Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Faulty Logic: Since I X, Then I Y.

One morning a long time ago, I got up and made myself a nice, healthy breakfast. I drank my water and I ate my food and then I did some chores around the house. I'd been on my "diet" for a week or two and was slowly... very slowly... losing weight.

My neighbor came over and brought me the leftovers from a dinner party she'd attended. Included in these leftovers were some dessert nachos covered in strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate. "I thought you and your kids would enjoy these," she said. Well, those nachos had only minutes to live. They were not going to see the light of day for more than 3 minutes. Those nachos were in my mouth the second she turned her back and started walking down my sidewalk, and my kids never knew they existed. After all, who can resist dessert nachos??

After I ate them, I felt guilty. I was ashamed and angry and muttered to myself, "I am never going to get this weight off. Now I've ruined another day." And off I went to make a pepperoni pizza.

Here's the faulty logic:
Since I ate (insert unhealthy food here), I may as well eat (insert more unhealthy food here).

It happens to a lot of us. I know because I read a lot of blogs. We are going along, maybe doing great and maybe not so great, when for whatever reason we choose to eat an "off plan" food (aka, a food we did not PLAN to eat, and regret eating as soon as it is down our throats). Then we get mad or sad or depressed or frustrated because we ate x. So we run off and eat y.

I ate some bacon with my breakfast, so I am going to have some cheesecake.
I ate a donut at work in the break room, so I may as well go back for another one.
I broke down and had a scone with my coffee, so now I am going to eat 3 pieces of lasagna with garlic bread for dinner.
I ate a candy bar after lunch, so now I am going to order a Big Mac meal for dinner, with chocolate cookies for dessert.

It's as if one misstep throws us completely off course. As if a day must be "perfect" to be worthwhile. As if eating a 200 calorie candy bar is impossible to recover from. As if the 1000 calorie meal we eat "because" of that candy bar is somehow justified, because I am a "failure" anyway and may as well just eat anything I want. And then start over tomorrow.

It's kind of like what happens to some girls when they're in high school. They decide it is best for them not to have sex with any boys they are dating. To wait until they are older/engaged/married to be intimate. But then something happens, they have a moment of weakness, and they have sex with a guy. Does it make sense, then, to abandon their morals and start sleeping with every guy they see? It happens. "Since I am not a virgin anyway, I may as well sleep around." Faulty logic.

I think we tend to forget that every calorie does count, whether we eat it today or tomorrow or next week, whether or not we ate healthy 2 hours ago or last night.

The same goes for exercise. We tend to think, Since I ate badly, I may as well skip the gym. What?? How faulty is that logic? Really, on a day we ate in a less-than-stellar manner, don't we need the exercise even more?

Instead of thinking of the journey as a "day-by-day" thing, adding up "good days" or classifying them as "bad days" (because we ate one candy bar or cookie), perhaps we can erase the calendar completely and look at it as a lifetime. Everything we eat adds up to the body we have, so that what we are trying to do is have a *moderate* intake over a long time span (a month, a year, ten years) rather than counting up good and bad days. Otherwise, if you eat one "bad" thing in the morning, you call it a "bad" day and eat another couple thousand calories, instead of looking at it as a continuous time stream of your life, where every minute and every hour you have the ability to make it a Good Life.

I try to make each behavior independent of my past behaviors (with eating and exercise, that is). If I have decided that it is Good for me to eat moderately and bike 30 minutes a day, then that is true even when I had a candy bar earlier. It is STILL GOOD for me to eat moderately at my next meal, and to bike. No "off plan" behavior "ruins" a day. No poor eating choices will negate the Goodness of a healthy meal later in the day or some exercise in the afternoon.

I heard this analogy somewhere once: if you are walking up a flight of stairs and you trip on the way up, do you turn around and throw yourself back down the stairs?

Try to stop thinking things like, "I already messed up my day, I may as well (insert negative behavior here)." Every moment counts. I am working on this all the time. It's a big mind shift for me, but as it becomes more ingrained, I find myself making better choices based on what is right for myself rather than on past mistakes.


NewMe said...

Lyn, You're totally right on this. That's why I refuse to talk about being "on" or "off" plan. You're on or off life. That's about it.

The staircase analogy is priceless, BTW!

andrea. said...

GREAT post -- I see this kind of logic all the time on blogs! Though to be honest, sometimes I think people WANT to think that way, because it gives them an excuse to eat the other crap they want. The same way we often look for excuses not to go the gym (like, "oops, forgot to charge my iPod, guess I can't go work out!") We always look for reasons to do what we wanted to do all along (or excuses to not do what we didn't want to do anyway.)

Another analogy I heard and really enjoy is "If you were driving along in your car and got a flat tire, would you hop out of the car and slash the other three?" So true.

Diana said...

What you said is so true, and I read about it all the time on blogs. One misstep and the day/week/month is ruined.

I've finally figured out the part about the exercise. If I eat too much one night, I exercise like a demon the next day to try and make up for it.

As usual Lyn, really good post.

Andra said...

WTF is a dessert nacho? It sounds absolutely vile! Anyhoo, one of my core beliefs is that there is no wagon. There is no "on plan or off plan" there is just my life and if I want a treat, it won't derail my whole day. I have it, enjoy it and carry on.

Kyle Gershman said...

I think you've done an excellent job illustrating the absurdity of our common rationalizations.

Now ponder, if it is really similarly logical to say "If I work my butt off at the gym, I'm still entitled to eat like crap." I think this is a more acceptable logic because it does recognize the calories in/calories out model, but within it still allows for inappropriate life behaviors. Not to say that every bad thing we put in our mouths is cheating, it really does depend on your attitude toward that kind of trade-off.

Tough to explain, but you'd do an excellent job of it!

Kim said...

This is so true. Thanks for writing about this. After reading your blog and others, I finally made myself a weightloss/PCOS blog. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

Steelers6 said...

While reading this post all I could think of was that that kind of thinking [faulty logic] equals "excuses", and I think andrea said it well here. Chrissy

Anonymous said...

Great post. I love the stair analogy!!!

It is stupid that "we" do that. I've done it many many times. Next time...I'll think of the stairs :)

Jer said...

This is priceless. Fantastic reasoning. I wish people would tape this to their refrigerators.

Tiffany said...

Great post! Very true. Time to stop with the faulty logic. Here's to living well.
(I, too, love the stair analogy!)

Dinah Soar said...

Great post Lyn!

Run, Heat, Run said...

SO TRUE! My worst logic is when I have baked goods or candy in my house and I feel like I need to eat them all in one sitting, just so they're gone. I figure, "If I just eat them all now, then I won't be tempted anymore," but then I just ate a batch of cookies in one sitting. I don't keep anything like that in my house anymore so I can't use that logic.

Certifiably Fit said...

Once I was able to make that mind shift from that faulty thinking you outlined here I was able to take the weight off and keep it off. It was quite a long road to make that mind shift but it sure has been worth it. Great post to outline a stumbling block that is huge for a lot of people trying to loose weight!

beerab said...

I agree! The other one is "the says I'm up a pound or hasn't budged- so now I'm going to go binge..."

I love the analogy also- it really helps put things into perspective. I really try not to let mishaps ruin my day/week anymore.

karen@fitnessjourney said...

I'll have to remember that one about the stairs and pull it out next time I'm having one of those days.

Jenn said...

This "logic" helped me to gain 60 lbs! I still battle with these thoughts, but now I'm able to talk myself into going to work off those extra calories or to eat healthy at my next meal.

Tammy said...

I've been stuck in the X,Y mindset for the last week and a half. In fact, meeting with a friend tonight to talk all this crap out and find my way back to the light. I've got to get this stuff right Lyn, I've just got to. It's just too important.

Rockin' Robin said...

I know... you are right. But the reason I have not been letting this type of logic rule my life lately is because I just don't listen to the lie. I messed up and ate pizza... oh well, next meal will be on point. And I have been doing it. And the more I go right back to eating "on plan" the easier it is to do.

Rockin' Robin.

screwdestiny said...

Oh my goodness, I'd never heard of dessert nachos before. I quickly looked up a recipe and they sound amazing! I cannot fault you at all for eating those. ;)

I think people use this faulty logic because they're looking for a reason to not have to exercise or to eat crappy. Just getting up and saying, "To hell with it today!" would be silly, but if they have some slip-up that they didn't anticipate, well, that gives them a reason. Anyway, I'm glad you realize that the faulty logic is not good. And I loved the staircase analogy.

Marste said...

I broke down and had a scone with my coffee, so now I am going to eat 3 pieces of lasagna with garlic bread for dinner.

Wait . . . you say that like it's a BAD thing. ;)

Seriously though, I LOVE the stairway analogy. It really puts the whole thing in perspective, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

So true. This is one of the skills Beck highlights in her books. People who have a healthy "relationship" with food don't think they've committed a sin or think their entire day is ruined by a "mistake" or an indulgence. They simply get right back to their normal, healthy habits. Thanks for the reminder, Lyn!

Anonymous said...

Aw Lyn, you beat yourself up, but it's not just a case of "Wow, I'm so silly for thinking this way." Your thoughtful posts have indicated (as it is for all of us) that the reason we have these thoughts is that junk food actually changes our brain chemistry.

Dessert nachos set off a reaction of a spike in sugar levels, then the high fructose corn syrup messes with our brain so we don't know we are full, then we burn off all the sugar, crash, and then start thinking about more food!

You're absolutely right that we can't let this cycle rule our lives. But maybe we can look at those dessert nachos and think not just "I can't have them because they will make me fat," but "I'm on to your sneaky little tactics, nachos, and I won't let you win!"

Margie M. said...

Lyn, love your blog so much and I have given you the "Beautiful Blogger" award. Stop by my blog when you have a minute to receive your award.

Margie M. writes at:

Anonymous said...

This post really struck home for me (a frequent blog lurker:) Two things occurred to me.

First of all, nobody has an iron will. That's not an excuse to fail, but we all slip-up. I get that feeling of intense guilt sometimes, followed by the desire to eat more since I "ruined" the day anyways...and I just have to remind myself I'm human and slip ups are normal.

The other thing that has helped me is the thought of "what would I say to a friend who had done this?" It's very unlikely I would say "Oh, well, since you did, you may as well eat whatever you want and skip exercising. I can't believe you failed today, you're going to get fat again and stay that way forever!" Often, I am a bad friend to in progress!

BTW thanks for the blog, it's always thought-provoking. :)

Meg said...

Great post! I'm printing this out and posting it on my wall of inspiration!

Anonymous said...

you are soooo right! (of course!) "looking at it as a continuous time stream of your life" - i love this part, for the longest time I had the all or nothing mentality, but now I'm realizing that its just getting me into I try to have everything in moderation!

EMILY said...

wow! this is a GREAT post! I am going to direct the readers from my weight loss blog to it! It is so SPOT ON! I even did this today. I ate too much banana bread so I proceeded to eat the rest of the loaf! Love the stairs analogy! THANK YOU!

Chibi Jeebs said...

"...because I am a 'failure' anyway and may as well just eat anything I want."

I do this, too: just change "I'm a failure anyhow" to "I'm FAT anyhow... " *sigh*

Hanlie said...

It is so easy to fall into this trap! We really need a whole paradigm shift, like you spelled out. I love the staircase analogy!

Great post!