The Blame Game Is Not Your Friend. Activate Your Healthy Lifestyle Conscience Instead.

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Everybody loves to play the blame game.

If thereís a problem, itís got to be somebodyís fault, right? So, letís figure out whose fault it is, and get that person straightened out, right now! Or at least make sure the finger's not pointing at us. Playing the blame game is one of our favorite indoor sportsĖright up there with gossiping about celebrities and/or the neighbors, and everyoneís perennial favorite: sex.

When it comes to obesity, there are plenty of ways to play the blame game, and they all can get pretty nasty...

The obesity blame game seems to have three distinct versions:

  • The Make Them Feel Bad for Their Own Good version described in this article, where being obese gets you blamed not only for your own problems, but for all kinds of things you couldnít possibly be responsible for all by yourself, in the hope that the more uncomfortable you feel, the more you'll want to change.

  • The Name That Cookie Monster version, where everyone picks their favorite culprit from the line-up of usual suspects: fat genes, hormones, saturated fat, carbs, sugar, busy schedules, comfortable couches, food advertising/marketing, sedentary jobs, unsupportive friends and family, etc, etc.

  • The I Canít Believe I Ate the Whole Thing version, where you blame yourself for being obese, and come up with all kinds of theories about whatís wrong with you, and why you're doomed to be this way forever. This one was always my personal nemesis.

    I don't know about you, but I've been on both the giving and the receiving end of all three of these versions, and they didn't do me or anyone else a bit of good.

    When I sit around waiting for external circumstances to change, or some new pill to be discovered, or other people to make things easier for me, I just put on more weight. If I start thinking that a problem like obesity has one cause and one solution, and that all I have to do is find the right one, I start experimenting with one fad diet after another, and all that does is keep the fad diet industry in business. And if I end up feeling bad, because of what someone else says or (more frequently) what I say to myself, I end up eating more to make that bad feeling go away for a minute.

    The Guilt Game: A Better Game to Play?

    On the other hand, though, it seems pretty clear that, if it makes us unhappy, each of us does need to take individual responsibility for doing what we can about our weight, no matter how many different factors may be contributing to the problem. But I never had much luck getting myself to do that with simple will power or logic. Maybe it's just my Irish Catholic background (the best soil in the world for cultivating guilt), but I've discovered that the best way to keep myself on track is to let myself feel a little appropriate guilt at just the right moment.

    It might seem like the line between feeling guilty and blaming yourself is pretty thin. But that's only because, these days, the kind of guilt most people are familiar with is toxic guilt--the kind you feel after you've already done something bad and have started beating up on yourself for doing it.

    There is another kind, though. It's that little voice you hear in your head before you act, telling you that what you're thinking about doing might not be such a good idea. This is called having a conscience, and it can be a very handy tool when it comes to eating right and living a healthy lifestyle.

    You're probably very familiar with this concept. No doubt, you listen to that little voice all the time when you're thinking about how your actions might affect someone else. But how often do you let it guide your choices about what to eat or your exercise? How often do you include yourself on that list of people you care about and have a responsibility to treat well, and let that determine what you do? Note: this is NOT the same thing as feeling guilty for breaking one of your diet rules.

    You can read some more about all this, and about how to develop your healthy lifestyle conscience here.

    So, what's your story? Have you been playing the blame game, or activating your healthy lifestyle conscience?

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    Progress toward a healthy lilfestyle conscience is definately being made here. I was comfortable with the 50 pounds excess I carried around unttil after an auto accident in '92 I became disabled and... ate without activity. Ate a lot. Then the guilt and rationalization nonsense started. Yup, the blame game was in full effect for years! But for the past almost two years I've been working with pleasure and my thinking surely and steadily has evolved into healthy directions! :) Report
    My problem is really keeping myself active in something else. And it's not even that I eat too much, I'm just eating too much of the wrong things. However, this article was very helpful and gave me something to think on. :] Report
    Figuring out the reason why we have a problem is huge in order to forgive, take control and move forward with life. Once you understand the why you feel the way you do, then you can make the changes needed. Report
    I am so thankfull for finding and reading this article. My little voice dictates at times and now I will try the stop and listen before I act. Report
    What an excellent post! I recommend reading all the articles you've given links to. The New York Times article gives a lot to think about. Report
    Guilt isn't my bag, never has been. . I'm fat because I'm just no good Raped as an attractive thin buxxom young girl, now I hide behind this facade, so no one will want me. Now 37 years after the fact I'm finally aking it off. No guilt, just want to live. Report
    Read the book "SHRINK YOURSELF" by ROGER GOULD, M.D. and he discusses all of these in how you examine yourself. It isn't a "diet" book. There is a SparkTeam to discuss his book. Report
    I think when we realize that we have to make our choices, we will be responsible and articles like this are like a wake up call. Some people don't know this so you and SparkPeople articles plus the teams we join are there for us.
    Thank you so much for all of this! Report
    I don't feel guilty over foods I choose to eat, I merely eat less of it, or just not as often as I did before I decided I needed to get healthier. Instead of a cheeseburger or fettuccini frequently, now I limit the so called bad chocies to special times and just eat less of it when I do order or make it. Guilt is a bad thing to let rule my life. Report
    Good topic! Thank you. For myself, the voice of my conscience regarding choices for myself is a very small, very quiet voice while the voices of my toxic guilt are howling banshee's. I spent months learning to dampen and soothe the banshees before I really began to hear my little voice, and then many months more learning to differentiate them.

    Of course, because the voice of conscience is so quiet and calm, she is really easy to trod down and ignore in my frenzied dash to the fridge when the desire to comfort eat sets in; yet, with practice and with learning to love and care for myself as much or more than I do for others, that quiet voice of conscience has become quite an ally! And the reward of self respect when I listen? That's priceless. Not to mention the size smaller jeans. *wink*

    So thank you for this great topic, it's an important distinction to deconflate these types of "guilt" because it is such an important tool. Report
    Coach Dean, are my cats letting you into my apt when I'm at work? Because you hit it every time!! It's as if you can read my life! Just today I blogged that I was allowing myself yesterday's mistakes...and forgiving myself...and then learning how not to make them again!! Thank you for your insightful and motivating blogs! Report
    How about using the word "remorse" instead of "guilt"? Just a thought... Report
    I have seen the blame game used quite a bit in all sorts of situations. In my case, it is a more reasoned approach. While technically, I am on the borderline for obesity, I have had some severe health problems, and have been told that my current weight is good enough now that I have lost a number of pounds. Also, there is a psychological current to being satisfied where I am, since 4 years ago, due to a severe problem I lost 50 pounds in 3 months without trying, and almost died! I had to work hard to regain some of those pounds -- then I overdid some and had to correct. My doctors and I are satisfied with my current weight. Report
    Thanks Dean. I've been struggling for the last month or so and this article is just what I needed to get me back on track. I'll be listening for my inner voice a little more carefully today. Report
    To your many good points I would like to add that there ARE lots of factors out there pushing a person to eat irrationally and to otherwise take poor care of oneself. Although it doesn't help to WAIT for external factors to change before one takes control of one's own destiny, it IS necessary to be aware of those external factors so that one can avoid, ignore, fight or otherwise handle them. Self blame is just as destructive as victim-like external blaming.

    Also, as we are changing ourselves and leading more powerful and rational lives ourselves, we may also want to eventually take on the changing of society and make it more rational. It is good to think about the things in society that are harmful to others, as long as we don't hand them our power. Report
    Conscience is very close to conscious. The little voice I hear I call guidance. There are a lot of unemployed angels, because free will means they have to be called upon at some level of our being. Spark People is a terrific site and we also all can call on the angels to guide us into the healthiest choice available to us. We can all be angels to one another and ourselves by treating each other with gentleness, kindness and respect. Report
    I've been blaming the weather lately. I've gained a little weight and I know it's my fault for eating more, but I've been saying that it's seasonal weight gain. I should not let myself gain weight because it's getting colder, but I feel so hungry. I'm still exercising so hopeful some of the weight gain is muscle. Anyway, I know I can lose the weight in the spring since I lost over twenty pounds last spring to summer. I'm using the change in weather as an excuse to eat more. Report
    The only way you can be successful is to take responsibility for your actions. I used to beat myself up if I ate something that wasn't nutritions, but now I understand that as long as the majority of what you eat is nutritious. Allow yourself some ice cream of whatever your favorite snack is. Report
    I've always been a firm believer in personal accountability. I can't blame anyone for my weight but ME. My eating habits, food choices & lack of effort are all within my control.

    I'm working hard on improving me. & the harder I worker the more I seem to like the new person I'm becoming!!

    (btw - I love the article) Report
    Ive found the most productive way to deal with this is share it with God. He's pretty good at setting me straight & then I dont have to carry it. PS. It only works when im willing to accept my responsibility for my own actions & words. Report
    Great words of wisdom. Report
    Perhaps there are better words guilt? Or maybe the better revision would be to call bad guilt what it really is, "Shame." Guilt is rather black or white in its real definition, right? Report
    On this one I don't agree with you at all, Dean.

    I may be talking semantics but I have found that the pop psych "toxic guilt/good guilt" explanations don't work. And especially don't apply to obesity. I mean we aren't talking murder here. Suicide maybe but not murder.

    The reasons for obesity are complex as I am sure a man of your intelligence already knows.

    Learning to handle myself with a light and loving touch has gone a lot farther than any thing ever has before.

    Maybe you could keep your tough love talk for you tough love team. Report
    I needed this today, thank you! Report
    Dean, You have done it again. You have a gift of knowing what a lot of people need to hear from someone that has been there. I have played all those games and I have never been a winner by playing these games. I agree with "WorryFree", I want to live this life of mine "FREE" of all this junk. Thank You for reminding me. Report
    Thanks for this article. It definitely hit a sore spot that I wasn't even consciously aware of. I recently heard this on the radio, "Decide what you want to be and be it." I don't want to be living in the past of toxic events, guilt and the safety of excess weight. I want to be a healthy, vibrant human being participating in life. Even as I write that statement, my fears pop up. I will work on it. Thanks. Report
    Thanks for the article. It was an eye opener! Report
    Great advice! It goes along with the advice I keep giving to myself: Don't hold myself to a different standard than I hold anyone else to. I deserve better than having a double standard. Report
    What a light bulb moment for me! Thanks! Report
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