About that negativity thing… I know I keep pounding on this because I think it’s really important. It is for me anyway and I suspect it is for most all of us on this roller coaster. How can it not be growing up in our culture that demands such fealty to an impossible ideal? So how DO we quiet that negative inner voice that relentlessly nags us to make us unhappy and do unwise things?
I’m not going on a glib positive thinking kick, i.e. just replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. Not a bad idea or technique, in fact it can be pretty effective for a quickie, temporary fix for a negative whisper but it isn’t enough alone to overcome a lifetime of conditioning and internalized negative thoughts when they hit like a freaking tsunami. When I try the technique at those times, I end up with brain-aching cognitive dissonance, trying to believe seriously contradictory things at the same time. A different approach is required.
To illustrate my point, following are examples of what I’m talking about:
- Negative whisper: when I’m getting ready to go out and look in the mirror and see only FLAWS. OMG, I’m fat and ugly and no one will want me around! (Yeah, that’s my whisper – imagine what a tsunami is!) When that hits, I think about the way the faces of my friends light up when they see me, heck even the lady at the local convenience store and the adorable little guy at my favorite market light up with bright smiles and sincerely happy greetings. Then I smile at myself in the mirror and see a face that is warm and yes, beautiful, transformed with the knowledge that I am loved and valued. THAT is real. There is no dissonance there. I can clearly see the negative thought for the lie that it is and embrace the positive reality.
- Freaking tsunami: when I step on the scale after a week of deprivation and suffering and see a lousy half pound lost or no change at all. Here we go again. I’m a failure. I’ve always been a failure. What’s the point of even trying because I’m such a loser at life. I can’t, I’m worthless, I don’t deserve to live. And I’m pissed off!
Note, I offer no simple positive thinking trick for the second point. That’s because there is no simple trick for it. Yeah, I can tell myself that I’m not failing – but yet, I am, because the number didn’t change so therefore I am not successful. That is cognitive dissonance. Be persistent, I tell myself, it will work, just give it time, plateaus happen. There is truth in that too but it falls far short of assuaging my disappointment and negative thoughts. Voluntary pain without reward feels stupid and masochistic. Can’t really argue with that. Any motivation to keep going is greatly diminished since it gets harder and harder, week after week, to convince myself that it’s worth the pain when the results continue to get smaller even with increased efforts. The truth and lies are too intermingled to unravel. But let’s try.
What is real?
- The physical discomfort of deprivation. I’m hungry.
- The mental discomfort of deprivation. I CRAVE ice cream but I can’t have it which makes me want it more.
- Diminished returns. Our bodies do not like being deprived of calories and do not want to give up their stores of fat. It’s a survival thing so they adapt to hang on to them.
- I feel very real anxiety every time I step on the scale regardless of the results.
What isn’t real?
- The number on the scale is reflective of my worth as a person.
Now I’m getting somewhere. I see the problem: the scale is a big-ass trigger for negative thoughts and feelings of shame for me.
When discussing any diet program, there is argument over two choices: weigh every day or just once a week. That’s it, right? But there is another option: don’t do it all. Why put myself in that place when I know it’s going to cause me hurt and ruin my whole damn day? Seriously. Why? That number, no matter what it is, has no meaning. We’re conditioned to believe it does because that’s the direct focus of every diet program, every ad, every promise of happiness. It’s everything. No it isn’t. That isn’t real, it’s marketing. What is real is how I feel in my skin, in my clothes, in my energy level, in my satisfaction of a day well lived.
I can make the negative thought and shame trigger go away by throwing away the scale.
Your skepticism, I feel it. It’s hard to change a lifetime belief, one that is so ingrained as Truth. We don’t even question it, do we? I suggest that we do, that we question all of what we’ve been trained to believe. Why? Because many of those beliefs are not real – they are manufactured by those who profit from them, exploiting our feelings of shame and failure to do it. And because they do. not. work. It’s well documented.
I can control what is in my power to control and blow off what isn’t. I can live and enjoy my life every single day with wholesome, conscious eating and put meaningless pound numbers, along with the negativity, in the trash with the evil, triggering scale. I know my positive eating plan is working because 1) I am doing what I know works for me (see Design Your Plan) and 2) I feel it. One day there was no need to “suck it in” to zip the jeans. Another day it’s “oh look! ankles!” Those moments are among the rewards, though not the only ones or even the biggest ones as it turns out. They are real. Is it happening quickly? Heck, no. Nor do I want it to because I don’t want my body to say “nope!” and continue on that unhealthy yo-yo thing. When it comes right down to grittiest of nitty, I’m mostly just real happy I’m not gaining weight any longer!
So how many pounds have I lost since putting my positive eating plan in place? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Don’t care. (Now you know why I have never mentioned that. Bet you were wondering.) I feel great physically – my knee and back don’t hurt anymore! I feel great emotionally without the negativity, the pressure and stress of trying to appease the scale god or beating myself up with guilt when I wasn’t. I’m also feeling happy and content, like all the time. That one is quite the surprise. I’m kinda wondering if it’s all the yummy Greek yogurt I’ve been using in recipes rather than mayonnaise and sour cream (both of which I love and neither of which I miss at all now that I have my Chobani). I’m not even kidding, check this out: Probiotic found in yogurt can reverse depression symptoms.
These are some pretty damn big rewards. Who knew? The scale god is a puny god!