Monday, August 30, 2010

I am Deciding

I have gained some new clarity about my situation with my weight, eating, and exercise. It's about who *really* is in control, and what is possible for me.

I frequent a popular message board where there are many very supportive, wise, insightful people who have lost or are losing massive amounts of weight. One of the people I admire there started out as heavy as I did, and is significantly smaller than I will ever be. She often says to people who ask her how she lost the weight, "I DECIDED to." And then tells people that it is their choice, and they can DECIDE to lose weight and DO it. It is in their power.

As much as I admired her, when I first saw that, it kind of made me mad. I mean, I can't count the number of times I "decided" to lose weight, went on some diet or 'lifestyle change' thing for days/weeks/months, maybe lost some weight or maybe not, and then ended up failing yet again, gaining more weight than I had lost. I felt frantic and powerless and hopeless, and it seemed to *not* be in my power. Even now, some days it seems I eat things I don't really want to eat. It seems like there is something going on WAY beyond my own desire to lose weight. Really, if all it took was "deciding" to lose weight, wouldn't everyone be thin?

Maybe for some folks whose main issue is a) not knowing how/what to eat or b) just eating too much because they like food, "deciding" (and commitment) might be enough. An education, a nutritionist, a smaller plate and smaller portions and the DECISION to stick with a particular new way of eating might be all it takes. I am sure it is STILL very hard work and takes a lot of effort and dedication and I applaud that. But what about people who "decide" and really do try very hard but keep "falling off" and seem unable to stick with it long enough to get the weight off? What about me when I spent 20 months "trying" yet did not have a net loss of a single pound? I weighed every day. I counted calories. I blogged. I had decided to lose weight. But I wasn't losing it. There is more going on there. Maybe underlying emotional/psychological stuff, maybe an eating disorder, maybe an addiction to certain food combinations as described in The End of Overeating. But it is obviously *very* difficult for many people to lose weight even after they make the decision and commitment to do so. And we can end up feeling like failures when well meaning people (even doctors) simply tell us to "eat less, exercise more" as if we somehow missed that and were clueless about the actual mechanics of basic weight loss. But again, were it that simple, there would not be so many people who WANT to lose weight, are TRYING to lose weight, but can't seem to do it.

That said, I think it is important to own our own power. We are NOT helpless. If we are addicted to certain foods, we can stop eating them (with work and persistence). No one is addicted to EVERY FOOD (seriously, who goes on a celery run and binges on stalks in the car?) If we have emotional issues or fears of weight loss, we can work through those, too, alone or with a counselor. We can keep trying until we figure out what works for us. It might be more complicated than just eating less and exercising more, but I do believe that most people CAN better their lives and health if they so choose.

When you get that crazy feeling like you HAVE to have a cheeseburger, and you are pacing and obsessing and fighting the urge to go get fast food, it might *seem* like it is beyond your control. It is not. When you finally break down and go rushing to the drive through, that is a decision YOU MADE. No one made you do it, the food did not do it. You decided. And there is no right or wrong here. It is just a fact. Every bite you take, it is YOUR CHOICE. No food is jumping into your mouth. Maybe it seems impossible to resist, and maybe sometimes you just WANT a cupcake and eat it. But don't say "I couldn't help myself." Don't believe for one second that some unseen mystery force *made* you eat it. It is still your choice.

When I eat a salad, I think to myself, "I am deciding to eat this salad."
When I went to the fair and was just DYING for a caramel apple, and couldn't get it out of my head, I had to acknowledge with that first bite, "I am deciding to eat this apple."
I can't blame the apple or the fair and I can't disown my choice. I chose. You choose.

Once we own our decisions we are no longer victims of some unknown that "makes" us eat off plan things and "keeps" us fat.

I am deciding, now, to eat the foods that will help me get to my goals. If I see a candy bar and feel overcome by the desire to eat it, and if I do give in and eat it, you know what? It was my decision, even if I *felt* out of control. I wasn't. Saying "I couldn't stop myself" is just a way to disassociate from the guilt we tend to feel for eating a candy bar.

Own the decision and the guilt goes away. It is not morally wrong to eat a candy bar. It is a step away from YOUR goals, but that is YOUR decision. So stop, think, own the decision. Who knows, maybe once that Snickers in is your hand and you acknowledge that you are DECIDING to eat it, you may recognise your own power... NOT the powerlessness we often associate with eating off plan... and maybe you will DECIDE that one bite is enough and throw the rest away. Or decide not to eat it at all.

Scale is back down 2 pounds this morning.


bbubblyb said...

Great post Lyn!!!

I think this was a tough one for me, feeling like there was a monster inside myself driving me to eat. Of course I know it's me making the choices. Even now some days I find myself rationizing food as I stuff it in my mouth. I do think it's getting easier if for no other reason than I know if I eat off track I know how to get back on track RIGHT AWAY. That really is the bottom line, eating well more than eating poorly so we are moving in the direction of our goals.

This is for life too so we do need to sort out some of those underlining reasons. I know for me therapy wasn't about the food at all it was about the person I am and the person I want to be and digging deep to uncover some things I didn't want to think about. I really do believe the eating (not the food) was my inner self trying to stuff down other issues within me. Even now I find myself shoveling in food (be it grapes or something else not so bad for me) to stuff my feelings.

I do sometimes wonder how people do it on their own without therapy. My hat goes off to the folks that can just decide and do it.

-J.Darling said...

I COMPLETELY agree w/ you and I believe this goes into ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE!

For example, I've had a long talk w/ a friend of mine about one-night-stands. He argued that they "just happen" sometimes. I argue no. They don't "just happen". Someone made the decision to start kissing someone they barely know. Each second that ticked by gave the person the chance to stop. The decision to continue was made and so it continued. Each person had the decision. I don't care if it's more difficult for men to stop that rollercoaster than women. More difficult doesn't change the fact that, if they decide they decide to continue, they will continue. At any moment, one or both people can stop. It's all a matter of will.

It seems we live in a world of everything being someone/thing else's fault, because when we have something to blame, we are giving up our power for change.

I agree whole heartedly in taking responsibility for our actions OR INACTIONS!

Lynn said...

I also agree with what you say. I think one learning how to disapline themselves is kind of hard for many. I know it is for me.. I am on vacation now, and yesterday I told myself, sure, you can have that candy bar.. Today I am really disapointed with myself for not being more disaplined! I have got to learn how to say NO too, since it's oh so very easy to say sure or yes to something we know that isn't really good for us to eat.. being on vacation or not doesn't make one really feel better about eating something we know we shouldn't.. I sure hope that I can find enough disapline in myself to get me on track again to a more healthier way of eating.. I've got to keep my weight goal in mind at these hard times..


Laura said...

What a great blog! I can see where it might annoy a person as first, but the fact of the matter is that every single thing I put into my mouth is my decision. My choice. I am fat because I chose to eat unhealthy foods. I am losing weight because I am choosing to be healthier. I really can't blame my bad decisions on anything but myself.

Thanks Lyn!

CathyB said...

Love this post!!! Thanks for just putting it out there. Sometimes it is easier to blame the hunger monster for our actions, but as you say, it is our choice and we have to own it. Thanks for *saying* it out loud for the rest of us. :-)

Lori said...

Great post. Congratulations on getting the scales headed back in the right direction.

screwdestiny said...

Excellent post, Lyn. The minute we start taking accountability for all of our actions is the minute we can change.

Theresa said...

I will never forget the lightbulb moment when I heard another lady say "I ate a pizza pop because my husband ate my chicken breast". Huh? What about eggs, what about ANYTHING good for you???
Using another person as an excuse is clear to everyone around us BUT ourselves. :D Lesson learned, and I try very hard to never blame someone else for my weakness. It was a shock to realize I had been!

Anonymous said...

I saw a woman on a show once that said she started a diet and never cheated once, zoomed down to her goal weight and stayed there for life. I thought she was lying but I guess a few people can be that disaplined. NOT ME. I'm more like you!

MargieAnne said...

If only celery tasted like blueberry muffins.

I've had to make decisions about food. I'm still making them. It takes more than a decision. It takes courage and determination and persistence and consistency and, and, and, ... to succeed.

The decision is step 1 and if that's all it took we'd all have been at goal/healthy weight long ago.

Thanks for saying it

Lynna said...

I had to laugh. Yesterday, I sent my son into the grocery after celery. He told me he forgot it, I snapped at him, he said he was kidding and pulled it from the bag. I tore into the bag and binged on 6 or 7 stalks. So, yes, we can take ANYTHING and binge on it, even celery. At least I can! (

Lori said...

There are decisions and then there is dedication. We can all "decide" to lose weight, but the day to day living and being committed to that is what makes success :D

Great post!

screaming fatgirl said...

"Every bite you take, it is YOUR CHOICE."

Actually, it's not, and until we actually internalize this, it never will be.

No decision is made independent of everything that came before. The reasons that it is so hard to simply "decide" to do something and follow through is that each person's ability to make a choice and then act on it has been shaped by everything that came before that choice which we didn't have control of.

The decision to put food in your mouth at a given moment is effected by how you were raised, your physical needs, and the psychological factors. The choice does not occur in isolation but is shaped by many, many factors.

We have to own that fact first, and then the guilt really does go away and we gain power through insight. We are not stripped of power by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation, but empowered by the fact that we know what we have to deal with before we truly have control. The "sheer force of will" weight loss method works in the long run for very few people, and I believe it is one of the reasons people regain.

I'm simply not a fan of this oversimiplified way of looking at eating. It's a decision, but not one that is made in isolation or which is absolutely within our power at the moment the food goes in our mouths. To me, saying we simply "decide" is like saying I'll decide to stop a train by stepping in front of it and that'll happen. Our best intentions are blown away by the momentum of our personal history, over which we had very little choice.

Sib said...

Awesome post Lynn!! Isn't it super fabulous when we gain clarity - I simply love it!!

Trish said...

very thought provoking post...a lot to think ponder...thank you for putting it out there.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Screaming Fat Girl's comments. It is widely accepted in our culture that persons diagnosed with anorexia and/or bulimia may need a lot of support to overcome their eating disorders. We could tell them the same thing, "Choose to eat more." Or "Choose to stop vomiting." As a matter of fact, our patched together *health care system* (SIC) often does just that: nowadays it is difficult and sometimes impossible to access treatment for these disorders, unless one has large sums of money in addition to excellent insurance coverage. Women suffering from these disorders are dying as I write this.

Most of us realize how complicated it is to address the psychological and physiological issues related to these disorders. Yet we tell ourselves that compulsive overeaters and binge eaters who become obese can simply choose differently! It is within their "control". No, not always. They may need as much support and education and treatment and care as anorexics. Reps of the diet industry love to pretend otherwise. And thus the corporate interests go on making billions (not millions) each year, convincing us all that we simply need to make the right decision, to choose a different lifestyle.

People may not be able to overcome their histories, as SFG suggested, in the moment a decision to eat is made. To suggest otherwise is to encourage discrimination against people who are struggling, and suffering, just as you have so recently.

Anonymous said...

Yet again an insightful, awesome post. I am on Medifast as well, and some days are better than others. I am deciding that this works for me and I will remain committed. Thank you for your blog. Knowing that I am not the only one who rationalizes and struggles is very helpful. I look forward to your post each day. Keep up the good work. You are inspiring.

Lyn said...

screaming fat girl & anonymous~

indeed, as I said, it is not as simple as 'deciding' to lose weight. That's my point. BUT, it remains that we need to own our actions. In that moment when there is a cookie on the counter, we each DECIDE to eat it or not eat it, regardless of what past experience or emotion may be driving that decision. I have often felt absolutely compelled by forces beyind my control to EAT some particular thing, but when it comes down to it, I made the CHOICE to eat it in that moment I took hold of it, put it in my mouth, took bites, chewed, and swallowed. Why I made the choice may be complicated, but it was still a decision I made.

Claire said...

The emotional component is 100% of why I'm overweight. I know how to eat well, nutritionally.

I am reading "Women, Food & God" and "Breaking Free from Emotional Eating" both by Geneen Roth. They are helping me to be conscious when I eat, and to only ever eat when I am hungry. It's the first time I've read a "diet" book that made sense. It's not about the food for me; it's all about eating to numb myself out.

Sounds like you are heading toward more realization about your own battle. I used to think that knowing why I ate wasn't important, but now? I'm thinking it's the only thing that is important, and though it might be painful, I'm going to get to the bottom of it. Then I will overcome this stupid weight.

FYT614 said...

I disagree completely that it is not about the decision you make to change. Lyn, I completely agree with you that each and every time you put something into your mouth you are making a choice. There may be times when we are not aware that we are making a choice or we let ourselves off the hook by believing that it is more complicated than that the decision but it's not.

Now this is by no means to say that it is not a battle every single day, every single momment to keep making that choice because it it's a major struggle. And, there are a million little things that you have to do, once you make the decision, to back it up. And it's hard.

I've lost 100 pounds and it started with a decision. Not a plan for New Years Day or after my birthday. I decided and that was my momment. But every single day have to decide to journal in my food log; pack my meals/snacks; exercise; take the stairs instead of the elevator; leave the room if people are eating things that are too tempting; figure out what triggers me to eat--I'm an emotional eater; write my blog; plan out my meals; cook them and measure them out in individual servings; etc, etc, etc.

I decide to do these things because I like being in control of my life more than having a brownie control me-or an emotion-or fear; I do these things b/c running and playing with my son beats sneaking food so he won't see; I do them b/c having the actual birthday is more important to me than the piece of birthday cake.

I think the biggest decision is deciding to accept that you are an obese person that must change your relationship with food and make different choices and yes, for the rest of your life, not until the diet is over.

Instead of this being a daunting notion, I would think that we would all want to know that we have the power...that it's not outside of us...that we truly are the ones in control.

Lyn, you speak the truth this blog. Now, let us all own our power!

Lanie Painie said...


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Anonymous said...

I am going to have to agree with the previous commenter that it is possible to binge on celery or other healthy foods because it is something I have done. I am not one of those people who just gets rid of all the junk in their house and then loses weight. It IS possible to binge on healthy food and just because you may not gain any weight, it does not make it okay. I can sit there and eat 5 lettuce heads and although I won't gain any weight from it, it is still not a healthy behavior to partake in. I know that you weren't implying that it would be okay, Lyn, but I think this blog post is somewhat of an oversimplification. I mean, of course when we choose to eat something, it is our physical choice to do so. No one is strapping us to a chair and force feeding us but binging really can be out of your control, as much as smoking crack is uncontrollable to a crack addict. I would think you of all people would understand this. I have binged on foods that I don't even like simply because they were the only available foods in the house. Now, I wholly believe that one can change their binge-eating habits but it's not as easy as just "deciding" to do it. To me, that sounds exactly like someone saying, "just eat less and move more." This kind of battle can't be minimized into sound-bites. I wish it was that easy but it's not :(

Lyn said...


of course it isn't easy, but it is a decision we make in that moment. If people keep on disowning their own decisions and blaming eating a candy bar on everything else outside their control, they will be unable to change it. Ever. There has to come a point where you understand it IS your decision. If you have read my blog and my binges, you know I know how out of control it feels. Yet when I was making runs for ice cream pints or Big Mac meals, I am the ONLY one who decided to go and do that. Maybe I decided to do it because I felt it was my only coping mechanism; maybe I chose that as comfort, or because I really wanted it, or I was sick of fighting it, but it was MY choice.

We are really not talking about the example mentioned here of stepping in front of a train and stopping it from sheer willpower. If someone held a knife to your child's throat and said "stop that train or she dies" you'd be unable to stop it. If someone held a knife to your child's throat and said "drop that brownie or she dies" you can BET every one of us would suddenly make the decision to drop the brownie. It is a choice, every time. And part of the journey is learning WHY we make the choices we do, and how to change those patterns.

Christina said...

I agree completely with you, Lynn. Much like any other addiction - be it for whatever reason that we choose to eat the things we do, even though we know it isn't good for us or will contribute to our weight - it is most definitely our choice. Recognizing that fact gives one power - and it also gives one a responsibility.

Damjana said...

Well, I sometimes would binge on just anything, like plain oatmeal or apples or didn't have to be a combination of tastes (processed food) or a combination of fat/carbs/aromas (high-cal food). I wouldn't binge on celery (your example) however because we never eat it and it'd be hard to find in a shop.

Just to say "I decided to do x" isn't enough. It has to be true determination.

I still believe you're devoted to losing so keep going the way you started.


Babycakes said...

So true.
What we are in life and what we do are generally the result of the decisions we make.
The fact that you point out that we make these choices is an important one.
Ultimately it is up to us to say yes or no to our food choices.
It's not an over simplication, in spite of the multitude of reasons behind the decision making process.
We still have the casting vote in the end.
I find it interesting that some people will actually binge on 'healthy food'.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Lyn, and it's interesting that it's been met with some strong disagreement. But I agree with you.

When I finally lost 130 pounds, it was because I had truly decided to deal with it. Just like FYT614 listed, the Decision works because we're propelled by dozens of other smaller decisions each day. In the same way that it's not about the destination -- it's about the journey -- the (big D) Decision becomes the catalyst for success only because of all the (little d) decisions that support it.

On my journey, I just decided to figure our what worked for me -- I did a lot of research to augment what I already knew. I decided to tweak my eating for a month while I researched weigh-training gear and made purchases, and set up my workout space at home. I made up a food log and a workout chart. I decided on how much water I'd drink each day, and how much sleep I needed to get. When I put it all together, things still took some tweaking until I hit upon a daily routine that worked. It just didn't occur to me this time that I would fail, and it was because of the decisions I made to do everything possible to support my Decision.

As far as the compulsive eating and other disorders go that screamingfatgirl and Anonymous brought up -- these types of things are also healed by decisions made by the sufferers. No intervention or external assistance will work until the sufferer DECIDES to cooperate in her own recovery, and makes choices and decisions every day that carry her closer to wellness.

For those who are stuck in self-loathing, or (silently) railing at the unfairness of it all, I say that you're not ready to make the Decision, so don't force it. It isn't made in anger or anxiousness or self-hate. It really is truly done in a state of rational maturity and self-acceptance -- accepting yourself enough to do the right thing and heal your overweight, unhealthy state, and loving yourself enough -- as you are right now -- to want to change for the better, regardless of the external and internal obstacles and baggage that we ALL carry. You just have to set it down and move forward with each decision each day. Sounds corny and maybe aggravating, but it's true.

Well done, Lyn!

Lyn said...

Regarding bingeing on anything, even celery:

I have done something similar when I was stuck in the house and felt like I "had" to binge but nothing else was available. This is not a case of food addiction, per the example in my post, but is, I think, an example of the compulsion to binge eating itself... to the ACT of shoveling in food until one is full. I have talked about this extensively too because it is an issue I have faced as well. Not a fun thing to deal with!

Ultimitely I do wish everyone the healing they desire.

Wendy said...

Guess what?/ I have DECIDED to start to lose weigh and find me inside this body! thanks for inspiring me!

Hope said...

Superb post, Lyn!

It really is a choice, and many times, even now, when I want a cheeseburger and fries or chocolate cake or something that's "bad," I still have guilt after I eat said food. And while I acknowlege my that was my decision, it's a different kind of acknowlegement, because I still feel guilty about it.

I'm going to try it your way this week, where I take the morality away from food, and say to myself that I'm making a decision, no one is making eat anything, and it's okay to step away from my goals for a minute.

Anonymous said...

It's good to inspire differences in opinions, to encourage dialogue. No matter what each of us thinks, all of us are speaking from our own experiences. You cannot be TOLD you have a choice, and then you magically have the ability to choose. You have to learn, through experiences as you did, Lyn, that you have a choice. And then you can decide. But simply being told something does not result in knowledge. If you do not KNOW you have a choice, you cannot choose. You can only get knowledge by going through the necessary steps to that knowledge. For each person those steps may be different. A paradox? Yes. But much of life is paradoxical, and counterintuitive. The example of a knife to your child's throat is not helpful. Of course you can choose not to eat if the consequences result in immediate death to your child. But in truth the consequences to overeating, on one occasion, are miniscule. There may be no consequences, of any significance, at all. Or, this time, there may be consequences. Serious consequences. Unfortunately, one cannot always predict if there will be consequences to a single over indulgence or what those consequences will be. That is why it is not as simple as making a decision. You only have to *overeat* 250 calories a day to gain 2 lbs in one month, or 24 lbs in one year, and 100 lbs in 4 years. (I've done that.) 250 calories is not a binge. It is a couple extra servings in a day. It does not seem like a serious decision. But the consequences are serious. 100 lbs too many=serious.

Just trying to add to the discussion here, not trying to be critical or contentious. All my best, Rebecca

Anonymous said...

I just love reading your blog Lyn, always new insights.

I get so irritated with my husband (never been fat), whenever I talk about dieting he says it's simple, put less food in your mouth. Sometimes I think we over analyze it all, I eat this because of this and that, blah blah blah. He's annoying as hell, but ultimately he's right. It doesn't matter why we want to eat, and do eat, if we put less food in our mouths we will lose weight.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the post, and I've experienced that sort of black and white turnaround and know other people who have as well. For me it was about my mother's heart disease and deciding to go on a low-fat diet. Pritikin literature suggested moving away from the "all things in moderation" and look at fat like you would arsenic. How much time would you spend debating whether 1g or 10g a day was the lethal dose, you'd just stop adding it to everything. I changed my habits "overnight", and my "fat taste buds" adjusted within a few weeks. I learned to stir-fry without oil, bake instead of fry, and a bottle of oil that I used to go through in a few weeks lasted a few years. I know of similar stories when someone had a high blood pressure reading at the doctors (went off salt), was diagnosed diabetic (went off sugar), and simply watched Food, Inc. I know these stories from thin, overweight, and obese people.

It all depends on how you se the junk food - is it a reward denied to you, or is it a death sentence you're choosing to avoid. Calling french fries "heart disease sticks" the way people see cigarettes as coffin nails? I don't think you need to undo your past, rehash "why am I eating this", or stop "eating emotionally". You just need to change the emotions you attach to a particular (set of) food. I think it's more difficult to learn moderation, but can also be done.

Dinah Soar said...

Deciding to lose is key. But having the method that you can live with makes a tremendous difference. If the method you choose conflicts with the way you live and eat, it is hard to stick with it. Or if the method you choose doesn't yield any significant weight loss over a period of time, hence there is no payoff, well, that's a deal breaker.

But deciding to lose, finding the method that works for you--with that a person can be unstoppable.

I've decided many times to lose weight, but it was never easy, and sometimes the result was minimal or nil.

But once I figured out what would work for me, it was easy to keep deciding to do it.

Sheer will power is not enough. If the pounds don't come off, you can decide all day long to lose, but it ain't gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

screaming fat girl & anonymous~

A (recovering) alcoholic CHOOSES whether or not to drink. Said choice may be prove difficult for an alcoholic rather than an average person since:
-The desire to drink is fueled by the disease.
- Judgement and rational thought are clouded by the disease.
- Physical/measurable reactions such as withdrawal are present due to the disease.

Still, the disease/disorder, does NOT eliminate or eclipse the CHOICE and Freedom and Power to DECIDE to drink....or abstain.

It's a choice, a decision. Some people have more baggage behind each choice they make than others.

Still, we all decide. We're all adults and we all make decisions about our health....all day, every day.

Great post Lyn! Interesting discussion.

Cindy said...

I think you'll like her post...

Desperate Diva said...

Great post, very inspiring and I absolutely agree that ultimately every step of the journey, whether it was a step in the wrong direction or the right direction comes down to choice - I just hope I remember this post if and when I really need it!

Beth said...

You always get me thinking.

You chronicle the weight loss journey so amazingly well.

I look forwards to your daily posts... thank you!!! =)

Amy said...

Yah know - I felt this way about my mom when she was smoking. If she would just "decide" that her health was more imporant, she could just choose not to smoke the next cigarette. Didn't she know her grandchildren are just wrapped up in her life and would be devistated is we lost her? Each craving she could just "choose" the right choice. Eventaully she did quit with the help of midication. But yah know what? She has way more control than I ever will. I continually "decide" (apparently) to make unhealthy decisions each day. Today, for instance, I chose 4-5 hommade chocolate chip cookies + pizza for dinner. I'm the hippocrate. But - I can be cured, and tomorrow is a new day(and right now I'm choosing not to have another cookie before bed!)

Thanks for the post and reminding me who has the power!

Zoe said...

Thanks for sharing this insight as well. It's exactly what has got me started on my journey. You wrote "NOT the powerlessness we often associate with eating off plan..." it is precisly that sentiment that I need to overcome...powerlessness. I can help it. I do choose. Thank you for reinforcing that today.