Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Drill Sergeant Approach

I used to follow a low carb dieters on-line support group. The group was not moderated, so you'd get a large variety of people posting who clearly had no interest in supporting anything except their own perspective on low carb dieting.

I rarely posted to the group because it was such an unsupportive support group. Many of the people were arguing against the exclusion of fruit in particular, but some just seemed to hang out there so that they could bully all of the dieters into "confessing" that they were a bunch of lazy pigs who needed to take responsibility for their problems. One in particular, who I'll call "J.", took every chance to needle people and had a signature at the bottom of every post which was something like, 'stop eating and move, you fat f*ck'.

This is what I call the "drill sergeant" approach to getting people to lose weight. Some people think that the only way to get people to do something about their problem is to push them hard and make them hate themselves. The interesting thing is that some of the people in the low carb on-line group thought this was a good thing and expressed the opinion that J. was helpful to them. I should note that most of them had already had some success in their dieting so they probably already had some confidence in their capability to control their eating habits and lose weight. The more fragile members who were struggling to get a toehold on their problems were very discouraged and upset by J.'s comments and approach.

For me, being bullied and insulted has never lead to anything besides binge eating, and I have serious doubts that such a method is good for anyone unless they're already fired up inside about tackling their issues and want to add their attackers fire to their weight-loss fighting engines. The bottom line though is that I don't think any sort of negative mantra will ultimately be a good thing for anyone. If you're told by others that you're so weak and pathetic, and you embrace that idea, you're just going to give up because you'll have no faith in your ability to ever overcome your issues.

I've also found that telling yourself simply to "stop" something when you don't even know why you started or can't stop isn't a very effective approach in the long run. Wanting to eat all of the time (or too much) is a bit like a dog that is tied up on a short rope in front of his dog house straining to break free. The problem isn't that the dog is straining at his rope all of the time and telling him to simply stop won't help. The problem is that the leash is too short and the dog's nature is to run free. Put the dog in a large open pen and the problem is solved. Telling yourself simply not to eat (and calling yourself a 'fat f*ck') is just saying, "don't strain at the leash, stupid." The real solution is finding out how to set yourself free so you don't want to strain anymore.