There's a question I receive quite often at the site... "What Changed?"
(and "Why was this time different?")
Like many of you, I'd tried to commit to diets – even low carbing – a number
of times and kept failing. It just never "stuck".
I'd always approach it with
tremendous resolve — "I will do this! I won't fail this time!" And
somewhere between the end of the first day and the beginning of the third
day, I'd usually run into something in life that caused me a little stress
(isn't that the definition of life?!), or someone would have candy, pastries,
or pizza in front of me, and I'd rationalize in my head that this wasn't the
right time to be doing this... that I'd get right back to this resolve tomorrow.
It had gotten to the point where friends and family that heard me declare I
was "going to get this weight off!" simply nodded politely, or said something
empty like, "good for you!", and then took it with a grain of salt. They didn't
for one moment believe I'd really do it. Why should they? I'd never succeeded before...
This — quite literally — went on for years. And then... one time, it was
different. Something in my head just "clicked". I accepted that it would not
be easy. I accepted that for a time I'd be in that easy-to-give-up place — where
you're feeling denied, going without, feeling sorry for yourself, yet are
still fat. At that point, result are not tangible... they seem so far away that
they aren't "real", so it's a tough time. And tougher yet when you've realized
the only diet that ever can work for you is one everyone around you
doesn't believe in! Yet, somehow, I knew this was a turning point.
I wasn't sure how or why back then. But I'd decided analyzing it might not be
a good thing, so I looked at it as a "gift" and just went forward. Soon the
pounds were coming off, and I was feeling in control in a way I never had before.
One of the best things about even a small measure of success is that feeling
of no longer being out of control of your own destiny... your own body... your
A recent article in our local newspaper about human behavior has given me additional
insight I'd never really allowed myself to understand before. According to the
researcher, "There's a reason people do so many things that are bad for them:
To feel better! Life is tough. It's hard to be a human being."
As I read those words I realized the truth in them. That's it. We live in
the here and now. The future can often seem too far away. Your stress is in the
here and now. It's in the present that your day-to-day problems reside. And
eating what offers comfort is the "fix" for them.
It's the same if you know you should quit smoking... People know smoking endangers
their health. But if you're upset now, and want to try to feel better and calm down,
you do something reliable. A cigarette (or a piece of pie) is a short-term fix, but
it's a darn good fix.
And there's a world of merchandisers out there only too happy to accommodate us
with quick fixes. We're not conditioned to think about consequences. Food is cheap
and abundant and easy to get... especially the sugary, processed, unhealthy
So what makes the difference? What can push us to switch to "future mode"?
A popular school of thought says the only reason people ever change is because their
current state of affairs has become more unbearable than what they anticipate the
change will be.
We think about whether an action will reward us. That's the nature of humans, to
pursue pleasure and elude pain. Changing pleasantly unhealthy behaviors is painful,
so people don't generally change until they think not changing will be
I believe that first you have to get past the "there's no hope for me" thinking.
Deciding you'll never be able to succeed so why try? That it's just all in your
genes. Or that we all have to die anyway, so why not enjoy life?
Actually, that last one isn't such a bad way of thinking if you just adjust what
"enjoy life" means... Rather than enjoy that MOMENT (where you're nibbling away
at the sweet softness of a Krispy Kreme Donut), try defining "enjoy life" as
your WHOLE life — being able to run up a flight of stairs, dance with your
sweetheart, live to see your great grandchildren.
Looking back at my own situation, I now see that was exactly my situation. It
finally became more painful NOT to do it, than to DO it.
If you find you keep "falling off the wagon" (and berating yourself for it), perhaps
it's time to take a life assessment and compare the benefits of what you'll
reap from success against how tasty that Snicker's bar is.
Those benefits have enormous importance because they change the equation of human
decision-making, to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Exercising more often might not
be such a distasteful choice if it's seen as a way to navigate your day's routine
better. Giving up your morning sweet rolls might be less painful if you see it as
a route to not falling asleep at your desk that afternoon. And passing on chocolate
cake after dinner is less painful if you remember it means a night WITHOUT heartburn.
But if you fall for the ads for pills and gizmos that promise overnight success,
and that it will be e-a-s-y, then you'll feel like a failure when it isn't. Understand
that the shapely thin models did not get that way with these products. That life
is not a never ending goal of stepping out of a glistening pool in a perfect
bikini. It's feeling comfortable in your own skin... being healthy and vibrant.
Having the energy to do what you want. Of buying an outfit because it's
gorgeous, not because it fits (sort of.)
When you start to see benefits, you'll become addicted to the "feel-good", and
the feel-good replaces the desires for all the pizzas, cakes, and Twinkies.