Monday, October 29, 2012

Ditching Dieting - When do Factors Become Excuses?

One of the most popular blogs that I have ever written was titled "I Know What to do ...BUT.."  I believe most (if not all) of my clients are not lacking in head knowledge or intellect.  They are lacking in skill.  In the process of ditching dieting, finding the middle ground and making peace with food, eating, weight and activity/exercise issues, many factors can impede one's efforts.  Whether you are striving to recover from one of the many versions of an eating disorder, trying to learn to trust your own intuitive eating cues, or breaking out of the bonds of chronic dieting, these factors must be acknowledged.  Then they must be confronted.  After those steps are accomplished then the real work, skill development, can begin.  You have to figure out how to manage, change, challenge or accept these factors.  If not, factors will become excuses.  Excuses will become like quicksand and you will be immobilized. 

Some examples of factors that can become excuses and my suggestions as to how to deal with them are:
  • "I did so well in residential or intensive outpatient treatment.  I have too many distractions in my real life to make recovery a priority."
Very true.  The skills and insights you gain in a more controlled setting can be challenging to transfer when returning to university, families, work stress, etc.  However, you do have a "tool bag".  Even though you cannot think about recovery 24/7, you can make a commitment to bump up your recovery efforts day to day.  Do recovery reading of some sort daily, make your outpatient appointments with your treatment team a priority, reach out for support.  Making recovery a priority is a stepping stone to achieving the balanced, peaceful and fulfilling life you are desiring.
  • "I am surrounded by friends talking about weight loss and fad diets.  I am having a hard time not following the latest diet craze.  I want fast results"
Dieting is a national pastime.  It seems to me if diets and weight loss gimmicks worked we would not hear about a new one every other day.  We surely would not be one of the fattest nations on earth.  The obsession in our culture with diets and the pursuit of artificially thin body ideals is not going anywhere.  It is a factor.  Be a rebel.  Shout the truth from the rooftops, " DIETS DON'T WORK!"  Be strong and don't use this as an excuse to re-enter the world of the diet mentality that is full of shame, guilt and self-loathing.
  • "I am under a lot of stress.  Dietary restriction, binge eating, emotional eating, etc. is a comfort.  Maybe I can work on making peace with food, eating, activity and MY LIFE once things calm down."
Really?  When is the last time you remember having a stress-free life?  Intellectually we understand that food, overexercising, binge eating (pick your default behavior) does not solve the stress in our lives.  A lid on a boiling pot blows off sometime.  Ask yourself if there are ways that you can reduce some of the stress in your life.  Experiment with other coping mechanisms for dealing with stress that are not detrimental to your mental or physical health.  Maybe art?  Deep breathing?  A long lost hobby or a new one you have been considering can be soothing.  Go for a walk.  Then ... there are certain stresses in our life that are inevitable and we must accept those situations.  Stress is a factor.  Don't let it become an excuse.
  • "I am just too busy to work on these issues."
We are all busy.  Taking time for self-care, recovery, health and wellness pursuits is an investment.  An investment in how your day will go today and also an investment in how your life will be in the future.  I once heard a saying that went something like "If you don't take time to be healthy today, you will have to take time to be sick later".  There is no better time than the present to care for your body and soul.  Don't let a hectic schedule become an excuse.  Acknowledge it as a factor and proceed from that point.

You get the gist.  Now it is your turn.  What factors in your life could become excuses if you give into them?  Once again, I think the "all or nothing" thinking that we have discussed so often in this blog is the core stumbling block.  These efforts are not about being perfect.  Just pick up the old hammer and chisel and whack away at the factors chip by chip.  Then they will never become excuses!

Happy chiseling,