LeAnne Thomas, a single mom of two teenage boys, currently lives and works as an Office
Manager in Nashville, Tennessee. At present, she is completing her degree in psychology
and sociology. Future aspirations include writing, teaching, and counseling. She has been
living the low-carb life since January, 2003.
"Though you cannot go back and start again,
you can start from now and have a brand new end."
'Tis the season we all engage in collective delusion. Every year, we think
we'll be able to make and keep a list of resolutions that will perfect us
in the coming year. Even though we know the average life span of any given
New Year's resolution is about six hours, we simply cannot resist making them.
I think it has to do with the idea that there is something magical about a
new year — a fresh start. It is as if we believe on January 1, we will
mysteriously acquire the power and determination that eluded us the previous
364 days of the year. Mondays seem to have that same powerful aura.
Copyright © January 2004 LeAnne Thomas and Low Carb Luxury
Alas, this is just one of the many mental games we play with ourselves, preventing
us from addressing the underlying issues that keep us from achieving our goals.
The danger with making a New Year's resolution (or a Monday resolution) is that
it sets us up for the dreaded all-or-nothing thinking trap. Our determination
of success or failure rests on our ability to perfectly keep our resolve. If
we slip, we end up thinking we've blown it anyway, so we might as well wait
until next Monday, next month, or even next year. All-or-nothing thinking, also
known as "black and white thinking" is the enemy of any plan to effect change
in our lives. It is also one of the hallmark characteristics of depressed
In previous year's resolutions, my plans were always comprehensive, and I didn't
limit it to food and exercise. I was going to exercise an hour a day, adhere
to a strict food plan, become a gourmet chef in the diet plan du jour, drink 100
gallons of water, stop yelling at the kids, begin recycling, learn how to invest,
meditate, implement a time management system at the office, have a house so clean
that it would put Martha Stewart to shame, write the great American novel,
facilitate world peace... Okay, I'm starting to exaggerate a bit. But, you get
Obviously I was trying to become perfect, but I could never label
myself a perfectionist. I always thought true perfectionists were perfect, or
a whole heck of a lot closer to perfect than I was ever able to achieve. I
considered myself a failed perfectionist, if you will. As my best-laid plans
began to unravel at my feet, I threw up my hands in exasperation and chucked
the whole darn thing. With failure, came self-judgement and with self-judgement
came helplessness and hopelessness. Any accomplishments I may have had were
eclipsed by the dozens of failures and unfulfilled promises to myself.
How I broke out of this cycle had nothing to do my weight loss efforts, but
did pave the way for my eventual success in that regard. One day I stumbled
across an article about housekeeping. Now, all-or-nothing kind of gal that I
was, I was a miserable failure as a housekeeper as well. I would let no one,
not even my parents, into my house. It was so bad, I was afraid if anyone
knew how we lived, they would come take my children. I would have the occasional
marathon sessions cleaning the house and getting it totally perfect. Of course,
with two boys, it stayed clean for a whole five minutes, and by that time I was
immobilized with muscle aches and fatigue from my efforts. As the clutter began
to accumulate, I just quit trying to keep up with it and soon the house was
This particular article was about a woman who called herself the Fly Lady. She
has a web site devoted to helping hopeless slobs get control of their housework.
Her first recommendation is to go clean your sink. That's it. It doesn't matter
if the rest of the kitchen counters are piled with dishes, and the floor is a
hazard. Just clean the sink. Do a really good job of cleaning the sink and
make it shiny. After that, no matter what else you may do, don't go to bed
until your sink is clean and shiny. Ok, whatever. I can do that, I thought.
And I did. It didn't take long and I felt pretty darn good about it.
Then she suggests cleaning other areas of the house for no more than 15 minutes
at a stretch. I can do anything for 15 minutes right? I did. Lo and behold,
within a month I not only had my house cleaned and de-cluttered, but I was
maintaining it with ease. Amazing.
By now I'm sure you see the point. I was simply so overwhelmed by the enormity
of the tasks at hand that I didn't know where to start. Bent on perfection, I
failed to see the value of small accomplishments. My focus shifted from the
list of things undone to what I could do.
As it turns out, I had more time than
I thought. Procrastination is the spawn of all-or-nothing thinking and is a huge
time-waster. But limiting my work to 15-minute stretches made procrastinating
seem a bit ridiculous. You can get an amazing amount of stuff done in 15 minutes.
Success begets success. Accomplishments build on accomplishments. The light went
on in my head, and I knew I could apply these same principles to other areas in
Being 143 pounds overweight is an overwhelming concept indeed. But, I had learned
that I couldn't face all 143 pounds at once. I had to take it one step at a time.
I began with short walks, which lead to small changes in my diet. By the time
Dr. Atkins stepped into my life, I had been walking daily for a year and had
worked up to 45-minute sessions. I had only lost about 13 pounds in a year's
time, but I was following a low-fat vegetarian diet. Still, I didn't give up.
Exercise was part of my routine, just as my housework had become a routine, and
I was through allowing discouragement about one aspect of my life (my weight)
to discount my other accomplishments. I was feeling so much better and in
control that I returned to college to finish my degree — something I never
would have been able to consider just a few years earlier. Amazingly, I was
able to go to school full-time, keep my house relatively clean, AND walk every
They say when the student is ready the teacher will come, and I was now
ready for Dr. Atkins. This time there were no comprehensive plans. No New Year's
resolutions. No long lists, detailed schedules or complicated routines. Just
14 days of induction, starting January 25, 2003 — a Saturday. No fanfare, no
major preparations, no magic starting dates, just learning a new way of life
one day at a time.
And the rest, as they say, is history. As I write this, another year is coming
to a close and I have 74 less pounds to carry with me into 2004. Yes, I'll
probably make a few resolutions. Old habits die hard. But, I don't expect
the list to make the last 56 pounds come off. All I have to do is keep doing
what I'm doing, and I am assured of success.
Now, I have to confess that with
Christmas and my final exams, I've let the housework slide a bit below my usual
standards. But, writing this article was more important to me than getting the
kitchen clean and I feel fine about that. No longer living in a world of black
and white standards, I have found peace and release living within the shades
of gray. Besides, I can honestly say that my house at its worst these days is
still pretty decent, and getting a little behind no longer has the ability to
make my whole life crumble like the proverbial house of cards. Still, I
admit that overwhelmed feeling is creeping up on me, so I know what I must do.
The dishes can wait until tomorrow, but if you'll excuse me, I need to go
shine my sink.
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury