself leading to self-destructive behaviour.
    2214 days ago
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