Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Empowering Lie

Back when I was more out of control with my eating than I currently am, I used to tell myself that I was making choices, not that I was out of control. If I ate ice cream because I was depressed, I told myself that did so by choice with the full knowledge that I was attempting to drown my pain in creamy deliciousness. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was bad for my health and would likely cause me to gain more weight (or at least sustain the fat I already had), but I chose to do it anyway.

I told myself that this type of behavior was me being in control of my eating. This is what I would call an “empowering lie”. By lying and saying I was in control, I felt like I had power. I’m not fat because I can’t fight my urges. I’m fat because I choose to be so. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself that I was choosing to “be bad” when I overate or ate poorly.

Of course, no one chooses to be fat. That’s where the rub is on this control scenario. Choosing to drown your pain in food or to act on cravings or compulsions is not you being in control unless you are embracing the full implication of the choice. We make the choice dismissing the consequences, denying them, or mentally mitigating their impact. The final one of those is the easiest to do if you’re already fat. You aren’t likely to make yourself look much worse, even with a few more pounds.

Here’s the bottom line. It’s not a choice if you only have one option. If you can’t say no or if you can’t resist your cravings or impulses, it’s not a choice between, “yes, I will eat poorly this time,” or “no, I will eat properly this time.” Saying that you choose “yes” the majority of the time isn’t a choice because you almost certainly can’t say “no”, at least not most of the time. You have to be capable of saying “no” for there to be a choice and to actually be in control.

The scary thing for me is that I’m unclear on how I made the transition from choosing to eat to choosing not to eat. I don’t know what process allows me to say “no” now and not before. This scares me more than I can express. If I don’t know how I got here this time (or last time), I don’t know how I’ll get back if I get lost.

To me, this is the turning point for all people who lose weight as compared to those who try and fail. The fact that the birth of this capacity to truly make a choice about what and how much you eat is hard to recreate, stimulate or induce is frightening. It’s the critical yet elusive element in weight loss success.

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