One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

WEEKLY QUESTIONS

Why do you think people have a hard time losing weight?

66 Comments 6998 views

Question of the weekLast week I went running with a friend, David. During the excruciating 4 miles (his pace is MUCH faster then mine so we met in the middle) he asked me why I thought people had a hard time losing weight.

I paused (mostly because I was so out of breath I couldn’t really speak) and he gave me his opinion.

His response…

Willpower

Now you may be thinking, here’s a guy who has no idea what he’s talking about. I mean he’s a runner for gosh sake. How dare he trivialize our struggle and basically tell us we have no willpower. He was probably thin his entire life and has no idea how hard it is for some of us to maintain a healthy weight.

Well, you would be wrong. David actually lost 100lbs and has been maintaining the lose for quite awhile. I’m not sure how long he’ll have to let us know but I’ve known him for about 4 years and never saw him “heavy.”

I wasn’t surprised by his answer. I know David. He’s a very cut and dry guy who tells it like it is (one of the reason why I like him.) As I pondered his response I couldn’t help but think maybe it is willpower for some. Who am I to argue with him and why he thinks he had a weight problem in the first place.

But for me it was SO much more then willpower. I think I used to think it was, back then, when I would repeatedly fail diet after diet. I just didn’t have the “discipline”, the “self-control” the “resolve”, to lose weight. Maybe I “didn’t deserve” to be thin because I was “weak.”

What a bunch of baloney. (please excuse the cheesy granny saying)

It’s those self-deprecating thoughts that get some of us in trouble. Let me introduce you to what I call the “yo-yo diet cycle of hell”

I feel bad about my body-I eat because I feel bad-I get excited about a new diet that will solve ALL my problems-I fail at said new diet-I must have no willpower, I feel even worse, might as well eat some more

For me and others whose weight problems stemmed from a body image issue. I don’t think willpower is a factor as much as self-acceptance and perfection is. One “mess up” would derail my entire weight loss effort and the cycle would start all over again.

So why do I think people have a hard time losing weight?

I think it varies from person to person. I think many of us get into that cycle and don’t know how to get out. I think we think we need to be perfect all the time. I think we let our heads get in the way and respond to emotional issues by turning to food. I think we really think we don’t deserve it.

Why do think people have a hard time losing weight?

Note: This post isn’t about the mechanics of why we can’t lose weight (ie eat less, move more) it’s about the mental aspects. So please do not comment and say people have a hard time losing weight because they eat too much. That’s pretty much a given. We are focusing on why they eat too much and why, when someone wants to learn how to change their habits, they can’t or at least have a hard time doing so.

If you are interested, I collected all my thoughts on how I broke the cycle in a series of posts called 3 Steps to a Healthier YOU!




Leave a comment

I’d love to hear your story or thoughts on mine.

However, to prevent the massive amounts of spam I was receiving I have turned off comments on any post older than 5 days old. If you'd like to leave me a note regarding this post or anything really try me on twitter (@RoniNoone,) my Facebook page, or even IG (@RoniNoone) I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I never thought I'd have to do this but it's gotten way out of hand and comment management has become simply too time consuming to manage.

Discussion

There are 66 comments so far.

    JoAnne

    February 24, 2009

    I think that you are absolutely right but, there is also alot more to it..Food is used as comfort and then we have these feelings and situations that automatically turn on what’s known as phantom hunger in response to our emotions and next thing we know we are eating…You really need to get in there and break those reasons down…you need to figure out what is truly driving you to eat..It is very subconscious and must be looked at..I f all it took was willpower and knowledge the whole world could easily be thin..It is very intricate and it is a journey of exploration for each and every individual..I think one very important step though, is to take responsibility for yourself!! No matter what happens you are the person responsible!….

    I love your diagram. I can completely relate to it.

    Suzan

    February 24, 2009

    Roni,,I think your right on about the yo yo diet effect..After years of being about 10-20 lbs overweight…I actually got sick of the way my clothes fit; more than how my body looked….I decided to change WHAT I ate..not necessarily HOW much I ate..Well after 18 months its made a great difference on not only how my clothes fit but also my complexion, my energy, my gym work-outs.and of course how I feel about myslef (confident and happy) Bottom line I think getting past being SO OBSESSED with what we look like..if ones’ goal can be the other many benefits of being fit…we can more easily be satisfied with ourselves! I am working on reducing my portions…I will see where that takes me!

    Saucy Wench

    February 24, 2009

    Wow, interesting. I just had a similar conversation *cough*heated debate*cough* with my husband, who is naturally thin and can’t even put on muscle with his workouts.

    He told me this: “Eat less, exercise more.”

    To which I said, “I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work for me. So what should I do now?”

    His response, “It worked for me. When I gained a little around the middle in the Air Force (*ahem* 22 years ago??) I just ate less and it went away.”

    Obviously he has no idea what we struggle with when it comes to weight. Don’t get me wrong. My husband is entirely supportive of my weight loss efforts, but he really does think that if I’m not losing weight that I’m simply eating too much. He does not understand the idea of your metabolism slowing down because your body goes into starvation mode if you don’t eat enough calories. He does not understand that one piece of pizza is actually better than a baked potato because of the nutritional content. He does not understand that we’re supposed to eat small meals all day and not just two or three meals. He does not understand that we’re supposed to snack.

    Is it willpower for me? Hrm. That’s a tough one. My best answer is: sometimes.

    As in, sometimes I have to use my willpower to get my butt out of bed to go to the gym.

    Sometimes I have to eat something I’d rather not because the yummy thing on the menu I simply cannot have, and that’s a choice of willpower, because I have to sit in that restaurant with my family or friends who are eating things I really would rather be eating.

    However.

    In my house I do not have to use willpower. I have set up my environment so that I can eat pretty much anything within my own home. Also, I don’t usually need to use willpower when grocery shopping because I tend to just know what I need to get. I’ll read a label and if the sodium is too high, or it has HFCS in it, then it’s an obvious negative for me and I won’t even look twice.

    Though sometimes it takes willpower to just cook dinner after a whole day of work and an hour of traffic.

    Maybe for me the word would be: discipline.

    I know what I have to do, so if I am disciplined enough to just do it, then I am successful.

    patty

    February 24, 2009

    Emotional attachments to food.

    Emily

    February 24, 2009

    I don’t know why this one just is bugging the heck out of me…I guess it’s that people like David likely got their weight through lack of knowledge about health and nutrition. When they know better, they do better. I don’t discount the work it takes to lose 100 lbs, no matter how you got it, but if you didn’t get your weight through emotionally driven eating, then you just aren’t going to get it. Until you can create inside yourself a place of peace and acceptance, no amount of willpower is going to keep that weight off.

    TheSkinnyPlate

    February 24, 2009

    I agree that a lot has to do with will power.

    cj

    February 24, 2009

    I think if some people’s lives are really busy, then they are more motivated to lose weight. These people feel that they have so many activities and so many people they see that there will be a social reward for losing weight (e.g. I will look great at work, I’ll look awesome in that party dress, etc.) I also believe that when some people have tedious (or predictable is another way of characterizing it) lives it helps with losing weight because they can devote more time and psychic energy to weight loss efforts.

    It depends on the person. With some people, a certain percentage of extra weight burdens them in psychological ways and physical ways that do not affect others who have the same amount of extra weight. For example, at my current weight–after losing more than 40 lbs.–I experience back pain. Someone else at my height or weight might never experience this problem. Also women with thyroid problems, diabetes, pcos, pre-diabetes symptoms, arthritis and other physical challenges have to spend even more time figuring out what works with their weight loss efforts. Medication can also add and keep extra weight on some people.

    Actually losing weight–and losing it at a pace you can accept–motivates many to continue. Some people reach a plateau and never shake up their routines or simply cannot accept that their average weight loss rate is .5 lbs./wk.

    I also believe that you have to both accept your body and constructively criticize it at the same time. I’m proud of my weight loss but I look at new photos of myself and it helps me to “see” the extra weight I still have. When I have no photos taken of me or only headshots or pics in certain poses, I forget that I’m still heavy.

    I think some people give up when they reach a certain level of weightloss because they might see themselves as smaller than they actually are. I think they give up because it’s plan old difficult–especially if their homelives or worklives are demanding. Some people truly don’t want to rock the boat when it comes to asking for food to be prepared differently at restaurants. They don’t want to have new foods and meals in their home in case their family members might be irked. They are people pleasers who have forgotten how to please themselves.

    You have to be a bit selfish to start and successfully complete a weight loss journey. You also have to be able to endure real hunger at times (not most of the time but it still happens that you’ve eaten thousands of calories and seem to feel real hunger.) You have to be able to see yourself differently. You, truly, have to juggle your budget around to allow for some extra money to be devoted to weight loss efforts at least at some stages in the process. New clothes perhaps?

    I no longer see myself as a huge candy lover. That didn’t make me fun-loving and fun to be around. Sure, candy’s good but I can have less of it inside my stomach. Now, I don’t see myself as someone who *often* needs brie & wine days. Very recently, I no longer see myself as part of a couple who *has* to go out to eat regularly.

    I feel that as I age I look forward to new food habits and then I grab onto new food obsessions and addictions that might be bad for me but I don’t fear that they will define me. I feel that I can give them up or decrease the amount I eat, because I’ve done that already.

    Courtney

    February 24, 2009

    For me? It’s about loving food. I love food. I love to cook it, think about it, watch shows about it, share it with others, celebrate with it, and cry with it. I get happy? I eat. I get sad? I eat. The week is done? I eat. It’s Wednesday and the week is long? Let’s go get pizza. It’s RIDICULOUS how food is the center of my life. What I have concluded, though, is the fact that food will always be the center of my life. What I have to do (as someone mentioned above) is choose what food to celebrate with – and then focus on some other celebrations – like maybe a 5K a month, or something like that.

    Thanks for the post, Roni!

    Rachel

    February 24, 2009

    Balance – and struggling to find it. Most of us have to find a middle ground between emotional eating and awareness of health.

    Hilary

    February 24, 2009

    I think one potential weight-loss impediment is that Change Is Hard for many of us. Once we have been in an unhealthy rut for a long time, it can be really difficult to imagine that we can successfully live another way.

    amy

    February 24, 2009

    i think it is absolutely self control/will power and the emotional ties people have to food.

    also, i think it is sometimes not really knowing how many calories certain foods actually have in them- i hear people say that they have tried eating less and excercising more (and that it doesn’t work)- but it actually does/should work if indeed you are consuming less calories than you burn. we all know that it is scientifically proven. less calories in, more calories burned = weight loss. we can feel like we’ve tried this and it doesn’t work, but normally, the reason is that we were off on actual calories consumed (it’s usually more than we think). trusting your perception on about how many calories something has usually doesn’t work. thinking or feeling like you’ve eaten less (I have learned) is not a good guide. when I actually buckled down and micro-managed every item I put in my mouth (exactly noting every calorie), I lost weight (steadily). when i slacked on it alittle, i would plateau. now, I’m not saying you can keep that up forever- but in the initial stages, where you need to get over the hump and lose alittle- it works!!

    Lilbet

    February 24, 2009

    I don’t agree with the willpower at all.

    If that was the case, I would be an out of control spender and have other behaviors that I couldn’t control.

    Don’t buy it.

    I think it’s genetics and very out of our control. And the answer is simple. Eat less. Not move more, just eat less. If you want to eat more, you may have to move more. You just may be the person that only needs 800 calories to get along in a day with your given activity level. If you want to eat more than that, you’ve got to move more.

    Maybe we should start thinking that fat people are actually much more efficient with our calories!!! (positive spin!!)

    Food is required to live. You can’t avoid it or go cold turkey like other addictions. You have to face it every day. Food tastes good, it’s pleasureable, and we’re surrounded by it in the media, on billboards, and we have a physical need for it.

    I think we need to agree that we’re going to stop beating ourselves up about all this. If I didn’t have will power, I certainly wouldn’t have survived much of life’s roller coaster ride. Stop the guilt, stop overthinking everything, and just strive every day to live healthily.

    Living healthily means more than working out and exercise. It means taking care of your mental health and spirituality. To sum up our weight gain as lacking willpower is defeatist and abusive.

    Justine

    February 24, 2009

    Unresolved emotional issues= weight gain (for some). I keep my emotional issues on the inside, but wear my emotional issues on the outside.

    I think some of us gain weight because we turn to food instead of fixing what is happening on the inside. Reading the letter you wrote to your Father hit home to a lot of people.. imagine what keeping that bottled in can do? Thanks Roni for sharing your journey day by day with all of us.

    Lisa D.

    February 24, 2009

    Willpower does indeed have a lot to do with staying in control of your body. But you can also work with your metabolism. It is higher in the morning, and tapers off during the day, to very low at night. So if you pay attention to metabolism, it can work with you and for you!

    Sarah

    February 24, 2009

    funny. I couldn’t see the response the guy gave in my RSS feed, and automatically thought ‘willpower’.. and the low and behold – it’s his response.. made me chuckle…

    You’re right though.. everyone is different.

    My problem, and why I struggled with losing weight and still fight to keep off the last 10? Willpower.

    Jodi

    February 24, 2009

    For me it was finally accepting that the changes I needed to make had to be for life. That meant it didn’t matter how long it took to lose the weight, because I would adopt these new behaviours forevever. I would learn to eat well and exercise because I wanted to. It was letting go of the idea of “dieting” as a means to an end and changing my lifestyle so that I could be a healthy, balanced person. It took me over 4 years to lose 145 pounds. I’ve been maintaining for over a year and I still struggle with those pesky last 5 pounds – and always will.

    Once I accepted that my whole life had to be different – for the rest of my life – and I wanted it to be, I was finally able to succeed. It’s still hard some days, and some days it’s not, but it’s a lot better to fight the battle from this end of the scale.

    Sonia

    February 24, 2009

    Hey Roni, I totally agree with your post… I’ve never been one to really go on a bunch of fad diets, but I would always go from periods of extreme exercise to absolute laziness. I would always lose about 10-15 pounds, get stressed out or depressed about something going on in my life, eat like crazy, and gain the weight back. (Then I’d get depressed that I was gaining weight and eat more… then my “fat” pants would start getting tight, and I would panic and exercise like crazy again.) That’s pretty much been my life since I was about 12 years old… I’ve ALWAYS been up and down on this.

    I think it’s what you said… it’s about willpower, yes, but it’s also about self-acceptance, wanting to lose weight NOT to fit into a bunch of cute clothes but because you DESERVE a healthier you. It just took me a LONG time to realize that it wasn’t about looking good to impress other people… but that looking good was just a nice side-effect of feeling better about myself overall! :) I wish permanent weight loss really WAS just about willpower and willpower, alone.

    Elaine

    February 24, 2009

    For me, it was all about not being mentally prepared. Willpower…idk if that was 100% but it is definitely some. I think a lot had to do with self-confidence….once I learned to run a mile, eat healthy for 3 weeks straight, whatever…I felt strong and then I had some healthy thought I could fall back on when I was distracted from my weight loss. It was also a matter of surrounding myself by healthy, supportive people like my husband, my trainer, my friends on BTL, this blog, a few other blogs, watching Biggest Loser, magazine subscriptions to Oxygen, reading Judith Beck’s book….I had to change my MINDSET before I could change my body. It was a bit of willpower, a bit of a support system, a bit of just being sick-and-tired of being out of shape, and a lot of inner thinking/searching that has led me to success this time around (and hopefully the LAST time!)

    Lyn

    February 24, 2009

    It is sooo complicated. For me, I get in cycles. I feel great and am eating right an doing everything right and losing weight. That can last from a few days to many months. Then I get mentally tired of it, I miss my old habits, I just want a BREAK from *not* binge eating (I know that sounds… messed up…. but it’s true. I miss binge eating when I don’t do it). Then I might have pizza for dinner one night and bigne on it. The next day I have cravings, and I want the bigne feelings again, so I decide to go ahead and buy the stuff I have been craving all in one day and eat it ALL and then get back on track. I buy a box of donuts, a cake, cookies, chips, burgers, fries, everything. I eat 75% of it and then the next day I make an excuse that I need to finish it off. The next day I have some other food I want, same thing the next day. Days turn into weeks and months of eating junk. Once I am off plan it ti SO HARD to get back out of that rut, so I just fight not to fall in in the first place. Solution? I don’t know. I just keep trying and losing and as long as I don’t give up, the overall long term weight trend goes down.

    Photo Lori

    February 24, 2009

    I think it boils down to unwillingness to change. Or lack of desire. I know for me, I wanted to lose weight. Really really bad! I was unhappy, miserable and disgusted with myself. But for a long time, I was unwilling to make the changes needed to lose weight. Back then I never would have admitted it was lack of desire or unwillingness….but it was. I just didn’t want to put in the effort and work. Because it does take effort and a heck of a lot of work. I’ve lost 40 pounds and have been at my goal now for 7 years. I’d still like to lose another 10. I’m not unhappy or miserable now or disgusted with myself, but I am unwilling to make those last few changes that will put me down the last 10.

    Yeah, I’d love to lose 10 more pounds. And yes I am unwilling to change. Right now. Who knows, maybe that will change. But for now…I am happy to have lost 40 pounds and maintained that lost for a heck of a long time!!

    Christine

    February 24, 2009

    For me it is all about self esteem and emotions. I have major issues with feeling like I am deserving of healthiness/thinness. I am also really scared of being healthy/thin. Still trying to figure out where those feelings came from and how to move beyond them.

    Annalisa

    February 24, 2009

    Hi Roni — great question, love the diagram! The most enlightening thing I read in a while came from Marilou Henner’s weight loss book. She compared weight loss cycles to the colors of the rainbow.

    Basically, Red = you’re ready to change, orange = going strong, yellow = caution, change isn’t that easy, green = doing too much wrong/not enough right, blue = upset about lack of implementing change or achieving weight loss. The cycle repeats.

    This was such an eye opener for me. I compared this to my cycle and it’s spot on. I think being aware of this for the last couple of months has helped me understand myself and keep going when otherwise I might have “relapsed” a lot longer.

    Lady Downsize

    February 24, 2009

    Reactive. When someone hurts us through words or actions, we often don’t attribute that to the person delivering the hurt. Instead we attribute it to ourself, some internal or visual defect, and that leaves behind a bent sense of self worth. We then comfort that bent sense with comfort foods.

    Also, decipline. How many times have we leaned on the stick of “I don’t feel like it.” That isn’t about self worth as much as it is about internal fortitude and discipline. We may as well be telling our desire to be thin, “Nah, nah, na-nah nah! You can’t make me!” because we ignore what we know we should be doing for long term gain – giving in to the immediate, short-term comfort.

    KUrunner

    February 24, 2009

    I disagree with the simple answer of willpower. I was put on hormones prior to chemo a few years ago and gained almost 30 pounds over the course of a month. I wasn’t eating more or exercising less, but when I would run into people who didn’t know about my treatment, I would get comments like, “Wow, you’ve really let yourself go.”

    It’s a little insulting that someone like your friend could look at me on the street and just think that I lacked willpower and couldn’t put the proverbial fork down.

    Plus, guys have it easier when it comes to losing weight. Men are heavier with more muscle mass and can eat more than most women and maintain the same weight. It makes me think of that diet pill commercial where the man stops drinking soda and loses a ton of weight and the woman loses nothing. Plus, it’s been medically proven that women have more cravings then men. Also, women tend to be emotional eaters and men, not so much. Not that I’m making excuses; there are plenty of women who have successfully lost weight. I just think that women have a lot more working against them.

    P.S. Men don’t have to try to lose pregnancy pounds.

    sherijung

    February 24, 2009

    It is willpower in that it takes many acts of the will to make all those choices that result in weight loss. Simply wanting to be thin, or hating one’s body is not enough to produce a calorie deficit. You have to really want to change your habits and mindset, that is the first step. It is hard work every day, and the payoff is not immediate. I don’t know many people who do delayed gratification well!

    I personally think it’s more effective to have a realistic expectation of the end result, that weight loss will not solve all your problems, and won’t make you happy in and of itself. In fact, it might cause some unhappiness due to the upheaval in many of your relationships that were somewhat dependent on you being fat and/or unhealthy. And it is at its heart a rather selfish endeavor, or least extremely self-focused, which can cause relationship problems too.

    Berni

    February 24, 2009

    I have struggled for many years thinking that I didn’t have willpower, judged myself, have been judged by others and felt, well pretty majorly lacking. Recently I’ve realised this is not the case, as Lilbet said, I’m not an out of control lunatic in other areas of my life, I do have willpower. Weight loss for me is all about self acceptance as well as a feeling that I deserve to have the life I dream of. When I’m feeling this I have willpower of steel. I’ve learned to put myself first, it has required a lifetime of undoing the conditioning that I’m here to look after others, but I’m working on it each and everyday.

    Pubsgal

    February 24, 2009

    My mom would say it’s all about willpower. She was anorexic in college, and afterward has always been underweight. What she never acknowledged (at least out loud) was that coffee and cigarettes served as excellent appetite suppressants. I don’t think that would work best for me, though.

    That said, I wouldn’t say “willpower” is completely the wrong answer for me. For example, it sometimes still takes willpower to get out for a run, even though I know I’ll feel better during and afterward. It also sometimes still takes willpower for me to floss my teeth every night.

    But even more than willpower was changing my mind, like Elaine said. I’ve had to change for health reasons (diabetes diagnosis, so the pain of staying the same had become greater than the perceived pain of having to change), and filling my brain with positive, supportive messages and ideas has made a huge difference. I’m currently on a plateau, and in fact saw a gain this week. But it’s not “failure” of my plan, it’s an indicator that my plan (or how I follow it) needs some tweaks.

    Wanda

    February 24, 2009

    I don’t know why “people” have a hard time losing weight, and lord, if I knew why I did, I would be the first person running up to whatever it is and taking care of that like a high kicking karate chick. I think most people find it easy to make things so “cut and dry” like saying it is willpower, or it was that extra slice of bread you ate or it was that you were over fed as a child, however, I think that a lot has to do with why you are heavy to begin with.

    I started gaining weight when I was 8 years old. I did not eat more than my siblings, I did not exercise less. I was on every sport there was and I still outweighed my sister by at least 30 – 50 lbs until grade 10 when I doubled that amount. By the time I was 20 years old I weighed twice what my sister weighed, and still ate basically the same.

    I went to WW and STUCK TO IT for 14 months and lost 11 lbs while most people lose 50 – 100 in the same time frame. Everyone, including my partner said “you are not sticking to it”. I went to Curves religeously for a year and weighed 2 lbs more after a year than I did when I started. I have had every test available and apparently there is no reason why I can’t lose weight if i either a) restrict ALL carbs, b) get surgery or c) go on a juice cleanse for a month and then stick to vegetarian cuisine.

    I think I have trouble losing weight because no one knows why I am over weight. Simple as that.

    Liz

    February 24, 2009

    I think that each person has a different reason so I’ll just stick to myself so I don’t speak for anyone else. For me, it’s a combination of things. I lack the self confidence to feel like I really can lose weight. After failing at weight watchers at 10 years old, I’ve never felt like I’m going to be able to lose weight. I’ve tried diets, diet pills, not eating, binging and purging (which unfortunately lead to bulimia). Pretty much everything but surgery. I’ve lost weight on WW but when you have a lot to lose, like over 100 pounds, losing 10 pounds feels like nothing. Maybe if the 10 pounds showed somewhere or made me feel better than I would feel like it was an accomplishment, but most of the time I’m just thinking oh jeez it took me this long to lose 10 pounds and I still have how long to lose the rest of the weight.

    I do think will power can play a part into it for me. There are times I’ve just given up because I’m tired of doing it. I don’t want to diet anymore. I want to eat what I want to eat. I want to have pizza with my friends and I want to enjoy beer pong. I hate going to the gym and being so self conscience, but part of this is that i just hate working out. If I had more will power, maybe I would just go to the gym. But this is also reminds me of the people on the biggest loser who almost never keep off the weight because they can’t keep up with the routine that they had at the ranch, so maybe it’s about finding a balance between willpower and something else (which I’m not sure what that is)

    The third aspect for me is genetics. In my family, I got the genetic short straw. I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) which makes it very hard to lose weight because of my insulin resistance. I also naturally crave carbs (oh fantastic!) so my body is just setting me up. I also have a disease called fabrys disease which does not allow my body to release heat and makes it very hard to exercise because i get horrible pains in my hands and feet. This is just another reason to not exercise because it is so physically painful (not just because I don’t do it).

    These are just some reasons why I find it difficult to lose weight, but I’m sure everyone has their own reason but I think some people probably have similar ones to mine.

    Neha

    February 24, 2009

    I think that people forget the distinction between emotional and physical hunger. Once you lose it, once, it’s very hard to get, IMHO.

    Monica

    February 25, 2009

    Hard to say – it’s a different challenge for different people. For me, it’s the combination of will power and social pressure. Society makes it difficult to eat healthily. You can see it in the massive portion sizes, the processed food, the excessive amounts of oil and butter used at restaurants, the work parties, the office snacks, the popularity of pubs and bars… all around us are triggers. It’s hard to stick to your guns and be disciplined.

    Deb

    February 25, 2009

    I believe for most women, myself included, losing weight is an emotional issue and then a physical one. As Roni has discussed before, young girls become of the victims of social pressure through the media to be thin and beautiful. Throughout our lives, those unrealistic beliefs begin to snowball, and when we hit a little roadblock in our “diet,” the infamous “yo yo diet cycle of hell” starts. I believe mine started before I was a teenager, coupled with the fact that my father put a tremendous amount of pressure on me about how I looked (a/k/a how much do you weight?) I’m 42 and he STILL makes comments about my weight.

    Personally, I don’t think there is one woman who reads this blog who doesn’t have willpower to lose weight. We all know what we have to do in order to get there. It’s not rocket science, yet we all struggle. I believe it’s all of the other garbage that gets in the way.

    Marni

    February 25, 2009

    I go through that diagram daily. . . eat something “bad” feel bad and cycle through it again. I have to remember it’s about the long haul and life and in life I sometimes make choice to eat foods which are not filling, and which may be fried. But I try the majority of the time to eat foods which will not harm my body. I am trying hard not to judge these decisions, so I can break that cycle.

    Shelly

    February 25, 2009

    I related 100% to this article and it opened my eyes. I am going to take a good long look a myself in the mirror this morning. Thank you, this came at the right time.

    Dash

    February 25, 2009

    I completely agree with Lyn (reply #20)
    I work out, and follow WW principals – thanks to your great website. I see the results. It should motivate me, right? But I decide that a little bit of junk food is not going to heart me. Once I have it, I can’t stop on one portion/slice. I have to have more. Obviously, I fell pretty bad about it, and promise myself to get back on the track. But it’s just so hard! I am binging for several days, promising myself to start all over next morning…
    Roni, what’s your advise? Can you help?

    cj/mindful nosher

    February 25, 2009

    One last comment. Everyone should have their resting metabolic rate tested to see where they are starting from. I learned that I had to consume very few calories per day in order to lose weight unless my metabolism changed somehow. I think at times I was resentful about my body’s inefficient nature (which sabotaged weight loss efforts) and now I’m more accepting of my unique struggle.

    Charlie Hills

    February 25, 2009

    I hate to come late to the party (especially since no one will probably read twelve miles down into the comments) but I’ll take a moment anyway to re-iterate my standard theory. You said you wanted to hear the “mental” aspects. Mental, psychological, emotional, etc.: I all group these together into one category, and I call that category “physical.”

    This may sound strange to people who’ve spent their entire lives believing that each human is divided into a “mind” and a “body” but I’ve looked at a lot of humans, and looked at a lot of diagrams, and watched a lot of icky operations on TV and the one conclusion I’ve come to is this: it’s all body. Your head, brain, back, heart, toes, fat, earlobes, fingers, and cellulite is one very large, extraordinarily complex biomechanical system.

    What is eating? Eating is the physical act of using various body parts to move food from your table to your stomach. How does it happen? Well, you hand picks up the food, the food goes into your mouth, your jaw chews it, and then it gets sent down the esophagus. I’m sure everyone agrees on those points. So now, why did this happen? Is it because you’re sad? Because you’re “emotional”? Because you’re hungry? Because you have no willpower? Because it’s your birthday? The answer is “no” to all these things. It’s because signals were sent from your brain, via the nervous system, to the various muscle groups to execute this act.

    So why were these signals sent in the first place. Because you’re hungry? Because you have no willpower? Or is it simply because you’re an enormously complex machine with trillions of moving parts, all working independently, yet in concert, to create this object we call a human being.

    If you doubt the biology, look at lab experiments with mice, rats, dogs, etc. All sorts of tests have been done on these animals where they’ve been provided with extra food or deprived of food. Does anyone think the rat is saying, “My butt looks too big, I’m not eating that piece of cheese the lab guy just left me.” Is the rat sad about something? Is the rat mad at DH? Or is the rat, too, a complex, biomechanical organism which has the innate desire to stay alive and therefore moves its little rat muscles in the appropriate fashion to bring the cheese from the lab to its little rat tummy?

    In short, we have SO much trouble keeping fit because of a huge biological joke: the instinct to eat food when presented with it (because of that pesky little instinct to stay alive) and the fact that we’ve surrounded ourselves with more food than humans should ever have had access to. If you took any one of us and put us on that south Pacific island with Tom Hanks, we’d all lose 100 pounds. Because of willpower? No, because the proper natural balance would be restored.

    But as long as we’re 1) designed to eat; and 2) always within twenty feet of food, twenty-four-seven, then we’re never going to solve this problem.

    Kelly

    February 25, 2009

    I agree with willpower and for me alot of laziness to go along with it. Not lazy as in not being active, but lazy in that I wanted the results without putting in the work.

    Amy

    February 25, 2009

    I think it all comes back to the quote someone posted a week or so back, you have to love the process. If you look at losing weight as a diet, then in your head you are telling yourself there are foods you can’t have which just drives a person to want those foods more, then over do it. It you look at it from the perspective of being healthier, eating healthier, and learn to love the process of exploring and discovering new foods which in turn are good for you, then it becomes an easier journey. LOVE THE PROCESS. (I have adopted that motto)

    Nancy

    February 25, 2009

    1. Portion sizes are too large…..eat slowly and savor your food (I tell myself that all the time).
    2. Drink water after eating each bite of food.
    3. Make different choices…if you are dying for chocolate, make yourself some sugar free chocolate pudding, eat a chocolate vitatop, a Cocoa Via bar, etc.
    4. Write everything you eat down and be aware of what you eat.
    5. I tell myself, “you put the weight on, you can take it off!”

    Kim (Weight Loss Diet Secrets)

    February 25, 2009

    Great topic Roni, and once again, very well illustrating diagram you used!

    Charlie Hills – here is proof that some people DO “read twelve miles down into the comments”, and then even go as far as posting ANOTHER one 13 miles down. :-)

    I’ve been collecting some snippets from comments on my way down, and will piece them together, along with my own thoughts.

    Kelly put it all together: “I agree with willpower and for me alot of laziness to go along with it. Not lazy as in not being active, but lazy in that I wanted the results without putting in the work.”

    1. First it is a willingness to change. By having a fear of the unknown. You’re thinking to yourself: “Heck, this is going to be tough. I am scared that I will fail. Will I ever be able to do this?” When you KNOW exactly what you’re letting yourself in for, and HOW to do it right, you will realize that it is NOT such a hell as some people think it is.

    Hilary said that “Once we have been in an unhealthy rut for a long time, it can be really difficult to imagine that we can successfully live another way.” – RIGHT!

    Jodi says “For me it was finally accepting that the changes I needed to make had to be for life.” – RIGHT!

    Shelly “related 100% to this article and it opened my eyes. I am going to take a good long look a myself in the mirror this morning. Thank you, this came at the right time.” – RIGHT!

    2. An unwillingness to educate yourself. We are just too busy, so there has to be an EASY answer, because we just don’t “have the time” to get to know how our bodies work, and what we can do to work with that.

    Emily said that people have a “lack of knowledge about health and nutrition. When they know better, they do better”. – RIGHT!

    Amy spoke of people “not really knowing how many calories certain foods actually have in them- i hear people say that they have tried eating less and exercising more (and that it doesn’t work)- but it actually does/should work if indeed you are consuming less calories than you burn.” – RIGHT!

    3. And finally Lilbet thinks “it’s genetics and very out of our control. And the answer is simple. Eat less. Not move more, just eat less.” – WRONG!

    Now sorry Lilbet, but this is probably the biggest factor – just taking the easy way out, living in ignorance, not seeking the RIGHT answers, and NOT taking ACTION…

    To summarize: A lack of willpower to believe that change is possible, a lack of will power to take action to change, a lack of willpower to educate ourselves, a lack of willpower to take action… It’s all lack of willpower.

    pam

    February 25, 2009

    Okay…his response cracks me up……. I am not here to stereotype ALL men….however….that is such a male point of view. That is exactly what my husband said when I asked him this question as a TEST! I guess that why I am from MARS. ha ha ha I don’t think men internalize the weight loss issue as much as we do. They would say “We are fat because we like to eat too much’ THE END. I would say….I am addicted to food. I eat when I am sad, or lonely or bored…then people say I am heavy and I eat more etc etc etc. Rollercoaster rollercoaster yada yada yada. The fact is….Maybe it is that easy?????? HMMMMMMMM

    Kim (Weight Loss Diet Secrets)

    February 25, 2009

    Pam, can I ask you a question? A few actually…

    Do you have any idea what your TDE (Total Daily Expenditure) is?
    Do you have any idea what macro nutrient ratios are?
    Do you have any idea what your daily calorie intake is?

    See, we are all addicted to food. Male, female, transvestite, whatever. We have to be. If we weren’t, we’d be in a lot of trouble. It’s an instinct.

    But WHAT do we eat? And HOW do we eat?

    If you ate right for weight loss, as a matter of fact you would be so busy keeping track and so busy eating RIGHT, that you wouldn’t have time to be bored…

    Nobody said it’s easy… Just a lack of willpower…

    Allison K

    February 25, 2009

    What an interesting topic (and probably one that has no right or wrong answer). Though, I do tend to agree with what Rachel said. Balance. And the great thing about balance is that it’s different for everyone. I also agree with David on the whole willpower issue. I know I’m a “big eater,” and many times I have to WILL myself to make the right choices – especially in the beginning when I’m more focused on changing my behavior first and then my thought process. So, my balance comes from willing or disciplining myself to make good choices (regardless of whether I want to or not), and then my thoughts and ideas about what I’m putting into my body naturally follow that behavioral change.

    Also, being a true Southerner (which I often feel is synonymous with “big eater”), I grew up on seconds, desserts, Tex-Mex, good hearty food in huge portions. Changing 20+ years of that kind of eating behavior is hard to say the least. But, it can be done with willpower, balance, self-acceptance and everything else under the sun!

    Great topic, Roni!

    Jac

    February 25, 2009

    My husband said the exact same thing. Will power. (And he also lost 100 pounds…)

    I wish it were that simple. And he has a REALLY difficult time realizing that it isn’t that simple for me.

    pam

    February 25, 2009

    Good point kim…actually I have been maintiaining for 2 years on ww. Having lost 60 lbs, However I have no idea what my macro nutrient ratio is? My point is I attatch all emotion to my weight loss, all my time tracking, all my brain power researching better foods, healthy lifestyles,new products, all my energy working out and my husband can just cut back or eat less and not be consumed by it. I am sure that he is not the “norm” just my experience with the farm boy I am married to. :) And evidentally a few others like David and Jac’s husband.

    Charlie Hills

    February 25, 2009

    pam wrote: “We are fat because we like to eat too much’ THE END. I would say….I am addicted to food.

    If what I said came off as “because we like to eat too much THE END” then I completely failed. My point is that so many of us, male and female alike, seem to completely dismiss the biological component. We look to things like emotional issues, or willpower, or yes—even addiction as things that are somehow separate from our bodies.

    There are clearly bodily functions that operate without any thought: our hearts, lungs, and the core systems that keep us going. No one’s heart ever stops beating because of a lack of willpower. Then there are body functions which we clearly feel in control of. If I choose to watch a certain television show, then I can make my hand press the right button on a remote control, and presto—there’s the show I chose to watch. This is what we all learned as “involuntary” and “voluntary.”

    But then there’s this middle ground…this strange, mystery area where to the outside observer, it looks voluntary but to the subject, it feels involuntary. We call this compulsion. We’ve all felt it. It’s those times where our bodies just seem to “do stuff” on their own. It’s the cookies in the cupboard. They call to us. We feel the pull. We know we shouldn’t eat them. We know it’s wrong. We know we’ll hate ourselves for doing it, beat ourselves up over it for hours or days, and regret it completely. All these higher order brain functions are at odds with the cookies calling, calling, calling us. Eventually we cave and eat the cookies. What is this drive? What is this compulsion? (Or “addiction” as you called it.)

    Well, it gets back to my original point: it’s your brain. If you step back for a moment and place every action into the “involuntary” category, it’s an extremely enlightening revelation. The brain controls everything. It’s this massively dense and complex collection of cells that sends signals to various muscle groups. Sometimes these signals say, “Change the channel.” Sometimes these signals say, “Run away from that loose tiger.” Sometimes they say, “Pull that person out of that burning building.” And, yes, every once in a while they say, “Go to the kitchen and eat those cookies.”

    I hope I never said, “You just eat too much, that’s why you’re overweight.” What I hope is that I can open up a few people to the very hard to swallow possibility that we simply don’t have the complete and utter control over ourselves that we think we do. If it was as simple as, “I made the CHOICE to make my personal lifestyle change PERMANENT!” then we’d have solved this thing eons ago. The very reason that very large majority of people can’t do this no matter how hard they try certainly points to some other root issue.

    Laura Brandon

    February 26, 2009

    I really think a lot of my issues are just like yours were, Roni. I do think I have other problems with food, i.e. food addiction, but I know I have body image problems, and the bigger I get, the bigger I see myself in the mirror, the more depressed I get, and the more I want to medicate myself with food. I still don’t think I’m at the “love myself” stage, but I’m really working on it, and trying to develop healthier eating habits, and all that. I’m glad I can read things like this, though, and know there are people like you who broke the cycle!

    gottahavefaith

    February 26, 2009

    Willpower…hmm. A very loaded word. I prefer “dedication” to “willpower,” and, as previous commentors have ably explained, it’s a lot more complicated than that!

    pam

    February 26, 2009

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT (no pun intended)
    WHAT IF? We did not live in the “land of plenty”? What if you and I and all of us lived in a place where food was not easy to come by, where we didn’t have choices (like africa, or remote mountain communities in the US) Would we still have all this emotional baggage about weight? Or, would we be eating to survive, would our will power kick in?

    That was just a question I asked myself as I was thinking about what I was going to give up for lent. We have it sooooo easy….tooooo easy to get food in the US. What a luxury that we have all these choices. I am sure my great grandpa would have been laughing his rear off if I told him I could buy a watermelon in January, Or, there was thousands of varieties of pop, water, and vitamin drinks not just root beer.

    By the way, I am going to try and cut off pop consumption for lent. TRY.

    amy

    February 26, 2009

    Go Kim!

    Charlie Hills

    February 26, 2009

    Yes, pam, that fits in well with my theory which is clear in my head but oh so hard to get into words, wordsmith that I am.

    Let’s take a look at Roni’s original question, “Why do you think people have a hard time losing weight?” We got a lot of replies about willpower, emotional eating, being too busy, discipline … but I don’t think anyone really got to the heart of the matter.

    I can now use my previous replies and factor in pam’s “food for thought” to (succinctly) define the problem.

    1) For the bulk of our existence on this planet, our species lived with a scarcity of food. (Just like all animals.) Our bodies, with the raw instinct to survive at all costs, got used to the notion of eating all it could whenever it could because it had no idea how long it might be before the next meal. Further, it became highly attracted to high-energy foods because those foods meant one thing: life. Yeah, chewing on a leaf is good, but a big ol’ hunk a mammoth just can’t be beat for actual survival.

    2) Over the last few hundred years, we really got GOOD at making sure food wouldn’t be scarce. And over the last few decades, we invented supermarkets that meant anything you wanted to eat, any time you wanted to eat it, would be available. And here’s the kicker: “want”. Remember point 1? Your body WANTS to eat. It doesn’t know life any other way. And when it WANTS something, it GETS it. And when we’ve constructed a society that turns “GETS it” into the most effortless thing possible, then you have a problem.

    Okay, now to the succinct part. :)

    Q. Why do you think people have a hard time losing weight?

    A. Because losing weight means eating less and our bodies simply weren’t designed to not eat. We have such a hard time losing weight because by definition its swimming against a very strong biological current.

    roni

    February 26, 2009

    WOW WOW WOW

    I cannot believe the conversation I have started. I’ve been sitting back enjoying it but I need to chime in.

    First I want to address Charlies “Biological current” and Pam’s “Land of Plenty” and please understand I’m totally playing Devils Advocate here. I think you both make great points.

    What about the millions of people who live in the same environment who DO NOT have weight issues. Those that work, live, eat, breath around food yet have no problems/issues restraining or limiting food intake when they are satisfied. I use my husband as an example. The man could work in a bakery during the day, a pizza parlor during dinner and the night shift at an ice cream place. Even with all that food readily available the dude eats only when hungry and stops when full. He’s made no emotional attachments to food he doesn’t look to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s when stressed. Is he not in the same situation as us all?

    He also doesn’t have the same preoccupation with his body that I do. He doesn’t feel bad about himself because a certain size jean didn’t fit or that his friends wear a smaller size. Does he wish to change a few things about his body. Sure, we all do. But he doesn’t respond the same way I do by going a crash diet.

    Now I’m first to admit we are all different. So I accept I got the short end of the stick on the food/diet side of the house. That’s cool, we all have different genes, experiences, upbringings etc.

    Chalking it up to a simple… “We are designed to eat” isn’t good enough for me. People are also designed to pro-create for the better of human kind yet we limit our offspring. We are also designed to care for our young, yet mothers abandoned their children. The thing that makes us different then those rats is a sense of self and the ability to choose. People make hard decisions every day sometimes fighting their instincts.

    I tend to agree with Lori

    “I think it boils down to unwillingness to change. Or lack of desire.”

    When I failed all previous times before it was because I didn’t want to change. I just wished I was thin but wishing wasn’t good enough. When I actually decided to change that’s when things started to make sense.

    Q. Why do you think people have a hard time losing weight?

    A. Because losing weight means making hard choices and sometimes we just don’t want to do that.

    Charlie Hills

    February 26, 2009

    I’ll play “Roni’s Advocate” first, then my own Advocate again. :)

    What about the millions of people who live in the same environment who DO NOT have weight issues?

    You actually answered it yourself, “Now I’m first to admit we are all different.” Yes. We are all different. We share the same basic DNA blueprints. But once we’ve been “instantiated” we are unique. Some of us have weight issues and some of us don’t. Some of us become highly paid NBA stars and some of us don’t. Some of us get cancer and some of us don’t. But I don’t think that invalidates my biological underpinnings.

    You’re right when you say “Chalking it up to a simple… ‘We are designed to eat’ isn’t good enough for me.” Because, once again, I still have not been able to construct the words that properly get my point across.

    What makes me happy is that you say, “Because losing weight means making hard choices and sometimes we just don’t want to do that.” Because it highlights the very point I’ve yet been unable to make.

    “Making hard choices”
    “Just don’t want to”

    If you really, really dissect these statements using the pure biological argument, what does it mean to make a choice? I don’t believe that “making a choice” is as easy as making a choice. I think choices just happen, unbidden, but then our higher order brain functions interpret this as something we actively took part in. That’s why I said this is hard to swallow, because it goes against everything we like to believe about ourselves; about being in control.

    Think about it: do you actively and consciously choose to be happy? (I’m not talking about an overarching, lifestyle kind of thing, but the pure and simple emotion of being happy at a given point in time.) Do you choose to be angry? If someone cuts you off in traffic, do you whip out your spreadsheet, made two columns of pros and cons, add up the numbers, and then come to a decision, “Yep, that’s it. That action is going to piss me off.” Do you ever choose to be sad? Or do certain inputs touch nerves and trigger sadness? Do you choose to be hungry? Or does hungry just happen?

    Hungry just happens. Like any other feeling or emotion or sensation: it just happens. And our bodies react. For many of us, the biological need to feed forces us to overeat. For some of us, like Roni’s husband, their biological need to feed has an off switch. How do I explain that? Maybe they’re just more advanced from an evolutionary point of view. Obviously that’s not going to happen to the entire species at once: it could be that some of us have actually finally adapted to this new, non-scarce food environment and in ten thousand years, 97% of us will catch up to these outliers.

    I don’t think caving in when presented with a bag of Doritos or a plate of cookies is a lack of willpower. No more than I think NOT caving in is a sign of willpower. If your husband worked in a bakery or pizzeria and never ever ate, is it because he won some massive internal struggle and his willpower overcame the desire to eat? Or his body is such that it says, “Nope. Don’t need that. No biggie.” That’s awesome that some people are like that.

    But I don’t think that means the rest of us are just too weak or lazy to make those “hard choices.” There’s more to it than just making a hard choice or wanting to follow through. The very fact that the choice is hard at all lends all the weight I need to the biological argument. :)

    sherijung

    February 26, 2009

    And why are we as a nation so much fatter now than 20-30 years ago? Do we have that much more food available?

    Could it be tied to US farm subsidies that make certain foods cheaper than others? (corn, dairy versus fruits & veggies)

    Could it be related to our out-of-control consumer culture that argues against self-denial?

    Why do we follow one self-preservation strategy (eating in time of plenty) even as it is killing us (diabetes, heart disease, etc)?

    Why do I crave cookies and chocolate but not apples and bananas?

    Why do women choose bad men? Hey, don’t you think it’s a similar situation? Why do we make choices that hurt us in the end, you know?

    roni

    February 26, 2009

    “The very fact that the choice is hard at all lends all the weight I need to the biological argument. :)”

    How? Getting up after 5 hours of sleep to go to work is hard….. Parenting is hard…. Nursing a child is hard…. Algebra is hard…. Remember to brush my teeth before bed is hard…. buying a new house is hard… moving is hard…. getting your toddler to eat broccoli is hard….

    We, as human being still do these things. We do things daily that are hard. How does that lend to your argument?.

    I’m not doubting it’s hardER for some. But you seem believe it’s impossible. I disagree.

    So really playing devils advocate ….

    How do you explain me or anyone else who has successfully lost weight?

    pam

    February 26, 2009

    More food for though and then I will shut up.
    The on/off switch is something that I will always stuggle with. I can be on plan or knowingly Off plan. BUT….key word…..Awareness! I am aware that I am off plan. And, I have the tools to get back on the bus. When choices get hard and willpower gives in…..I have done this long enough to routinely get back on plan. It feels like home….it is a routine. Just like nursing (ouch by the way), chemistry, my job, my marriage, running. It all takes conscious work, awareness, AND WILLPOWER (Self Discipline)

    Now, I don’t know why I can be watching the same tv show as my hubby and he is blissfully watching the show and I am sitting there next to him thinking about the ice cream in the fridge that has my name on it. I will make the effort to get out of my comfortable chair and walk into the kitchen to partake……hubby wouldn’t consider that. He full tired and enjoying the movie and we just ate supper for heaven sake.
    Why are we different? We just are.

    Land of plenty??? I feel like we are constantly tempted by food, commercials, friends, and family. We not only have an abundance of food, but it is fast, easy, and filled with bad things for you. Not to mention that it is fairly cheap. I refer to my great grandparents. Gram never bought a bag of premade cookies. Or, a frozen meal in a bag etc……
    Everything was homemade. That ate 3 meals and they breaked for coffe about 3:00. EVERY DAY! They drank cream, used butter, and ate chicken WITH THE SKIN ON! They never went to the gym or made a conscious effort to walk, run, etc….They worked it off.

    Hmmmmmm where am I going with this. It just seems to me that with all these convienciences that we all have to be so much more aware of what we put in our bodies, including drinks, food, water, exercise, etc ….

    This of course is my observation with my own self and does not represent anyone else on this site. ha ha ha ha

    Charlie Hills

    February 26, 2009

    Okay, let me back up a bit and take a different path. (My first path is eventually going to get me to the point where I start talking about the atomic makeup of each human and into physical deterministic models. No one wants me to go there!)

    So you said, “How do you explain me or anyone else who has successfully lost weight?”

    I say that you, me, and everyone else who has successfully lost weight has done so because at some point the calories burned exceeded the calories consumed. No one argues that point. (I hope!)

    Of course, your original question is why is it hard. You correctly point out that we do lots of other hard things: wake up early, raise children, brush our teeth. So I believe what you’re asking, in effect, is “why is weight loss so much more difficult than all the other difficult things we seem to deal with just fine?”

    And my answer to that is because I don’t believe that eating can be considered a “choice” the same way brushing our teeth is. Why? Because eating is closely tied to our innate survival instincts and brushing teeth isn’t. Getting up early isn’t. Making kids eat broccoli isn’t. Moving to a new house isn’t. Every single decision we make, from the very difficult to the no-brainers, all come down to a near-instantaneous weighing of options, or as I like to call them “vectors.” The brain processes dozens, hundreds, probably even thousands of vectors at any given point to come to a single decision. Each vector has a direction, velocity, and weight. Subsequently, not all vectors are equal.

    Let’s take a look how this might work. It’s time to brush your teeth. What vectors are there? I’m tired. I’d be okay if I skip a day. I really want to keep my teeth. I know I should do this every day. What if I have to kiss someone? Eventually your brain processes all these vectors and the net sum of the vectors is your choice: you do or do not brush your teeth.

    Now another scenario. Your body has sent hungry signals. What do you do. Let’s look at the vectors: I’m hungry. I like food. Food is close by. I shouldn’t eat. I have made a lifestyle change and therefore I will not eat. I could get a glass of water and see if that helps. I have a weigh in tomorrow. I have a blog post next Monday. Eventually your brain processes all these vectors and the net sum of the vectors is your choice: you do or do not eat.

    So my biology argument (as well as my “hard choice”) argument ties in with this fact that eating typically has a much, much heavier, stronger vector than many of those other things. Consequently, it wins out more often, and consequently we have a harder time controlling our eating. Yes, some people are blessed with a very “light vector” food component. Most of us aren’t. But I don’t think it changes my premise (or theory).

    And hopefully I’m done. :)

    One day I’ll get this all written up into a single, coherent message.

    Charlie Hills

    February 26, 2009

    My earlier attempts at explain this can found at my blog:

    http://www.backtothefridge.com/blog/elephant/
    http://www.backtothefridge.com/blog/psych-out/

    That is if anyone’s still interested in the topic. If you’re not, I don’t blame you. I’m plum tuckered out now!

    pam

    February 27, 2009

    One quick response….most of my eating doesn’t occur when I am hungry.

    bob

    August 12, 2009

    “Until you can create inside yourself a place of peace and acceptance, no amount of willpower is going to keep that weight off.”

    i think thats absolute crap, emily. many people gain that peace and acceptance when they finally get the weight off. gaining peace and acceptance is what motivates some people. you don’t have to accept yourself to change something. sometimes you have to change it first. it might not sound very good, but it is true. u can call it insecurity or whatever, but if it motivates someone enough to lose weight, who cares?

    missa

    October 12, 2009

    The honest truth is people believe what they want too, it is eat less exersize more plain an simple it does work it’s like saying the sun doesn’t shine because you don’t believe it does losing weight is simple math, throids or medcication make a difference in how hard it is but losing or gaining is calories that’s it. . I have hit areas where i stopped losing and i was not honest about or knowlegable about what i ate. Healthy means noothng if you eat to many calories, it all adds up, coffee,tea, that small peiece of chocolate.. most don’t know how many calories they get in a day they try to guess and forget that chip, or whatever then wonder why your not losing. the fact is no one cares if you reach your goal so stop making excuses and read, expirement and see what works for you…

    Jenny

    October 27, 2009

    (Please keep in mind I have no educational background in this topic and am merely iterating my personal experiences.)

    The problem with people who desire to lose weight is that they think they can achieve weight loss by eating a healthy, stable diet. The problem with that is, by exercising and keeping up a healthy diet, you will *maintain* your current weight. You have to *cut back* in order to lose weight. I currently weigh about 129 pounds, and I remember being 143 and feeling helpless. I wasn’t a pig, and I didn’t have particularly unhealthy eating habits. I tried time after time to lose weight, and always found the second day the hardest. The first day was easy: the feeling of dissatisfaction with an undesired image would usually propel me through the first 24 hours, but the moment I allowed my guard to drop on the second day, all was lost. When I finally maintained a healthy diet and exercise routine, I lost a couple pounds and then flatlined. I couldn’t lose anymore. I was eating three meals a day, regular snacks, and was exercising three times a week. What was wrong with me?
    The problem was, I was taking in a certain amount of calories and getting rid of the same amount. I was right back to where I started. Therefore, to lose weight, you *do* have to give up parts of a diet that are considered acceptable when you simply want to maintain your weight and not decrease it. Those snacks, however healthy or multigrain they might seem- lose them. They’re extra calories that your body really does not need! You might feel the slight tinge of hunger, but it’s nothing your body can’t easily cope with until the next meal. Cut back on your meal sizes. We all know at what point our hunger is satisfied. Don’t go over that limit! So many people who try to lose weight think that as long as the food they eat is healthy, they can eat however much of it that they want. Not true! Healthier foods may benefit you more than nutrient lacking foods, but the buildup of calories is still the same, and any that are not used by the end of the day will add to your weight. By adding a self-suited exercise regimen, you will find the pounds dropping. It worked for me, and I’ve never tried one fad diet. Ever.
    Once you lose the weight you desire, you can work back slowly to a bigger calorie diet. This does not mean you can indulge in your old eating habits once more. However, your objective goal is no longer to lose weight, but to maintain your current weight. This means you simply have to burn off all of the calories you intake – not more than what you intake. Now, those little multigrain snacks -if you so desire- are okay.
    Losing weight, I have to say, is about determination. It’s not easy, and I think we try to comfort each other by sharing stories of lament and idealizing together that since it is so hard, not working, and perhaps some of us don’t have the willpower, than there must be an easier way. There is not. No fad diet is going to cure your weight loss (in the long run). No pill is going to help. It’s hard work, but if you have the determination – and yes, the willpower- to follow it, you will see results.

    Christopher

    August 22, 2010

    Thank you for taking the time to explore this. I appreciate your honesty.

    therapist in Pasadena CA

    January 25, 2011

    Hi, Roni—thank you for your thoughtful blog on weight loss. I especially appreciate that you are digging below the surface to the thoughts/feelings that undermine your efforts to be lean and fit. You have put your finger on one of the primary clinical issues that interferes with weight loss– perfectionism. When people are perfectionists, they are likely to have “all or nothing” thinking– i.e. “if I make one mistake, all my ‘good’ is wiped out and my attempts to do better are in vein.” This kind of reductionistic thinking is extremely common, and is the backbone of self-destructive behavior. (On an extreme level, perfectionism can lead to self hate, which can also fuel depression.) If you can’t see your genuine efforts in “grey” terms, which includes the good and the bad, then you will be quick to beat yourself up, and quick to sabotage your earnest efforts to do well.
    Why are people so perfectionistic , so “all or nothing” in their thinking? Evolutionary psychologists have identified three personality traits that are genetically passed on– perfectionism is one of those traits. That’s the nature piece. (On the bright side, being “perfect” helped the species to survive—perfectionism means learning from your mistakes and avoiding danger.) There is also a nurture component to perfectionism– perfectionists are usually trained by their parents to think in less than forgiving terms. (Think “tiger mom” article in WSJ.) When you’re raised in that environment, your brain is hard-wired at an early age to discount the earnest, yet flawed attempts at doing things well. These parents think in black and white. There is no acknowledgement of grey or good enough—it has to be perfect, to get the praise of critical parents.
    There’s another component that leads to over-eating. People who are perfectionistic can often end up feeling “empty”, which fuels the compulsion to over-eat. The emptiness comes from multiple factors: Perfectionism can lead to lowered self-esteem, self-hate, depression, and isolation from others. (You feel especially “empty” when you’re critical of yourself—it’s like living with a nasty “mom” in your head who’s always telling you you’re not good enough. This diminishes self-esteem, and leads to more feelings of emptiness. It’s also hard to feel close to others when you’re self-critical—you may not feel good enough to engage, or perhaps, you’re critical of your loved ones too, and they’re keeping their emotional distance, causing you to hate on yourself even more.)
    Eating can be one of the few pleasures within your control if you’re feeling empty or emotionally depleted. People who over-eat often feel as though food is one of their only real “friends”—food nurtures them on their own terms, when human beings fail them. So, naturally, going on a diet that is full of boring, non-nurturing foods can add to the emotional emptiness, and the compulsion to “cheat” on the diet.
    It is possible to retrain yourself to be more loving and more forgiving of your flawed self. You probably try to do this for your children, but so many moms have a hard time having that generous standard for themselves. As a clinical psychologist in Pasadena CA, I work with patients every day, helping them to develop new neuropathways in their brains– or new reflexive responses that are kind, and reasonable, rather than harsh and self-defeating. Not everyone needs a psychologist to help them develop this kinder thinking, but for those who are deeply entrenched in the critical, perfectionistic way of relating to themselves, it is good to be exposed to someone who will give you new messaging that can eventually be internalized. When you “cheat” on your diet, it’s good to have someone who understands and appreciates your empty feelings and your need to self-medicate with delicious food, rather than shaming you or criticizing you for not having enough “will power.” The emotional battle is a real one, and those who want to “win” the battle have to learn to be gentle with themselves, and appreciative of the complex struggle.