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The Path To The Holy Grail - Response-ability....
the series conclusion.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mastery of response-ability

Any guide, no matter how good they are, can only take you as far as they have been themselves. I started my journey in 2008 at 385 pounds. To date I have lost and kept off 116 pounds. I have survived many battles. I have earned my stripes and I have something to say. While I am not yet at goal weight, I have managed to accomplish something that few do, I have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off. I have beaten the odds and am now sharing the how and why in hopes that someone else might be made stronger. In short, I have made it my personal mission to compile and distribute this information freely to anyone who will listen. I don't need to blow a trumpet. My results and my longevity in this journey speak for themselves.

This represents many hours spent over the last several months reflecting on the question of why have I been successful this time when the last several times wound up being "false starts", to  lose 20 pounds then mysteriously implode.

All four points of the Path To The Holy Grail series- 

Emotional Stability.
Reprogramming The Reward Center.
Drying Out, Food Addiction Recovery.
Practicing Response-Ability.

These four concepts are synergistic in nature, working together like the four legs of a table, to provide a stable platform upon which you can build your journey. If one of these legs are missing, the platform becomes unstable and can fall over at the slightest nudge.  If you notice not one of these principles involve an eating plan or an exercise routine. These principles are the structure that supports the plan and routine. I believe that the key to my long term success is the practice of creating a proper internal environment because in the long term, that is what will keep me. Just like a submarine diving to great depths, if the proper internal pressure and strength is not maintained, implosion will follow.

The last in this series is the practice of mastering response-ability.

I read the book, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. In it, there is one habit that really caught my attention. Response-ability.  Response-ability is the ability to step into the narrow gap that exists between stimulus and response. This gap is what makes each of us uniquely human. Without exercising ourselves in the ability to choose our response, we are no better than Pavlov's dog. The iconic Pavlov's dog was the dog subjected to the famous stimulus / response experiment by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. In this series of experiments, he was testing the theory of conditioning and its effects on the stimulus / response process. Ring the bell, show the steak, dog drools. Done often enough, you can ring the bell, and the dog drools without the steak. The dog was conditioned to respond by the stimulus of the bell to drool. 

Without response-ability, we are reduced to animals driven by stimulus rather than logical thought. I needed to bring reason into my choices rather than reactively diving into the donut pile at work simply because the opportunity and stimulus presented itself.

Here are some of the biggest battles that I have won over time...

Goodies at work- this was a HUGE battle for me. I would pack a good, nutritious lunch for work only to get totally derailed when a vendor would bring in pizza or donuts for the guys at the shop. I would come in for coffee break only to be greeted by six dozen fresh donuts of every imaginable variety beckoning for me to indulge. The same applies to pizza, a vendor would bring in pizzas for everyone, literally. If we had 15 guys on day shift, there would literally be 15 pizzas sitting on the break room table. Imagine coming in hungry, open the door and POW, get slammed by a wall of fresh pizza smell.  I hear a bell ringing, here comes the drool. A difficult scenario indeed.

Then there is the all you can eat buffet-  I'm not taking about a well stocked salad bar either, I'm talking about a full AYCE buffet of unbelievable entree's, steak, chicken fried fish every imaginable dessert or let's not forget Chinese...yummy, delicious, unbelievable taste explosion of Chinese....oh dear...


All of these scenarios began to have some common threads when I began to pick them apart like an autopsy as to why my resolve melted and my instincts took over just because something "rang the bell".

Fear of loss / The "Last Supper" trigger- There is a limited supply of pizza or donuts. If I don't act now, I will lose out.  Another scenario would be if I am traveling and find a buffet that is unique and I will not see for a long time because they don't have anything like it in my area. This is my only chance to get it.

The fix for me- hey, they make this stuff EVERY DAY. This will not be the last time in my life I will see this. I don't have to be like a man facing execution eating his last meal.  There will be another opportunity, really.

The OMG this is SOOOOO GOOOD trigger-  It took a great deal of time of stepping into this gap over and over again until i came to a place where i can walk away rather than self-destructing at the sight of a pile of egg rolls on a buffet. It took a long time.

The fix for me- The Law of diminishing returns applies here. How many times has the first plate been almost an out of body experience, the second plate was tasty but not as stimulating, and the third was that I was eating it simply because I could, because I had access to it, and my memory of the first plate was still ringing strong in my brain. Sound familiar?  I came to realize that I need to slow down and the following plates that I am conditioned to eating will not taste as good so why bother? Live in the moment, savor that first plate realizing that this is as good as it is gonna get. It only goes downhill from here.  I would totally savor the first, focus and be mindful of the moment rather than being driven to go get more before someone else gets it. I deliberately made myself wait for a while before even entertaining the thought of seconds. It took a long time, but after a while, one plate would do.

You don't undo years of conditioned response to stimulus in a matter of weeks. It can take years of making alternate choices in your response to stimulus before the re-programming really takes hold.

The greatest victory in my journey didn't happen when I broke the one hundred pound weight loss mark. It didn't happen when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. Those were notable events for sure, but the greatest event of all was when, for the first time, I stepped into the gap between stimulus and response. I said no, walked away, and did not feel a sense of loss. No gravitational pull threatening to engulf me in its grasp, drawing me back to the pleasure of the moment and the self-condemnation that is sure to follow.  Long term success is and has always been how one reacts to the moment by moment challenges that arise.

Each time I stepped into the gap and said no, something gets stronger on the inside and the gap gets wider. When I first started, the gap was so narrow it seemed like all I had to do was see the food and Shazam, I'm chowing down. Slowly, over time, decision by decision, the gap got progressively wider until I felt I had more control. I, not the food, was calling the shots.

Sometimes, the stimulation was so strong with certain foods that I could not exercise moderation but rather had to exercise abstinence. There are times that moderation isn't enough. I had to walk away from certain things until I could take it or leave it. Until i was back in control. The best example of this is my relationship with the Whopper. I loved them. Make mine a double with cheese PLEASE. I couldn't drive by without feeling the pull, it was always invading my thoughts. Each time I drove by, after caving in many times, I finally said no and drove past. I felt like I was cutting off my own arm to escape a trap. Sometimes it's a painful separation. However each time I did, I got stronger until finally one day, it never entered my thoughts.  I was finally free.  Then the day came where I made the decision that I would now choose to enjoy one. It had been months since I last had one. The anticipation was building... I couldn't wait. I got my burger, pulled off to the side and ate it with reckless abandon.

It was the biggest non-event of my life.

It not only lost its pull on me but it lost its taste as well. What was like heaven to me several months ago was now so much goo on a sesame seed bun.

By practicing the ability to choose my response, I broke its pull. By breaking it's pull, I bought the time necessary to dry out from my compulsive addiction. By drying out, I was able to clearly taste it for what it really was, junk food.

I haven't been back since and I have no compulsion to do so.

This is only one example out of many. Anyone who has been successful in the long term process of weight management can tell a similar story.

As I close this blog series, can you see the sequential nature of these habits that I have expounded upon over the last several weeks?

Practicing the things that make for emotional stability puts out the inner fire and anxiety that drives so much of our over eating, creating a calmer inner environment. This allows us to re-examine why we do what we do and seek out new things that will  bring us a sense of reward. Having something other than food that brings us a higher sense of achievement and self respect. Clean eating that gives our bodies a chance to dry out from the non stop flood of addictive processed foods and exercising the ability to say no gives us greater control and self respect which in turn makes for a more stable emotional environment.

These are not individual principles, they all work together in one continuous cycle until we are empowered to succeed, until we can believe that we can do this and earn our own self respect. From this empowered center flows the exercise routine and the eating plan. When these principles are practiced and reinforced, they provide for a continued stability that will keep me when life gets in the way of my routine.

It keeps me grounded, settled, and headed in the right direction.

If you have enjoyed this series and would like a copy in PDF format, please write me at and I will reply with a copy. If you feel this was valuable information to you, please feel free to share with a friend.

With love,


The "Path To The Holy Grail" Series

Intoduction to the Holy Grail

Emotional balance part 1 - journey to the center of the problem

Emotional balance part 2 - Relationship with the scale

Emotional balance part 3 - Self talk

Emotional balance part 4 - Realistic weight loss goals

Emotional balance part 5 - Independence And Passion.

Reprogramming The Reward Center

Recovering From Food Addiction


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
JOANNHUNT 2/14/2013 11:32AM


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COFFEELADY68 12/8/2012 8:44AM

    Thank you so much for sharing these hard earned insights from your successful weight loss journey! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ALIDOSHA 10/17/2012 6:51PM


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ANSWRGAL 6/26/2012 9:45AM

  Thanks so much for being a role model to overcoming schedule challenges! It is such a blessing to have someone talk about the real-life issues. Look forward to hearing about the big event.

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TDWANDD2MYK9 6/26/2012 1:26AM

    Thank you. That was a great blog. emoticon

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CAPECODBABE 6/24/2012 11:57AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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DRAGON-CHICK 6/24/2012 10:09AM

Yep, I'll be asking for the final product, and sharing your insights.
Thank you, thank you!

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LUCINDARW 6/22/2012 12:25PM

    Robert thank you for the seris on your journey I have enjoyed it very much. It has been very inspirational and motivational! Lucinda

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OLIVIANIGHT 6/21/2012 6:25AM

    This is such a great series. I hope one day I can get to the same point you're at and say that I've stepped in and widened that gap.

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QUIERRA 6/20/2012 2:49PM

    What a great story. Keep up the good work.

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SAIHALVERIC 6/20/2012 12:23PM

    Robert, What an amazing series! Thank-you so very much for sharing your hard earned insights.

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WANNABFIT34 6/20/2012 3:24AM

    I am reading a very interesting book right now that you may be interested in checking out "The end of overeating" David Kessler. While it is stuff I have figured out it is great to have it reaffirmed.

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SERASARA 6/19/2012 8:35PM


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KITHKINCAID 6/19/2012 6:50PM

    Read a really interesting article today in an OLD Newsweek from February, but they're actually doing studies in the emotional center of the brain now and proving EXACTLY what you have said here. It is physically possible to produce more grey matter between the call and response centers in the brain with practice. Looks like you've grown yourself a bigger frontal lobe while losing weight! Congrats :)

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LYNCHD05 6/19/2012 5:53PM

    Robert you are truly an exceptional author. We have all enjoyed your blogs and want to thank you for sharing your journey.

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BUTTERFLY-1976 6/19/2012 3:26PM

    What a great series. I can't wait to get a copy, print it & have it available all the time.

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HUNGRYWOMAN2 6/19/2012 11:27AM

    I really loved your series! I appreciate you willingness to share. I would really find a referral copy helpful. emoticon

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ROUNDTOWNMOM 6/19/2012 6:03AM

    You will never really know, I don't think, what an inspiration this whole series has so many of us. Thanks, Robert, for putting yourself out there..........for being willing to bare your soul and share this journey with all of us!

We will all march on........together!

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RONNIEHUEY 6/19/2012 3:51AM

    Doing good

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123ELAINE456 6/19/2012 1:24AM

  This is an AWESOME SERIES that will help many going down the journey of life and weight lost. This is the WAY TO GO!!! Thank You for sharing it with us. God Bless You ane Have a Wonderful Week.

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LOGOULD 6/19/2012 12:04AM

    Thank you for all the forethought and effort that you put into this series. I've saved each and every one and will be reading them over an over again. You are so insightful! Your wisdom has blessed many lives....mine included. MUCH THANKS!

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GRANDMABABA 6/18/2012 9:02PM

    This has been awesome. Thanks for sharing. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SAINTBETH 6/18/2012 8:28PM

    Great insight into our common problem--overweight and under-fit. Thanks for your analysis.

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BEYONDLIMITS 6/18/2012 7:17PM

    Good reading! Thanks for your insights.

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MAMMAW497 6/18/2012 5:55PM

    You're right on!

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PATTOMMC3 6/18/2012 5:36PM


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LUCINDARW 6/18/2012 3:01PM

    Robert thank you for the Holy Grail Series. I have learned allot from them and look forward to the e-book I have already sent you an e-mail about the copy but will send another now that the series is done. That way I can read it when ever I want and gives me a insightful look at the emotional eating part that's pretty much where I am right now. I too would be interested in a series or blog about how you incorporated exercise into your life. Thanks again and I a wait your e-book eagerly! Lucinda emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BECCA315 6/18/2012 2:56PM

    The feeling that each meal might be my last is so familiar to me. As a child, we usually had a snack divided between four sisters, and we each had to fight to get our share. I still feel this way sometimes, like I'll never be able to buy a bag of chips or a candy bar in my life. It's a hard issue to get past.


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BASTIONSGIRL 6/18/2012 12:38PM

    Thank you so much, this was a fantastic read and really helpful. You wrote so clearly, it was easy to understand and relate--this helps put things in perspective for me where I am right now in my weight loss goals and where I will be in the future. Thanks for reinforcing the lifestyle of healthy living to us!

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WORLDSERIES11 6/18/2012 12:22PM

    Thanks for sharing your insights and experience. I have learned a lot.

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DAWNNEWDAY 6/18/2012 12:00PM

    Thank you so much for this series. I'm sad for it to end. Next you should write a book for us!

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DARLENEK04 6/18/2012 11:56AM

    Great blog Robert, and very interesting are the others....
I am sending this one also to my husband....

I will ask him about the pdf since I am computer uhhhh stunted. LOL

Blessings and keep us all informed of how you are doing....and by the
way, after losing 116 pounds, how much more do you have to go to get to
your goal weight???

Blessings and hugs,

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RUDITUDI2000 6/18/2012 11:55AM

    Learning much from your wisdom! Thank you.

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TONYVAND1 6/18/2012 11:40AM

  emoticon Robert I have enjoyed your blogs.

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KAREN_NY 6/18/2012 11:27AM

    Well said! I totally get the Whopper story, having had a similar experience with almond crescents at otherwise fabulous local bakery. I avoided them for almost a year, and when I went back, the oversweetness was a shock - I couldn't finish it, and don't miss it.

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RELLINGS 6/18/2012 11:26AM

    Good Insights!

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CLAYARTIST 6/18/2012 11:20AM

  Thank you for sharing and your insitful observations, I am still on the path... emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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GALINAZ 6/18/2012 11:04AM

    Thank you for sharing what you have learned. I would like to read your learnings on exercising; how did you make it a part of your life?

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EFFRAYECHILDE 6/18/2012 10:57AM

    Great blog!

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LUCKYONE60 6/18/2012 10:56AM

    Wow, food for thought, so to speak. I have also recently discovered that if I pay attention, I can choose to stop when that inner voice says "Walk away!". It is the best feeling ever. Thanks for blogging!

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LOVEXAVIE 6/18/2012 10:38AM

  "It was the biggest non-event of my life."
I LOVE IT!!! That's what we all strive for!

Thank you once again for so openly sharing.
No telling how many people you've helped!

I think this blog was my fave os the entire series (though I loved them all).

All the best to you!

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NIGHTOCUPS 6/18/2012 10:38AM

    Thanks for the guidelines to this. I was really wowed by all that you discovered using this technique and I will try it as well. Thank you!

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CATDUG19 6/18/2012 10:25AM

    Thank you Robert for this series. The Last Supper Trigger made me laugh I have been there and that uncontrolable pull for something I knew was no good for me. You are so right that the real journey has nothing to do with food and exercise. Thanks

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MOMMY445 6/18/2012 10:14AM

    what a great blog,Robert! thanks for sharing! have a terrific day!

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TURNINGTABLES21 6/18/2012 9:37AM

  Thank you, Robert. To quote you "I, not the food, was calling the shots." is a simple statement rolled up in (whole wheat ) wrap of determination. Only those of us who have had and unhealthy relationship with food can appreciate that sentiment.

Again, thanks for baring your soul, and encouraging the rest of us to truly reflect and search inward and meet our addiction head-on.

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TATTER3 6/18/2012 9:05AM

    Keep Sparkin'!!!

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NEWMOM20121 6/18/2012 9:05AM

    Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

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BIRDLSLAURIE 6/18/2012 8:57AM

    Thank for this wonderful series of blogs. They are educational and thought-provoking.

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CAROLZ1967 6/18/2012 8:16AM

    Thanks! I enjoyed all of these. I'm sure you have given many on SP "food for thought" and will give them that boost or "click" they need to make some REAL, positive and long term changes to lead a fulfilled & healthy lifestyle.

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MIMIDOT 6/18/2012 7:50AM

    Another great blog. Thanks for sharing.

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Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.