Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conditioning, What it is - Part 1

In my posts these days, I mention having conditioned myself to not eat emotionally, to eat in moderation, and to not obsess about food now without going into details of what that means. While the steps I've taken are detailed in many previous posts, I'm becoming concerned that using it as a catch-all descriptor for what I've done may be confusing or appear to be cryptic jargon for new readers. Because of this, I'm going to write several summation posts to explain the processes or link to explanations of them in a thumbnail manner. Obviously, reading the archives is best for full details. This is something I'm doing merely as an overview.

There is a process in the treatment of phobias called "systematic desensitization" which I'm sure some of my readers are familiar with. This process helps people with crippling fear to slowly approach the thing which they are afraid of. Consider the example of someone with a severe snake phobia that is becoming generalized to other snake-like things (caterpillars, centipedes, etc.). To start to deal with the fear, the therapist may first discuss snakes with the person who fears them. When she becomes comfortable talking about them, the therapist may move on to looking at the pictures of snakes until anxiety is reduced. The next step may be looking at live snakes in a reptile zoo from a great distance which is slowly reduced. Finally, the phobic person may learn to touch snakes.

My process of conditioning is not too dissimilar from systematic desensitization. That is, I start small and slowly add or subtract behaviors and thinking patterns. This isn't the same as telling yourself "don't eat that" or "eating that cookie won't make you feel better", though it may eventually have a similar result. Most mental conditioning that people do with themselves tends to be punitive and shallow. My conditioning has been deep, thoughtful, and gradual. Though one might be able to say that I have accomplished what pat mantras and slogans encourage, I did not use them to get where I am today.

Frankly, I find the use of oft-repeated mantras to be of limited value relative to employing more reflective methods of graduated personalized conditioning. The mantras tend to encourage change in one fell-swoop and treat the person hearing them or saying them like a private being berated by a drill sergeant. I'm an adult woman. This is not what I need or want to motivate or promote lasting change in me. People have been barking at me punitively directly or indirectly all of my life and it only made things worse.

There are two "rough" parts to the conditioning I have done. One is physical and includes changes in how much and how often I eat as well as adding in exercise. The other is mental, and includes changes in how I think about food and my life outside of food. I will do the best I can to make my overviews comprehensive enough to be of value, but not exhaustive enough to be difficult to follow. I encourage anyone who needs more explanation to ask a question, or investigate my archives.

Part 2 regards physical conditioning and is here.

Part 3 regards mental conditioning and is here.

1 comment:

dlamb said...

SUCH an awesome post. Short and to the point, yet comprising of all one needs to consider in order to tailor a program made for the individual.
As you know by now, I also abhor the "drill sargeant" approach, as well as "just do it!" type slogans. Catchy, just not particularly helpful.