I Am Jack's Albatross
May 14, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I want to make large lifestyle changes, but I'm fighting my own ingrained negative mental attitudes that go back 17 or more years, and they're winning. Help me overcome them.

I'm a stubborn bastard. Never has it been more infuriating than it is now.

Here's the deal: I want to make three huge lifestyle changes. I want to start exercising regularly, start eating healthily (and stop snacking on crap foods), and gain complete control over my insulin-dependent diabetes.

For various bloody and, frankly, silly reasons into which I won't go, I have various long-standing prejudices (17+ years) against making these changes, and they're hobbling me. While I desperately want to make these changes, I routinely slip into the Bad Old Habits and Bad Old Mindsets.

Here's what I have managed to do: I have a gym membership, and currently manage to go about one day out of 7. I manage to not snack or eat junk food about 2 days out of 7. And I'm on an insulin pump, with a great endocrinologist.

It is, to put it lightly, frustrating. How do I kill these ossified thought and behavior patterns once and for all? Can I? Advice from people who've managed to overcome their deepest prejudices and preconceptions would be...great.
posted by scrump to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it's easier to make positive resolutions than negative ones. Instead of saying, "I will not eat junk food", why not try adding more healthy foods to your diet? "I will buy and eat a new fruit every week", "I will buy 1% instead of whole milk", etc.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:11 PM on May 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

If you're open to outside assistance, you might look into cognitive behavioral therapy. This is primarily known as treatment for disorders like anxiety and depression, but the core principles are applicable in lots of situations. Basically, CBT will teach you to be aware of your negative thought patterns as they are happening and to develop good coping strategies to neutralize them. Realizing in abstract that a specific thought or behavior is harmful to you is great. The other half of the battle is realizing when that ingrained pattern is about to cause you to do something you'll later wish you hadn't done.

One nice thing about CBT is that a typical course is only a few months long. You'll know pretty quickly if you're onto a good thing so you can commit to trying it for 1-2 months and then decide with your therapist whether you should continue.
posted by rhiannon at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2006

For various bloody and, frankly, silly reasons into which I won't go, I have various long-standing prejudices (17+ years) against making these changes


How do I kill these ossified thought and behavior patterns

I'm a little baffled by your refusal to share them with us. It's almost like you're defending them. How can anyone advise you on how to overcome thought patterns which you won't describe?

I'm a longtime proponent of being helpful to the asker, so I'm not just berating you here. I genuinely believe that you will get a lot of well-meaning pep talk here but no specific help with your specific issues unless you let them out of the closet.

I also encourage you to consider that you might be defending these habits, and that you can't change them while you're busy defending them (even if all your defending them from is the light of day). If all your habits need is the light of day shined on them, you might be denying yourself an easy answer.
posted by scarabic at 6:19 PM on May 14, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, one more thing. I done got me a therapist (CBT, even), and we're working on the root causes thing with some success. I think what I may be looking for most here is behavioral strategies to change things up and jolt me out of the same-old same-old, but all advice welcome.
posted by scrump at 6:21 PM on May 14, 2006

Also, going with the positive angle, focus on the positive influences achieving this changes will have rather than the negative influences that not making changes will have.

For instance, instead of thinking about how fat and lazy you must be for not getting to the gym more regularly, think about how much more energy you will have when you work out more. Remind yourself how much more you will be able to enjoy life with these positive changes, such as being able to play with children/grandchildren without getting too tired/sore/winded.

Making three life changes at once is huge and can become overwhelming. Remember that it took you a long time to develop these bad habits and it will take just as long to break them and develop new habits. Set small goals and celebrate when you reach them. Don't expect you will get to the gym every day: is exercising once a week a big change from this time last year? Then you are already doing better. Feel good about the positive changes you have already made, even if they are smaller than what you would like.
posted by rhapsodie at 6:26 PM on May 14, 2006

Response by poster: scarabic, I didn't describe 'em because I didn't want to be tedious. I'll try to sum up in short form.

The diabetes one is the easiest, and by far the most pernicious. I was diagnosed at 17 (in 1988, to date myself) after never having been seriously sick in my life, and it more or less derailed my life as I knew it. My parents reacted...poorly, and my mother basically told me that if I didn't take care of myself, I would DIE! DIE! DIE! horribly, in various terrible ways.

Shortly after diagnosis, I wound up encountering some pretty severe harassment from football coaches (your basic mocking of my need to eat every N minutes while playing, monitor my blood sugars, etcetera). At one point, the coaches basically dragooned the entire team into making fun of me for it. High school sucks.

The sum message was "you are now a cripple and a defective human being", and the lesson I took from that was that it was imperative to behave as if I didn't have the disease: that way, nobody hassled me. So now I live like I don't have the disease, with all that that implies.

The other two are, I suspect, more problems of basic habituation and laziness. It's just easier not to go to the gym and easier to eat crap than to cook. In my defense, I will point out that my life is more frenetic than usual this year: I'm working full-time on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Friday and a weekend day, attending paramedic school from 0800-1700 Monday and Wednesday , doing clinical rotations when I can, and we have a 15-month old kid. So I'm busy. But this is more than busy: it's ingrained lazy.

Enough to work with, scarabic?
posted by scrump at 6:29 PM on May 14, 2006

I lost twenty pounds or so due to poverty about a year back. Then I gained it all (maybe plus some) back. I started to hate looking in the mirror again. The only way for me was cutting all my bad eating habits at once. It was all about wanting the extra baggage gone more than I wanted a candy bar.

I cut out soda (except one red bull a day), all fried potato products (this was the toughest), "desserts", and beer. I significantly cut down on (meaning, meals not based on) cheese. I'm a vegetarian so I'm trying to make the other changes to my diet that a lot of us fall into...I'm trying to think beyond pasta, to get brown instead of white rice, to not load up on prepackaged meat replacers. It's really hard. I stumble occasionally but all I have to do is look at the cute jeans that I can't zip to remember that it's about more than immediate gratification.
posted by nadawi at 6:31 PM on May 14, 2006

Have you considered joining a group, either live or online, to help you make these changes? I'm thinking of WeightWatchers. It's not cool, but it can offer you a well-defined system for gaining control. I'm just guessing, but it seems to me that getting a handle on the eating stuff will go a long way toward building your confidence and some forward momentum.
posted by miriam at 6:57 PM on May 14, 2006

I've recommended this at least twice before, but for the eating issues, you might want to check out Radiant Recovery. No amount of mental manipulation could have changed my eating habits before I found this program five years ago. If you want more details feel free to e-mail me.
posted by granted at 7:07 PM on May 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

Addendum: The webpage I linked has a section for diabetics.
posted by granted at 7:17 PM on May 14, 2006

One thing that helps me eat more vegetables is to clean them (kale, lettuce), peel them (carrots), cut them up if necessary (celery, carrots, cucumber), and put them in convenient packages so they are just as handy as less-nutritious food.

Make sure to keep these foods close at hand. A little container of carrots can be kept at room temperature for a few hours (at your desk, in your bag) with little ill effect; nuts can be _so_ handy - make sure they're as availableas, or more available than, potato chips or whatever else you've been eating.

Having a container of ready-to-cook greens that you washed yourself makes it faster to cook them when you're hungry. Having the greens already cooked for the week is good, too.

Make sure to allocate enough time for shopping & cleaning veggies. Fresh veggies are a pleasure and you need them.

Keep lots of water on hand. I start most days with a full glass and a full pitcher of water on my desk; when I'm thirsty, it's _right there_, and the pitcher is even pretty.

These aren't huge changes (taking care of your vegetables first thing takes some time), but just making sure that you have the healthy alternatives _really available_ helps put them on more of an even footing with the carefully-packaged snacks of the world.
posted by amtho at 7:36 PM on May 14, 2006

Book and pre-pay sessions with a personal trainer at your gym. It will get you in the habit, familiarize you with the equipment and a routine and motivate you not to waste your cash.

Or perhaps a regiment you don't have to adapt would work - I've never used it but know some people who use the Body For Life program for exercise and diet plans.

TPS's advice to make positive changes is fantastic and is what got me going several years ago, after a few years of post-college office job, stress and associated weight gain. There are any number of these you can make almost effortlessly - add glasses of water to your routine, start walking in the evenings, etc etc.

And make sure there's no junk food in the house - if it ain't there, you can't eat it.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:39 PM on May 14, 2006

Best answer: Be disgusted by the foods you shouldn't eat.

Practice thinking of the junk foods you shouldn't be eating as repulsive garbage that's getting in the way of your goals. Snacks and junk food are not "treats" or "indulgences." You only get one body, and you only get one chance at each day to maintain that body properly. Do you want to fuel it with candy, sugar, grease, oil, sludge? No, you want to consume wholesome, substantial foods that contain the proper balance of nutrients - and are delicious. They also permit you to feel good about eating them. No guilt, no regrets, just progress.

Your diabetes means your body requires more maintenance. So do race cars and sail boats, and they're not crippled. You have an opportunity to take care of a performance machine and pay it the attention it deserves.

Be an active person, every day. Easy is lame. Enjoy a challenge. Show what you're capable of.

Sitting around staring at a computer or tv makes you sluggish, lethargic, lazy, unproductive, unfulfilled. You can do so much each day, and at the end of a busy day or week, you'll have actually earned your rest and relaxation time.

View most sedentary activities as boring. Anything you think of as a "passtime" should be repulsive. You get one shot at today, are you gonna "kill some time" getting fatter and weaker? Is that fun, really? I don't think so.

It doesn't take hours in the gym. It takes a little every day. You're building a stronger, faster, healthier, more capable body and you cannot do that in one session on the exerbike. It takes consistency. It requires being a little active every day, and a little more active every other day or so. Simple. Anybody can do a set of push-ups just about anywhere, wearing just about anything, in under a minute, without breaking a sweat. But how many people don't do any push-ups, ever?

Keep your goals in mind. Look at what you're doing and eating and not doing and not eating in terms of those goals, and understand, accept, and appreciate that you have complete control over what you eat and what you do. You have absolute authority to make decisions about your diet and your activities. It's in your hands and it's your responsibility and you get to take all the credit for the results.

Now that you've read this far, get up and do something. You gotta start somewhere, and now's as good a time as any. Do that set of push-ups for today. C'mon, get up out of your chair right now and do it. As many as you can in one go. Hop up, do it. Wear yourself out, right now. That's how strong people get strong. You can be one. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! Are you still reading?! Yeah, it's silly, it's ridiculous, do it. All of you! Push-ups! Knock 'em out! 30 seconds, and you did a set of push-ups today. Do it. Do it. Do it.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:43 PM on May 14, 2006 [31 favorites]

it's admittedly a little hippie-ish, but i found if the buddha came to dinner surprisingly helpful in its basic premise: if you wouldn't microwave a pizza for an honored guest, why is it ok to do so for yourself? why are you not your own honored guest in your life? and beyond that premise, there are some excellent recipes as well... good luck. i've been in your position and have been really pleased with the changes i've made - it definitely can be done.
posted by judith at 9:29 PM on May 14, 2006

YMMV, but as far as exercise goes, I've found I can stick with something if I can do it
a) without needing equipment or going anywhere
& b) while watching tv

pushups & situps are both conducive to this. If you're watching a particularly engrossing show and don't want to be distracted, you can even wait and only do them during commercials. For every hour of television, about half of it is commercials, so that's not so bad.
posted by juv3nal at 9:56 PM on May 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

People I've observed who are successful with "life changes" as you propose always seem to do it incrementally.

First they start with the exercise. And even that starts slow. Look at "Couch to 5k" running programs. Those things take 4-6 months. After they've gotten several months of regular exercise under the belt, making it a good habit, they start making diet changes.

I think dramatically changing both diet and exercise habits at once is a recipe for cheating and reversion to old, bad, habits. Pick one thing to change. Then change it. After you've incorporated that change for 6 months, when it feels like real habit that you couldn't imagine life any other way, then add another change.

Good luck.
posted by u2604ab at 10:12 PM on May 14, 2006

For foods, rather than cutting back on your intake, simply replace foods in your diet (and don't "go on a diet", change your permanent eating habits).

Replace junk food with something more healthy that you enjoy -- try various fruits or healthier snacks (such as rice cakes).

A good technique might be to use most of your willpower when you're shopping, meaning focus on keeping the junk food away from yourself. Or, alternatively, leave your credit/debit cards at home, and use only cash -- enough to buy you what you need. If you can't afford the junk food, you won't buy it.
posted by spiderskull at 10:39 PM on May 14, 2006

Forgive yourself.

It sounds like you've been thinking, "I'm not perfect, so why try?" and then trying to hide your flaws from everyone.

People like you, even with flaws. I'm starting to find that a lot of people like me *better* when they see that I have flaws, and not in a catty "Oh, good, now I'm better than her" way. If you spend all your time and energy hiding your human flaws, then you're not spending any time and energy being *you*, you're just putting up a facade.

So forgive yourself. It's OK to have diabetes. It's OK to admit that you need help with that (and it sounds like you've made great progress with that). It's OK to need to exercise more, and it's also OK not to be perfect about getting to the gym all the time. Ditto on eating more healthy foods.

You've decided you need to make the changes, and you've admitted that out loud, and that's a huge step. But if now just keep beating yourself up for not being perfect about following your plan, you're actually discouraging yourself from making any changes at all. People get their lives together in drips and drabs, and you have to focus on the small changes you are making rather than berating yourself for the large changes you don't see. Because those will happen eventually, but they don't happen all at once (the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, and all that).

And stop talking about yourself so negatively, even (especially!) to yourself. If you think about yourself as a stubborn, infuriating bastard with crippling bad thought processes, then no wonder you're not seeing any change. You're defining yourself by won't do, what you can't do, what you're fucking up. I'm not saying to go back to the "pretend I don't have diabetes" mindset, just start regarding yourself more compassionately. Tell yourself and other people that you're making changes step by step. Tell yourself and other people that you're overcoming your formerly bad habits (because you are, you've started making changes). Tell yourself and other people that you can stick to your goals even when the progress is slooooow because "stubborn" means that you're good at slow and steady. Tell yourself and other people that you're starting to live a healthy lifestyle, not that you're frustrated because you haven't "acheived" whatever you think that means.
posted by occhiblu at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2006

And that "achieved" was in quotes because you don't really achieve a healthy lifestyle, you have to live it each day, and not simply because I misspelled it!
posted by occhiblu at 8:49 AM on May 15, 2006

I use timed increments.

On the days when I don't feel like doing exercise, I ask myself for 10 minutes (could be 10 of walking, biking, aerobics, etc.) If after 10 minutes I still don't feel like doing it, I call it a day; everybody has off days. Most of the time, 10 leads to 20 or 45 or 60.

With food, the time to go with is 15 minutes. Most snack impulses pass with in 15 minutes as long as you are eating enough at meals. It helps a lot to distract yourself-- if I get hungry I do something physical (usually I go out and weed the garden.)

Another thing you might think about is 3 days. 3 days is what it takes to wean yourself off the excess sugar, salt, and fat that looms so large in the average American diet.* Cut them out entirely and while the three days seem miserable, you will be surprised at how your tastebuds and your cravings adapt to their absence.

Finally for healthy eating nothing is going to help as much as menu planning. Plan out each and every meal for one week and then buy your groceries. Make sure you have eaten something substantial before you shop so that you won't be tempted to buy things you don't need.

*Wonderful article in this week's issue of The New Yorker about the search for the perfect sugar substitute. Did you know that the average American eats 140 lbs of sugar a year? 9 times the intake for the average Chinese. Also sugar substitutes don't train you not to want to want sugar-- they train you to crave more sweetness. Since sugar substitutes have been introduced, Americans have increased their intake of sugar. So that diet soda habit is just making your body scream for a candy bar.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:34 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

And I'm on an insulin pump, with a great endocrinologist.

Disclaimer : I am not a doctor

BUT I understand that the concentration of "sugar" in blood aka "sugars level" is extremely important ; if it goes BELOW a certain value one may risk hypoglicemic shock which can lead to coma or death. I guess your endocrinologist warned you about that and probably suggested you a particular diet in which you carefully monitor your consumption of bread, snacks and other food rich in carbohydrates and sugars. That's why I would be very careful with NOT getting any kind of sugar _at all_ but ask your doctor about that.

It is, to put it lightly, frustrating. How do I kill these ossified thought and behavior patterns once and for all? Can I? Advice from people who've managed to overcome their deepest prejudices and preconceptions would be...great.

In my opinion , you are starting from a good position of -willing- to do something about your ingrained habits. You said

I have various long-standing prejudices (17+ years) against making these changes

It seems to me you already know that there are some prejudices ongoing , which is excellent imho because if you can understand you have some prejudices THEN by _simply_ understanding that they are prejudices ,you can handle them accordingly and disregard them.For instance a common prejudice is "X will not work" or " no matter X , I am too weak to do that" or " X is good, but I just can't make it" which are BULLSHIT you say yourself to prevent yourself from felling the sensation of being "a failure".

But _why_ should you fell a failure ? My guess is that you may be too harsh a critic on yourself ! Please don't get me wrong there is NOTHING bad in analyzing yourself and being critic of your shortcoming ...BUT one thing is to be rational, analyzing and determined to help yourself by seeing your shortcomigs...another is saying yourself "you are SUCH A FUCKING FAT MORON DOUCHEBAG with shortcomings" . The latter is just a putdown, it's not rational, it's an expression of rage and hate.

Don't let yourself criticize yourself so harshly..it's nonsense ! How can you know you are a failure BEFORE trying ?


A second important point: almost all old habits are deeply ingrained ones, but some can disapper in a SNAP ( I stopped smoking in one week after smoking for 10 years) or may take longer time . Would it be TERRIBLE if took you two weeks or a month or EVEN a year ? Would it be SO terrible and untolerable ? Would you be a fucking moron douchebag for that ?

I guess that it isn't that terrible ! If it is for you, WHY is it so ? Consider that I am currently doing a similar project, losing some weight that I gained after stopping smoking..it's quite some weight, but nothing unmanageable.Nothing unmanageable because I want it to be manageable : as easy at that. Yet I am realistic and know it will take 1. time 2.dedication.

I exercise regularly one hour _every_ day , sometimes I would like to do something else , yet out of 7 days I exercise 7 on 7 almost 80% of times...sometime I just feel repulsion for exercising and stop for ONE day, but no more. As for the food intake, I gradully learned to avoid candy , but I eat my pasta regularly and other food...not having diabetes I can still get sugars, but I try to stay very low on fats/sugars.

Consider this : the snacks are good and yummy....WHY ? Both because 1. the taste of sugar is liked by many 2.you like sugar 3. snacks are convenient, always ready, need no cooking.

Or are they so good ? Isn't it pure self-deception ? 1. isn't too much sugar very dangerous as you discovered ? 2. convenient=good ? Not really, convenience isn't necessarily the best thing, dropping chemicals on ground would be convenient, but the ground would become poisonous ! 3. could it be that I am JUST used to eat some kind of food ?

Consider the following: snacks aren't going to jump in your mouth ! If you managed just NOT to take them , they will not influence your body. Obviously even if you have some sugar as an emergency device for hypoglicemia, that isn't something you should EAT for fun...consider it a LIFESAVER that you shouldn't eat because it is there to save LIFE (yours) not to entertain yourself with. OK sure you may have some sugars in your DIET , but that is because you must NOT go into hypoglicemia..they aren't -entertainment- food to please your taste, again they are doses in a way that will let you be healthy. Food isn't your -enemy- , ABUSE of food is.
posted by elpapacito at 5:03 AM on May 20, 2006

Be disgusted by the foods you shouldn't eat.

Anything you think of as a "passtime" should be repulsive.

With all due respect to all the people who flagged this as a best and fantastic answer and got it on the sidebar, but this is completely fucking terrible advice for 80% of the people that I know that need to eat less and exercise more. It think it might be appropriate for this particular person, but it's being held up on the sidebar as some kind of good, general advice, and it's quite simply not.

The vast majority of junk food eating, sedentary fatties that I talk to have a huge built in pool of self-loathing. They hate that they're fat, they feel tremendous levels of guilt and self-loathing because of their lifestyle. They don't need to hate themselves or their choices anymore. The guilt->hate->eat->guilt cycle already paralyzes their lives. Introducing more guilt and hate into the equation isn't going to make it better.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:29 AM on May 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah not every personality type will be reached by that kind of hypermotivation. And the guilt has of course to come off first.

I would like to add something from another direction:

Anything you think of as a "passtime" should be repulsive.

This is overdoing it. You have to be active like a lion, ok, but you also have to rest like a lion. Or else you will just wear yourself out. Short and intense! (Yes, I've been to de vany's blog, and I think his advice makes a lot of sense)

So it is totally ok to watch your favorite TV series after a nice workout, as long as you don't do it with beer and chips ...

Being active and eating healthy is a fracking stimulant, I couldn't do without!
posted by vertriebskonzept at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2006

I just wanted to drop a thanks to techgnollogic whose motivational post got me off my butt and into some running shoes for the first time in six months.
posted by Merik at 4:28 PM on May 20, 2006

The guilt->hate->eat->guilt cycle already paralyzes their lives. Introducing more guilt and hate into the equation isn't going to make it better.

A better idea is to focus your anger where it belongs-- on the mega-food corporations and fast food franchises who operate like drug dealers.

Think about all the time and money that goes into enticing you to eat: the new "exciting food combinations" dreamt up in a lab, the food packaging, the food placement, the advertising, all of this focused on one thing-- to get you to eat more food. How can you resist when they (Frito-Lay-Pepsi-KFC-Sara Lee-Applebee's-Keebler-Taco Bell-Etc.) spend millions to make billions by enticing you to eat?

The next time you find yourself in the potato chip aisle at the grocery store, ask yourself "What's in it for me? What's in it for Them? Do I want to give them my money to fill my body with dangerous fats and chemicals?"
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:56 PM on May 20, 2006

Jacquilynne: I suspect many of the people you describe see those bad food choices we're discussing as havens and "comfort foods" and that is the attitude I think should be reconsidered. They hate themselve for consuming the foods. Those foods are disgusting because they are bad to us. They make us feel ill and look bad and they fail us nutritionally. I know how hating yourself for the condition you're in can generate a paralyzing cycle, and I don't advocate focusing disgust or disapproval on yourself or your sense of self worth. When we realize how valuable and precious our bodies are - regardless if their current condition - and we realize that our past mistakes do not dictate our future decisions, then it becomes possible to take control of our lifestyles and do what's necessary to improve our health. Your body is the only one you get no matter what shape you're in *right now*. People make mistakes, and we are not born knowing how to take care of their bodies. Don't let mistakes you made when you just didn't know what to do or how to do it impede you from seeking a healthier lifestyle from here on.

I don't at all mean to suggest guilt as a motivator. If you have a moment of weakness, or a combination of circumstances make it difficult to stick to some strict dietary and exercise regime, then just consider that afterward in your pursuit of your goals. It's never "Oh, you messed up. You're not worth it. Give up." It's *this is where I am* and *this is what I need to do to get to where I'm going*. One step after another. Nobody is beyond hope. You're a living, breathing, thinking, choosing human being, and that's your one, single, amazing body you've got to work with, play with, and make last. There's just no reason to give up on it.

Vertriebskonzept: I completely agree. That's what I meant by "at the end of a busy day or week, you'll have actually earned your rest and relaxation time." We do need to rest and heal, in body and mind. I meant "passtime" as in "killing time because I have nothing to do." If you're active and taking care of yourself, then relaxation is an activity. It's something you have to do. You have to rest in between workouts, at the end of the day, and so on. I was referring to hobbies people pick up to "fill time" in between their obligations. My point was that we should use our time wisely, and not take it for granted.
posted by techgnollogic at 6:15 PM on May 20, 2006

I know how hating yourself for the condition you're in can generate a paralyzing cycle, and I don't advocate focusing disgust or disapproval on yourself or your sense of self worth.

And how do you propose one develop a disgust for the things they shouldn't eat without disapproval for themselves building along the way? Nobody can just say 'Oh, I'm disgusted by chocolate cake, and next time I break up with my boyfriend, I'm not going to eat any.' They might build a level of disgust over time, but in the interim, every time they backslide and eat the things they aren't supposed to, they're going to see that as a personal failure - an even greater personal failure than it was before, thus increasing their self-loathing.

If anyone survivies the process you suggest long enough to actually make it to thinking "bad" foods are disgusting (which, at its core, I think is an unhealthy mindset, as well), then they'll probably be fine. But I feel certain that the majority of people would end up swirling around in an ever deepening spiral of 'I hate this. But I ate it anyway. I hate myself. I need something to get over hating myself. I ate this. But I hate that. I hate myself.' If they ever settle out it's going to be in some miserable place where they don't even enjoy the shit they're eating, but they eat it anyway because they don't see themselves as worthy of anything better.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:32 AM on May 21, 2006

The piece of advise I'd like to offer is not to mentally make everything a "big deal".

Take working out as an example; it is not: Getting your workout clothes 2) Driving to the gym 3) Changing 4) Doing the workout 5) Showering and changing again 6) Driving home.

Mentally it should just be "Working out".

You don't have to make it a big event and over-analyze it as that just makes it harder to do. It is just an hour of your time. You don't make a big deal about watching TV or surfing the internet for hours and hours do you? There are just as many (if not more) steps involved in doing those lazy things too.

At least for me this is one of my biggest stumbling blocks for working out.

For anything life changing, I recommend reading some Tony Robbins. Reading his stuff for 5 minutes a day often keeps me on track. You can read it while you are riding a stationary bike. ;)
posted by cbushko at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2006

Nobody can just say 'Oh, I'm disgusted by chocolate cake, and next time I break up with my boyfriend, I'm not going to eat any.'

Nobody, or just the hypothetical willpowerless sedentary straw men you're making excuses for? Some people can't do a god damn thing wrong without feeling guilty and worthless. Eating right, losing weight and exercising is not anywhere near the solution to their problems.

You're saying my advice is bad because some people can't execute it properly. That just doesn't follow. Hating yourself for mistakes you make is a self-contained and controllable reaction, and abdicating control of your willpower and your reactions to life is no way to accomplish anything.

There is no causal relationship between a personal failure and self-loathing. There isn't. It's all in your head. You're making it up. There are obstacles, and some of them you make all by yourself, but choosing to quit or give up or hate yourself for making mistakes is a bad way of going about things. So cut it out.

Stop saying "I can't because" and just do it.

Merik: Thank you. Kick ass.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:28 PM on May 21, 2006

I'm saying your advice is bad because most people will be unable to execute it properly. Being disgusted by something is a visceral reaction. It's not something you can just decide to do. You can decide not to eat cake, and if you have more willpower than most people who are fat, you might actually not eat it, but not wanting it takes time and self-training, and I believe that most people would not make it through the self-training phase that would be required to execute what you suggest.

And of course it's all in your head. No kidding. Where else would self-destructive thought be? But you make it sound like we no one ever has an involuntary thought. That they consciously choose to hate themselves. That they can simply push a button and say 'I am wonderul. Chocolate cake sucks. I am losing weight.' and presto, all those things will be true forever more. While it's delightfully optomistic, it's also completely impractical.

Think about the intermediate steps between where the people who need your advice are now, and where you propose they be. How do you think things would progress between one point and the other?
posted by jacquilynne at 4:40 PM on May 21, 2006

the thing with learning to think of junk food as "disgusting" and "repulsive" is that you have to also learn to forgive yourself when you mess up. I mean, honestly, sometimes I want a Snickers. And it's because I've had a terrible day and I associate a tasty Snickers with treating myself. So fine. I treat myself now and then. But I know *why* candy bars are bad on a regular basis, and other than very, very inoften, I avoid them altogether.

The key, for me, to this "learn to hate nasty food" business is actually learning about the contents of the food. Educate yourself. Anything with the words "high fructose corn syrup" is anathema, for example. And, train yourself to want other rewards. Rather than rewarding myself with a Snickers, I am learning to reward myself with something else I might want (like fresh raspberries). It's a learning process. And it takes time.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:43 PM on May 21, 2006

I'm a little late to this thread, but I do have one thing of value to add -- don't drink any soda or juice. At all. Drink water and only water.

Obviously it will depend on how much of a soda/juice drinker you are, but for some people that means cutting 1,000 calories or more out of their diet every day.

Combined with exercise, this is a ridiculously easy step to take and it could have a major difference. Good luck.
posted by Alexandros at 8:13 PM on May 21, 2006


One of the most supporting and positive forums on the net, full of information, inspiration, tips, and people who have lost heaves of weight, including the founder of the site, John Stone. Read the stickies in the fat loss forum, join, post a picture of yourself in shorts, and explain what you're trying to achieve. Post back on metafilter when you've got a sixpack!
posted by Zombie Dreams at 1:40 PM on May 22, 2006

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