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All or Nothing Thinking vs. Sustainability

Friday, October 19, 2012

I like to think of myself as a flexible person who easily adapts to change.

I also know that I'm a pretty decent liar. The person I lie to most often is myself. About all kinds of things. For instance, the lie that I'm a flexible person who easily adapts to change.

The truth is that I resist change. Even when I know that change is good for me (maybe ESPECIALLY when I know that change is good for me), I resist it. My internal committee loses no opportunity to inform me that we like things just the way we are.

So what do I do to overcome my resistance to change? I try to bully my committee into silence. I throw myself headfirst into the challenge. I go all-out with everything I've got. I dive into the deep end of the pool, sink or swim. And it's because I approach making change in that gung-ho way that I've convinced myself that I'm flexible and adaptable.

What happens when I dive into the deep end, sink or swim, is that I usually do start by being a success at swimming. Swimming hard. Swimming fast. Swimming as hard and as fast as I can. I make really good progress. Wow, look at me go!

Eventually, though, whether it's a week or two weeks, a month or two months, I start to get tired. Or something interrupts my hard and fast swimming for a day or a week. Maybe it's a vacation that causes the interruption. Or a health emergency with a family member. Or a work deadline. In the downtime of that interruption, I realize how exhausted I am. When the interruption passes, the energy required to jump back into that deep end is more than I can muster. So I quit. And my internal committee is right there letting me know I'm a failure.

What I forget each and every time is that such attempts at change always fail, without fail. I forget that for change to last, it must be incremental. Whether it's shining my sink every night for a month as the first baby step to having a clean house. Or learning to crawl before I stand up. Or practicing standing before I attempt my first step. It's in our human DNA that all change, all learning, happens in steps, and is the result of the accumulation of practice and knowledge, not by leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

The reason I've failed to reach or maintain my goal weight each and every time over the last 4 decades is that I keep diving into the deep end. I keep thinking that this time, my single leaps over tall buildings will get me and keep me where I want to go.

It isn't the diets I've chosen that have failed me. It's my own thinking, the lies I tell myself, that have failed me.

This time, my journey to weight loss and my determination to maintain has to be more about changing my thinking than changing my habits. Sure, my habits have to change. No question. But I already know how to make healthy choices. I've had years and years of practice making healthy choices about what I eat and how I exercise. What I don't have any practice or experience with is taking baby steps, of fitting these healthy choices into the way I live, or of knowing that the only way to make lasting change is one day at a time, one meal at a time, five minutes at a time.

Diving deep isn't required. Nor is do or die thinking. What is required is letting go of all or nothing thinking.

Changing my thinking is actually a lot harder than losing weight. The first step is to stop lying to myself about how flexible and adaptable I am when the opposite is closer to the truth.

In an effort to change my thinking, to learn to let go of the stinkin' thinkin' of sink or swim, all or nothing, I've reset my weight loss goals. Instead of racing to lose 2 lbs a week, I'll work on being content to lose a lb or less every week. I'll enjoy eating with friends instead of missing out on their companionship because they don't eat what I eat. I'll enjoy slow, leisurely walks in the woods in addition to my timed runs.

If it takes me a year to lose 40 lbs, maybe I'll even find out just how flexible and adaptable I can be.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post

    I really enjoyed this. I am a very "black or white" thinker myself, and it gets me in trouble time and time again. I am also incredibly resistant to change. I hate it.
    Moreso, I just feel as I can't cope with it.

    Flexible, and adaptable. I like your goals. I will be rooting you on ALL THE WAY.
    1966 days ago
  • DIANER2014
    Great blog! Hang in there! emoticon emoticon
    1973 days ago
    Oh Linda, come join me in my turtle life. I've been told I don't push hard enough, in races or in this healthy eating thing. It took me one whole year to lose 25 lbs. Talk about baby steps! 6 whole months to train to run a 5K. No quick solutions for me.

    The life of a turtle isn't so bad. 151 maintenance weeks and the turtle is my icon on the ticker. I know I didn't have as much to lose as many and my rather dull journey is not what makes headlines, but slow and steady has its advantages. Hang in there!

    1974 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/20/2012 5:02:49 PM
  • LESLIE871948
    this is a goodie. :) no, not that kind, a great blog
    1974 days ago
    This post is so awesome and well written. Thanks for sharing! It's weird when you know the truth about something, but still need to read it over and over to connect with it. I reached and maintained my health and fitness goals via baby steps and doing exactly what you talk about here. Unfortunately, I struggle to use the same methods to reach other goals. It's strange when you can drop the all or nothing thinking and "deep diving" in some aspects of your life, but not others. This post reminds me of how I succeeded in regards to my health and motivates me to push on in other aspects of my life.
    emoticon emoticon
    1974 days ago
    Excellent post - I struggle so much with this very same sort of thinking. Good for you for not falling prey to it this time.
    1974 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That is a great blog. You are right...the one day at a time meal at a time ..small steps will build into success. I was also a victime of the all or nothing approach..would be very successful..lose weight and then gain it back and give up.

    I think it is great you are going to enjoy being with your friends and have reset your goal. You can do it!!!
    1975 days ago
    Love this blog. Losing weight has never been hard for me though the plateaus can be frustrating. My biggest stumbling block has always been finding and keeping my motivation. Starting with small and even incredibly vague goals allowed me to make those baby steps, build on success and hold on to my motivation.

    Good luck!!!!
    1975 days ago
    You sound like me. A lot. Thanks for reminding me of what I need to hear on a regular basis. We can do anything, baby steps are still steps! emoticon
    1975 days ago
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