Stop Throwing Yourself Down the Stairs!

Stop Throwing Yourself Down the Stairs!

Here’s the scenario. The dog was acting like an overtired lunatic and I needed to put her in the crate so she would stop biting, which made her whine, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Add to this: My daughter and I had been sick for days, and our appetites were coming back.

This is when my daughter says to me, “Let’s go to (a nearby restaurant) for dinner!”

This restaurant has pretty low-brow menu options. Think chicken fingers, french fries, nachos…that kind of junk.

My first thought? “Any excuse to get the EFF outta dodge.”

Second thought? “This is a bad idea.” We had been really sick, after all, and rushing right out to eat an unhealthy dinner option should have been on the bottom of my to-do list. But I wasn’t strong enough to put the kibosh on it, so I wanted my daughter to change her mind, all the while knowing this was incredibly irresponsible. I kept saying to her, “Are you sure you want to go to (the restaurant)? It’s probably not going to be very gentle on your belly.”

But she’s six years old, so she was like, “What does that even mean?”

I suppose I could have MOMMED UP and said NO we are NOT going, but I used her desire as an excuse to give in myself. As we got in the car, I savored a steaming pile of mama guilt for letting my child “have her way” when it was really just an excuse for ME to get what I wanted…

What did I want? I wanted to relax. I didn’t want to cook. I wanted a break from healthy eating. I wanted to eat something sinfully delicious after eating rabbit food since we’d been sick.

As I opened the car door, the still small voice in my head tried to get me to listen to reason…“Turn back now! It’s not too late!”

While this whole mental debate was raging inside my head, the sneaky, evil part of me was rubbing its grubby little hands together and plotting what I would order: nachos and wine.

Only minutes later, here we were at the restaurant. I was sitting there with this ludicrous, giant sombrero hat of nachos in front of me. I felt so defeated as I thought, “I always pretend that I’m improving, but look at me. I’m the same old person, always giving in.”

Needle scratching record. Here’s the truth. I AM improving. I’m NOT the same old person giving in. I’m still 12 pounds lighter than I was a month and a half ago. I’ve had far more successes than failures in that time, and while—yeah, it’s true I was sitting in front of a big plate of failure—it was one mistake in a sea of success.

Here’s what I learned from my moment of failure:

1. While it’s tempting to color our whole experience with the poop-flavor of one flub, don’t do it. When we allow our mistakes to overshadow our successes, we discount our progress and all the effort that went into it, making that effort seem “not worth it”—which leads to giving up.

Key takeaway: Never give up. When you give up, you only dig a deeper hole for your poor future self to dig out of. That hole can easily become an early grave.

2. A friend of mine said to me, “If you keep failing at something, the universe will keep serving up the challenge until you get it. I realized this applies to my eating habits.” Me too. (Duh.)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might be wondering: After researching and writing a book called Secrets of People With Extraordinary Willpower, why do I still make willpower mistakes? The short answer: I have a lot going on. The long answer is this:

In 1998, psychologist Roy Baumeister discovered that when people exert willpower on task after task, they get worse and worse at self-discipline over the course of a day. This means willpower is finite and can be exhausted.

We each have a limited amount of willpower, and once it’s gone for the day, we’re far more likely to take the path of least resistance and fall back on comforting old habits and behaviors, habits that perhaps we’d be better off leaving in the dust.

Psychologists have also discovered that the number one predictor of success in peoples’ lives is self-discipline: the ability to delay gratification in order to work towards something better. This means you need to have a long-term perspective over your whole life, to be able to put down what feels good in the moment in order to get something better long term.

And so I will always be a student of willpower and self-discipline. I’ve learned that these don’t come naturally to me—I wasn’t born with them—far from it. I’m naturally impulsive and impatient, and I love delicious food. And after all the studying and working in this issue that I’ve done so far, I’ve learned that if I go on auto-pilot rather than working on being self-disciplined, my auto-pilot will take me places I don’t want to be.

In the book, The Diet Trap Solution, Judith and Deborah Beck write about how dieting (and I will add drinking) are the only areas of life that…when we make a mistake, we say, “OH WELL, BETTER GO ALL IN AND f@#% IT, I’M JUST GOING TO KEEP DOING THE THING, THAT THING THAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE, I’M JUST GONNA MASH THAT MISTAKE INTO THE CARPET, I’M GONNA DRIVE OFF THE CLIFF WITH THIS THING THAT I DID WRONG.” I’m obviously paraphrasing here.

The example they used in the book was: let’s say you’re walking down the stairs and you stumble. Do you say, “Oopsie, I stumbled, welp, might as well throw myself the rest of the way down the stairs!”

No, of course not. You catch yourself, regain your composure, and you become more careful.

But when it comes to dieting, we think, “Oops, blew it. Better eat the whole silly nacho sombrero.”

I did not do that. I chose not to throw myself down the stairs. I ate until I was satisfied, and today I’m back to delicious, healthy, and (seriously!) tasty rabbit food. I’m loving it.

I’m continuing my self-discipline study so that I can be more careful with my choices moving forward. I started listening to Brian Tracy’s book No Excuses this morning. I also ordered a CD that’s an 8-week mindfulness program, because I want to hold myself to longer and more consistent daily meditation, because that is KEY when it comes to willpower and self-discipline.

So here’s to NOT throwing ourselves down the stairs, one day at a time!

 

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