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-
Reprogramming The Reward Center.
Drying Out, Food Addiction Recovery.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will reply with a copy. If you feel this was valuable information to you, please feel free to share with a friend.
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