success is a choice...right?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

So I'm in psychology. In a year or so, if the dissertation gods smile down at me, I will have a Ph.D. Which means I should know a lot--about psychology, anyway. And I guess I do. I know how to teach dogs to drool when a bell rings. I feel like I went to school with Freud and Piaget. I feel like I'm supposed to know enough to rid myself of all the problems of humanity. In the particular case of eating, I should know all kinds of helpful stuff about motivating myself to eat right and exercise, right?

But I'm learning that knowing isn't the same as KNOWING. For example, lately I've been struggling with what psychologists would call "locus of control." Basically, it's a person's perception of who is responsible for what happens to them--like, whether it's themselves, or if they are the victim or beneficiary of uncontrolled outside forces. Now, if you asked me who was responsible for me, I would say... well, me, of course. I could go even farther and say that having that "internal" locus of control, that self-responsibility, is a major factor in being able to affect personal outcomes. (Who's going to try and better her life if she believes she has no control over it?) I know it's important, I know it's me that puts food in my mouth, and I know that I'm the only person who's going to scrape fat off this pudgy ol' body. I get all that. It makes sense.

So why is it that, when I have a couple of months of extraordinary success (by my standards, anyway), I'm just perplexed and can't figure out how such a thing could have happened? And when I "fall" again I can't figure it out either? I have a bad couple of days and they leave me with the same hopeless feeling of self-loathing I've come to know so well. Those two months didn't change that feeling. It still came back. It still sucks.

It would be so nice to have it all logical, you know? To be able to point to some earth-shattering event two months ago, some sign from heaven that magically erased all my food cravings and sucked the fat off my body. And then, of course, there would be some cosmic phenomenon that caused me to fall again. At the very least, shouldn't I have had a stressful day or an argument with a friend? Isn't that the way this whole emotional eating thing is supposed to work? I mean, if it was that simple, I could just go lock myself in a padded (food-free) room for a day after upsetting events. Problem solved. But it's just not that easy to predict, and it makes me feel totally out of control of my eating and weight loss success.

I'm learning to change my perspective, though. I've always had the same "diet plan":
1) Diet for 2-3 weeks. Do really well. Lose a few pounds. Feel awesome.
2) Inexplicably, lose control and binge like it's going out of style. Feel terrible. Gain weight.
3) Give up on dieting. Decide it's not for me and go back to unhealthy eating.
4) Repeat cycle again in 2-6 months.

I still fall, obviously. And I still don't know exactly why. But my turnaround time has gone from months to weeks, and from weeks to days. I lost control this past weekend and I was totally bummed. I let my eating get out of control for a day and a half. But then I MADE myself post, and MADE myself pack a healthy lunch the next day, before I even felt ready.

And I felt better, and I got back on track. Because I CHOSE to do things to MAKE myself feel better and get myself back on track.

It's not perfect. These past few days haven't felt like the magical smooth sailing I had in September and October. But every day I feel it getting easier as I get back into the groove. And despite having temptation and frustration, I'm eating healthy again.

I do have control over my own success, whether or not I feel like it, whether or not I completely understand it. Whether or not I'm perfect. The magical diet demons really are all in my head.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    If it weren't for the references to psychological terms, I'd say I'd written that entry! I too find myself in that terrible cycle -- I'm currently trying to crawl out of my "binge hole".

    Your references to MADE yourself post ... MADE yourself pack a healthy lunch truly resonnated with me -- that's where I am right now -- I border between conscious competence and unconscious incompetence on a daily basis!

    -- Molly
    4329 days ago
    That's exactly what I've been going through too! My best hope is that I'll find a balance someday and not be so "ON" or "OFF" my plan.
    4329 days ago
    Wow - I feel like I could have written your blog post myself!!! I think the thing we all have to realize is that we're never going to be 100% perfect and we're going to fall off the wagon occasionally. But the key is getting back up and getting back to it - and the fact that your turn around time has gotten smaller and smaller is a success within itself!! So good job, and good luck to you!
    4329 days ago
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