This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.
The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.
On temptation and resolve
This is a good time for an essay on temptation and resolve. I have been dieting just four months now. While I am still on my program (meaning my real weight is below my projected weight), I can see some signs that my resolve is weakening. It just might be helpful to reflect on how people manage to resist temptation.
What is a decision anyway? Decision-making depends on our human ability to visualize outcomes other than what is presently before us and to imagine ourselves behaving in such a way as to achieve these outcomes (rather than others). In effect, when we make a decision, we are making a map of a certain territory and plotting out a route (or routes) that will get us from one point on a map to another point on the map. The analogy may be a bit strained, but it helps us to make a few points more clearly. 1) If we don't have a map, it may be impossible to get where we want. 2) If the map is a bad one, we may misread it, and end up in the wrong place, even though we tried. 3) If the map doesn't show enough realistic details, we may be quite unprepared and thrown off balance by things we encounter along the way.
But this isn't all that is involved in making a decision. If we only have a map, even a clear one, we are missing an important piece of the decision. We also need to set our will to follow the path we have mapped out. This matter of will is not a very clear one in our society, or perhaps in any society. You know, it really is a mystery how we even raise our arm. Try it sometime. Imagine yourself raising your arm. Then raise it. Were you aware of any internal machinery that is connected from your imagination to your arm? I think not. It just happens. We just do it. Or, sometimes we just don't do it. So, phrased differently, why are some people more able to "just do it" than others? The answer is that we must develop our resolve, our determination to do what we have decided to do. Unless we have resolve, we will never loose weight.
Some of us are just better at resolve than others. It's a fact. If you came from a family of more than one child, you know it is true. You know who the sibs with resolve are in your family, and you know who the sibs are that just can't resist "breaking over" even after they've sworn on a stack of Bibles that this is the year that they will do this or that—quit smoking, save money, pay off their credit cards, etc. Maybe you are one of these folks who lack resolve. Other people are just better at keeping their promises to themselves than you are.
But that is no reason to be discouraged. In fact, I am here to tell you that you can develop your resolve. But, first you have to admit to yourself that you have a problem in the resolve department. Then, you can ask yourself, gently and lovingly, how you can improve. So, how do you do that?
Little deviations lead to bigger deviations lead to "Oh, what the hell?! Once you resolve to go on a diet, you can never stop monitoring your eating behavior. Every bite is a choice. This sounds horribly impossible, but it basically is true. So, how do you stay on a diet without feeling that you can never have any spontaneity in your eating? How to you accept an occasional piece of dessert, a handful of peanuts, a fast food fat meal, and still achieve your goal? Actually, I've already given you several of the best tools: eat nutritious food, count calories, keep a chart of your actual vs. projected weight, and exercise. But here are some other suggestions.
Practice avoiding little deviations. Think back over the last time you fell off your diet. How did it happen? Maybe you went to a party and they were drinking, so you had a drink, then you had a snack, then you had a big meal. Then the next day you were off your diet. Well, actually, you had lots of choices here. You could have just not had the drink. You could have had the drink and not had the snacks. You definitely could have had an appetizer. Anyway, pick out just some deviation, and then deliberately go out into a similar situation with the specific intention of not making the same choice as you made before. If you succeed, then brag about it to yourself and be proud of yourself. Keep practicing avoiding these little deviations, and you will strengthen your resolve.
Calculate an occasional big deviation into your plan. This way, you don't really "fall off your diet" just because you made a pig of yourself at the office picnic. The next day, now the new backup plan comes into effect. Studies show that an occasional binge may not even lead to any weight gain at all. It's only when you do it two or three days in a row that you suddenly find three extra pounds when you weigh yourself. I think I told you already that I have a flag approach. If I am over my projected weight two days in a row, then a big red flag goes up, and I put a stricter calorie restriction on the next day. This is part of my plan.
But what about "Oh, what the hell?" This is where your mind comes into play. When you put your diet into place, you should have had not only the goal of loosing weight in place, but also a very clear picture of what your life would look like when you got to where you wanted to be. Take my picture for example. I am trying to go from 200 lbs. to 170 lbs. and to be engaging in moderate exercise. I am a 65 year old male who is 6 feet tall. But why am I doing this? My plan includes visualizing me on much reduced medication (consulting with my physician, of course). My doctor told me that I would take less prevacid (acid pump blocker) when I lost weight, and this is exactly what has happened. I have cut the dose in half. I intend to try to once again manage my gout with diet. I did for nearly 40 years, and I think the overweight just pushed me into needing the allopurinol.
But my plan includes also seeing myself become much more attractive. I have already lost more than half of my double chin. People are beginning to exclaim, "Oh, you have been loosing some weight. You look good." I can get in to my size 36 waist jeans again. They make me look really slim. My partner is saying once again what I though I would never hear again, "Jim, you are getting slim as a sherif's ring!" It will be just a couple of more weeks now, and I can go out and get me a couple of size 36-32 dress slacks. And, that is on the way to the 34-33s that I used to wear. Well, maybe. I am older now, and that may or may not be realistic. But you get the point. I have a real dream here. I am living my dream. I want to be healther and more attractive. I just cannot say "Oh, what the hell?!" No, no, no, no. I must have resolve. I will do it, loose the weight I want, and have my dream of being healthier and more attractive, and you can have resolve too.
Practice keeping your dream before you. So the next time you are tempted to have a piece of candy that isn't in your diet, don't allow yourself to see this as only a choice between having what you want and not having what you want in the short term. The choice is not between having the candy you want now and not having the candy you want now. That is only a very small part of the choice you have. Rather, the choice is always between having the healthier, more attractive you and the overweight or obese you with multiple health problems that are due to the weight.
A word about "attractive." I am fully aware of fat people's liberation. Certainly you wouldn't be reading this now if you were a liberated fat person, that is, a person who chooses obesity as a lifestyle. Just for the record, I'm going to say it. Everyone has a right to weigh what they want. Many people find fat people attractive. Even I know attractive fat people. Some of these folks claim that they are miserable when they try to weigh in at a normal weight. However, there is nothing healthy about obesity, even though it may arguably be more healthy to accept yourself, obese or not. Obesity kills and mames and raises health costs.
I resolve to be healthy. That rules out obesity. I resolve to extend my lifespan. That rules out overweight. I suppose if I found obesity or overweight attractive, I might have a more difficult time with these decisions. But, in my case, I don'f find obesity or overweight more attractive. So I don't have this particular struggle to make or axe to grind.