Weird, isn’t it? I’m quite aware you don’t probably agree with me, but bear with me for a moment so I tell me what led me to draw that conclusion. 🙂
I was reading Kristin Neff’s Self-Acceptance: Stop Beating Yourself Up And Leave Insecurity Behind when it really struck me: we’ve really gotten everything mixed up.
What I mean is that the key to controlling your eating and weight is not self-discipline and dieting.
When we decide to lose weight and stumble, we tend to endlessly berate ourselves for our perceived lack of self-control. If we just had enough self-control, we wouldn’t cave in front of that slice of cheese cake in the evening. Yes? No!
We seem to be blithely oblivious to the fact that there might be something else going on. Something that practically forces us to give in to cravings.
Let me tell you a little story.
My sister Hanna, 35, had always been slim till she started putting on weight a few years back. You know the story: she has two little kids, a demanding job and a husband who works night shifts.
Hanna has also always had an enviably relaxed attitude to eating: she’s much more focused on enjoyment than I am. I’m the exact opposite: always frothing about healthy foods and agonizing over stuff. “Enjoyment” is not really part of my core vocabulary. Should is!
Anyway, this spring (and in the spring before ) she got frustrated with her increasing weight and not being able to fit into her favorite summer shirt, so she decided to lose some weight.
Last year, she managed to lose all of 10 pounds, which she gained back over the winter.
This spring we actually started our own family challenge: I did my own stuff, and my sister and my mother did theirs.
I don’t know exactly what my sister did, but I think it involved a lot of restrictions: consuming too few calories, denying almost all goodies at one fell swoop etc. Hanna was able to follow her “program” about six weeks until she had admitted she can’t do it.
When we emailed about it, she told that her skin had started suffering (a sure-fire sign that her diet had too little fat) and her weight loss attempt had ended in a big binge.
This story probably sounds familiar to many of you.
What led Hanna to bingeing and abandoning her weight loss attempt was not lack of self-discipline but consuming too few calories, having an unbalanced diet and rigid) rules on what she can and cannot eat.
For some reason hardly any of us ever makes the connection between dieting, eating too little and losing your control over eating. Instead, we beat ourselves up over our assumed shortcomings.
I sincerely hope that Hanna’s two weight loss attempts haven’t screwed her head yet. I mean I hope she hasn’t started feeling guilty over her eating and consuming certain foods.
I don’t think I need to elaborate more.
What does this have to be about Kristin Neff’s book and self-acceptance? Well, Kristin Neff discusses how we tend to believe we’re in control of everything that happens to us and what we do, when it’s actually a big fat illusion.
Our bodies are intricate organisms with hundreds of neural transmitters and hormones that are perfectly capable of taking care of our of eating, hunger and satiety. There’s really nothing for us to do.
Trying to control your eating by sheer force of will is pretty much pointless.