NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, March 18, 2016, 6:00 AM
Why does losing weight and keeping it off have to be so darn difficult — if not seemingly impossible?
The simple answer is that you are a creature of habit, and when you diet, you’re asking yourself to do something different — change your relationship with food.
As Socrates would put it, you’re asking yourself to eat to live, not live to eat. The problem is that habits are indeed stubborn things. If it weren’t so, you’d have to relearn to tie your sneakers every morning or retrain your fingers to type out your next email.
No question that habits make us more efficient, which is great. But sadly, in our age of gastronomical excess, our destructive eating habits can also make us efficiently more self-destructive.
Because of our habit-nature, we have a strong, unconscious tendency to cling to the familiar while resisting change. Why? Is all change a bad thing?
It just seems that way. Change demands that we abandon our safe, comfort zone(s) and venture out into unfamiliar territory — it’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t know.
And when it comes to losing weight, we’re talking about a smorgasbord of stressful, anxiety-producing changes — like not running to the kitchen when you feel an urge to snack, eliminating late night binges, and giving up the emotional security of comfort food.
And let’s not forget contending with the inevitable feelings of deprivation.
When you begin to cut calories, you’re quickly greeted with what I call the “Should I-Shouldn’t I” stress of ambivalence. Ambivalence is a war between intentions and desires — the devil (impulsivity) on one shoulder, the angel (positive intentions) on the other.
Over a lifetime of eating delicious highly-processed foods, your atrophied self-discipline muscle is usually no match for your impulses.
And when it comes to the war of ambivalence, impulsivity — which speaks in the form of rationalizations, excuses and other self-deceptions — will always have the advantage. You tell yourself, “Oh, go ahead, one little piece of cake isn’t going to make a difference.”
Or, “It’s okay, I’m planning on exercising tomorrow.” For this reason, you need to learn some self-discipline muscle building.
Self-discipline muscle building begins with awareness. Recognize that ambivalence is a prelude to what we might call your tipping point. In the field of epidemiology, the tipping point refers to the point where an infectious disease “tips,” and can no longer be controlled.
When it comes to Should I-Shouldn’t I food struggles, your tipping point occurs when you either bite into that brownie or you walk away. Not before!
So no matter how intense your ambivalent struggle, until you reach your tipping point, you still have a shot. A shot to be consistent with your intentions and not to capitulate to destructive eating. And another chance to break old habits and make new, healthy choices.
The following self-discipline muscle building tips will assist you through any ambivalent struggle:
1. Do not linger
The longer you remain engaged in any ambivalent struggle, the more likely that you will eventually capitulate to your destructive impulses. It’s too easy for your healthy intentions to be bullied by muscle-bound unhealthy impulses.
For this reason, you must become more mindful of your ambivalence and recognize that you will have a huge advantage if you don’t allow Should I/Shouldn’t I thinking to progress. As soon as you notice the internal battle is waging, you have a choice to stop it.
2. Become a black and white thinker
When gripped in an impulsive, ambivalent struggle, it’s crucial to avoid getting caught up in any debating, rationalizing, or deceptive thinking.
Remember, impulses are strong, and until you have re-formed your habits, you will be more susceptible to losing a heated Should I-Shouldn’t I debate.
The key is to stay black and white: there is healthy eating and everything else is unhealthy, period! If it’s not on your food plan, it is simply not allowed. Tell yourself: “I don’t eat that.”
3. Use your mantra
Write down two or three reasons you want to lose weight. Memorize these reasons. When caught up in the fog of ambivalence, go over your reasons mantra — like, again and again. And if necessary, again!
Don’t stop until you have replaced your irrational impulse thinking with a more objective mindset. Remember, all urges are temporary and will pass.
Dr. Joe Luciani has been a practicing clinicinical psychologist for more than 35 years. He’s the internationally bestselling author of the “Self-Coaching” series of books, published in ten languages. His latest book, “Thin From Within” (AMACOM) is a self-coaching, mind-over-mouth approach to achieving lifelong weight mastery. He appears frequently on national TV, radio and the Internet and has also been featured in numerous national magazines and newspapers. Visit selfcoaching.net for more information.
[The content provided through this article and www.nydailynews.com should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of a relevant professional with any questions about any health decision you are seeking to make.]
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