:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, November 7, 2010

willpower is a hiney-kicker.(Amy)

First, an update on my progress:

Semi-vegetarian meal planning, 1. (fyi: I'm finding I’m fairly good at meal planning, not necessarily its execution.) 5 K training/working out, 0.

Also, I have purchased a journal in which I will record food eaten, work outs
accomplished, and any other emotionally charged thoughts I may have. I have not recorded anything in this journal yet,
but Melissa has. --->

And one day I saw a really good book by workout guru Jackie Warner with a lot of good information in it, and I almost bought that book, but its title was This is Why You’re Fat! and my ego would not let me put it in front of a check out cashier for him/her to judge me. So I’m going to hang out on Jackie's website
instead and do cheap, casual research.

In other words, I haven’t done much. To explain myself, I’m going with the old “Halloween is such a hiney-kicker when you’re trying to get healthy” excuse. In about 3 weeks I can recycle this by replacing the word Halloween with Thanksgiving, and that makes me nervous and fidgety. … Have I mentioned that there is currently about 50 lbs of Halloween candy in my kitchen pantry? Fifty pounds! Five-oh. But it’s dwindling fast, and not because Melissa’s been into it (quite frankly, I’m pretty sure she’s forgotten it even exists).

Which is why I’ve decided to spend this post ruminating on Willpower.

Now, I have an in-the-know work friend who’s informing me I can just take the portions of that 50 lbs of candy that will not melt in desert heat (ie, everything but the chocolate), bundle it into a cute little care package, and send it off to our Halloween candy-deprived troops in Iraq. This would certainly solve my non-chocolate willpower woes AND I’d be helping some hard-working, brave soldier find his or her way straight into a blissful sugar coma. Except here’s the problem: I don’t have any non-chocolate candy willpower woes. If it doesn’t have chocolate in it, I can take it or leave it, and I typically choose to leave it.

I think I alluded in my first post to my galactic-sized scary challenge in turning down free chocolate. And it’s not just saying no, it’s also being able to stop indulging once I start. For me, eating certain foods is like being a single girl with severely bad emotional boundaries who's dating an abusive, narcissistic bad boy my friends despise and they keep trying to make me to see the big picture, but no. I just keep going back for more, sure I can help him change, positive he’ll eventually love me for ME. But I just get lied to again, cheated on, and emotionally kicked in the face with his emotional steel-toed boots every time, and I'm left crumpled on the ground, bruised, bleeding, with zero self-esteem or confidence left.

So let’s talk willpower, shall we? Because I have so little of it, and to complete this challenge, I’m painfully aware I will need all I can find.

Judith Beck (cognitive behavior expert and PhD) thinks the definition of willpower should be:
"getting yourself to do something you don’t want to do.” True dat, Judith.

She says we all have large wells of willpower inside of us, and we all make ourselves do terribly un-fun things each day, requiring us to dig deep into our willpower reserves. Like, every night? I remove my make up, wash my face, brush my teeth. In the mornings, I brush my teeth, take a shower, put make up back on, style my hair, and dress myself. Some days, I really don't feel like going through these motions. So why do I do it? Because I don’t want gross skin, I have a paralyzing fear of root canal surgery, and I generally submit to societal pressures to smell decent, look as cute as possible, and not leave the house naked.

Yet when it comes to chocolate (and certain other foods) I do not submit to any societal or inner pressures. Which is so odd, because I actually have this unfathomable fear of obesity-related disease and early death. And so what do I do to address this unfathomable fear? Right now, for example, I am addressing it by eating a couple of tootsie rolls and some M&M’s. And later tonight, I’ll probably address it by having some more tootsie rolls and M&M’s. Also, it’s been a rainy, nasty week and I have avoided all forms of physical movement--who wants to move when there's rain in the air?! And I have a deep suspicion I will again find some similar excuse and not make time to exercise away any of those tootsie rolls or M&M’s the whole rest of this week. That’s how I like to address my deathly fear of poor health and all that it brings.

Let me reiterate this lack of logic to you: I fear dental surgery, so I brush my teeth. I dread looking at bad skin, so I wash my face. I do not want to be arrested for indecent exposure, so I wear clothes. I feel yucky and gross and I'm totally dejected when I see full body images of myself with 50 extra pounds on me. I worry constantly about the bad effects this can have on my health and my life, and I’m acutely aware my daughter is now at an age where she is watching everything I do, every choice I make, and she'll soon be creating her own ideas about what constitutes good healthy choices based on what she witnesses from my actions and inactions. To address all of this, I......eat M&M’s and tootsie rolls in mass quantity and then remain in a state of relative inertia???

Dr. Judith says the problem behind this illogic boils down to how I think. And I agree; I've always been aware my thinking methods are in need of deep repair.

First of all, I’m an impulsive person and not necessarily in a good way. I prefer Life to be lived organically, which means thinking about and creating personal schedules and sticking to them didn’t officially enter my life until a newborn did. The sad thing is I have a deep awareness of feeling more together when I’m on a schedule…yet I don’t LIKE being on a schedule. I resist it, to the point of weirdness.

After reading Judith’s thoughts about how to go about this brain re-programming, I decided I may need to tweak my thought processes a bit in regards to my personal scheduling habits and just Do. It.

(Note: there’s this little voice inside me this very second attempting to bargain this down to a nub: “Oh come on! Are we SERIOUS?? Surely there’s got to be a freewill/by-the-seat-of-your-pants non-schedule out there for us, one which will let us hang out on the couch and eat bon bons most days of any given week and still lose 50 lbs! This SUCKS!”)

To shut this person up, Judith suggests the following:

1-Specify goals in behavioral terms.

Mine will be:
-One piece of candy a day until it’s gone or I send it to Iraq.
-Sixty minutes of work outs for 9 of the next 10 days.
-I will visit the gym at least 6 of these 10 days.
-I will drink ONLY water, all 10 days, no more sodas of any kind.
-I will write every single day in my food/workout/emotional journal. Every! Single! Day!

2-Make sure your goals are reasonable.

Okay, okay fine!

-3 pieces of candy a day until it’s gone or I send it to Iraq.
-I will commit to 30 minutes of some type of exercise for the at least 5 of the next 10 days.
-I will think about visiting the gym at least once during those 10 days,
-and I will only have one diet coke a day instead of 2.
-I'll research some good food/workout/emotional journals and set mine up for the week after this week.

3-Reflect on all the reasons you have to reach your goal.

I want to...

*Feel better
*Be stronger
*Have good health
*Look cute
(It’s fine, you can judge me for it: I embrace the shallowness.)
*Keep up with Melissa
(do you know how FAST those suckers get once they’re 2??)
*Model healthy habits for super-fast, impressionable daughter
*Rediscover my confidence
(once upon a time, I really think I was far more confident.) (In my head.)
*Be photo op ready, at all times
(See? It's cool; I own the shallow.)

4-Read this list every morning, even if you think you don't need to.

I will be posting these on my desk at work for perusal, first thing.

<-- Photographic evidence.

5-Reflect on the consequences of your goal.
I will remind myself, each day, that if I do not achieve my goals, I will be very, very disillusioned with myself. I will feel poopy. I will feel frustration. I will feel overwhelmed. I will probably make several highly caloric and unhealthy food choices and end up in a vegetable state on the couch, mourning my life.

6-Solve problems that interfere with goal attainment.

I'll have to do some deep negotiations here. Melissa hates the gym’s daycare; she cries hysterically and they always cut my workouts short by 20-30 minutes by calling me over the intercom to come get her and take her wailing behind home. I’ve been avoiding the gym because little Miss M is emotionally traumatized by its daycare, and its babysitters refuse to engage with traumatized children. I suspect this may be due to the fact many of them seem to lack basic human interaction skills. But it is what it is.

However, I also know negotiations with 2 year olds generally have disastrous, less-than-ideal results, so I will negotiate instead with her dad: C, can you watch a 2 year old for at least 30 minutes for about 5 out of the next 10 days? And since I do this 10 out of 10 days already in addition to all bath/bedtime routines, and change 9 out of 10 explosive poopy diapers, I’m going to negotiate your answer for you right now: Yes. Yes you CAN do that. Thanks, C! (Hi, C! I love you!)

There! Negotiations accomplished.
(In addition, I will be in constant negotiation mode within my own head: “Self, you said ONLY 3 pieces of candy per day this week. That’s 4. Yes it is, stop lying. No, you can NOT count that mini tootsie roll as half a piece. That’s 4 pieces. Put it back. Put it back. PUT IT BACK!!”)

7-Beware of excuses.

Oh dear. I am an EXPERT at these. This alone is a super scary challenge.

8-Say “No Choice.”

This is a good one. I do not give myself a choice about getting up to go to work and showing up there (fully clothed and smelling nice) on time. I do not give myself an excuse to not eat when I’m hungry. And so it will be for candy/workout/ soda goals. It has been decided that these things will occur this week, and that’s all there is to it, the end.

9-Give yourself credit.

Judith says one key to successful willpower is that I’m supposed to remind myself at various points this week what a good thing it is that I’m sticking to my goals. This will help build my sense of self-efficacy and awareness that I CAN make myself do things I don’t really want to do, and doing this will help pull me through low willpower moments.

But she didn’t mention positive reinforcement. As a teacher I know: positive reinforcement works with 2 year olds, kindergartners (6 out of 7 of them, at least), 1st graders, and most (non-narcissistic/sociopath) adults. And so I will do this for myself this week. Sometimes, you just have to love on yourself in a way that does not involve food consumption, even when it’s a gross, rainy day and the people surrounding you clearly need to be on some type of anti-psychotic medication.

You know what else Judith didn't mention that totally works with getting kids and grownups to do what you want them to do? Bribery. So I added it for her:

10-Bribery is KEY to willpower.

Because basically, I want a cute pair of new red shoes. If I can work out at least 5 of the next 10 days, consume no more than 3 pieces of Halloween candy (and other undesirable food choices) per day, AND stick to one diet coke per day over the next week? I’m going to buy me a cute pair of red shoes. I think everyone on a mission ought to have a cute pair of red shoes.


T-Free said...

Amy! I love the way you've organized the steps to reach your goals here. Really great advice in this post. Thank you for sharing!

I completely relate to the Halloween candy woes. I have a vicious sweet tooth. I've had it my whole life. I don't like meat, and I can avoid eating bread and starchy, simple carbs, no problem. But my willpower never seems to extend as far as the chocolate-sugary stuff. This year, on purpose, I bought only trick-or-treater candy I knew I wouldn't eat: Twizzlers and taffy. But my son came home from trick-or-treating with a vast array of candy bars! Noooooooooooo! We really need all of the people on board with the "no chocolate candy on Halloween" rule, don't we? Haha. I've learned that if it's a candy bar in my house, I will be eating it. I can avoid buying it, but somehow I always end up with something naughty in the house. Why, oh why can't we send it to the soldiers? Whyeeeeeeeee? Darn that hot, chocolate-melting sun.

I love your journal and am planning on extending my goal schedule to my daily calendar in the same way. So smart.

I can't believe your gym daycare lacks the basic skills to make your daughter feel okay. The gym I last belonged to would even walk the kids over to their mommies on the weight machines to say hello if they were fussing, no big deal. Whatever it took to help the mommies keep working out. Yay for helpful husbands. I feel the same pressure you do to stay in shape for my kiddo. They do become incredibly active at two... and they just keep going. Plus, I'm forty now. Because I'm an older mom, I feel even more pressure to stay healthy. I'm really at the "use it or lose it" phase of my life. This scares me. I asked for a gym membership for my fortieth birthday this year!

So, what I'm trying to say is... go Amy! You are going to succeed! You're doing great! *does COFFEE cheerleader jumps* :)

patresa said...

you know what, amy? i often times have a hard time commenting on your stuff, because it's so clever. seriously! you make me laugh a lot!

'this is why you're fat' is a horrible name for any book.

your candy plan (to eat only 1-3 pieces until gone) is noble and horrifying. YOU CAN DO IT! (i am surrounded by candy baskets at work, and i understand the difficulty of this task.)

who doesn't want to look cute? nobody, that's who! anybody who says they don't want to look cute is a bloody liar.

and, responding to a difficult problem by indulging in behaviors that make the problem worse… yes. i completely, 100% get this. and when you figure that out, please let me know.

i like dr. judith and want to punch her in the face at the same time.

and i like your visual reminder -- especially to look cute.

C is a lucky man to have you, not only for all the child care, but your ability to simplify otherwise complicated negotiations!

go get 'em, tiger!

Wendy Jans said...

Amy, I really appreciate how thoughtful and analytical you are about yourself. It takes a very real person to see where their pitfalls lie. That's how I know you're on your way! Your goals and your motivations are awesome (loved the visuals). My only contention is, when Judith says that willpower is making yourself do something you don't want to do... that's not entirely true, because clearly, there is a big part of you that DOES want to do this. Huge! I only state that because sometimes we can get so focused on what we aren't doing, that we miss what we ARE doing and you, M'Lady are doing SOMETHING! Don't forget it. Rock on, Sister.

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

First of all, you do deserve those red shoes! Second of all, you absolutely deserve those red shoes! Ok, now, I LOVE THIS POST! You remind me totally of one of my all time favorite characters (and I hope this is ok to say and please do NOT think I remotely think of you as a person of the masses because you are so not)... Bridget Jones. I love her frankness and way of saying things that I'm like, "YES!" And she is relatable to the "nth" degree! Of course, Bridget did not have a two year old to chase around, and I'm going to guess you've never stewed about coming down a fire pole with a camera pointed at your buns. He he.... but if I had a British accent, I would also say Bridget and I could just about be related or at least fast friends. :)

Anyway, AMY, you and your goals are awe---some! You are WELL on your way, so I hope Judith and her motivation definition is ready for you! Plus, no dig on Judith as she is one smart lady, BUT she did have a head start in the psychology department so I'm thinking things were just slightly more intuitive for her. Oh, and Jackie Warner, God bless her, but I am certain Miss Jackie could use some DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) to deal with a smidge of a personality disorder... c'mon, that's a TERRIBLE name for a book. Terrible Jackie.

Rock on Amy. You ROCK on!!! Woot Woot!!!!

Michelle said...

Feeling more together when on a schedule and resisting schedules to the point of weirdness-- Girl, I am so with you there. And have found that to be the biggest obstacle in accomplishing my spare room de-cluttering goal.

Also, one correction:

Feeling better, being stronger, and good health are not shallow! ;)
Actually, it could even be argued that looking cute isn't, either.

Lol @ being photo op ready! I hardly have any pics of myself from the last umpteen years because with my extra weight I feel like I lost any photogenic-ness that I had (it used to be a lot). SO depressing.
So shallow or no, I think that's a valid reason too.

Know that I am putting forth the positive vibes for you to kick willpower's (and chocolate's!) hiney, rediscover your confidence and get those freakin' cute red shoes!!

you're very good at writing down your goals and plans, that's not easy to do!

amy said...

Tawni-I want to be at that gym! (They won't let kids under 12 in the work out areas at mine.) Once, I was working out with one of their personal trainers and got called to collect my hysterical girl, and so he went downstairs with me because he'd never seen the daycare. And he was all, "Wow! This place is like communist East Germany!" if that provides a more visual cue.

And I so agree with your No Chocolate on Halloween rule idea. It's just wrong to do it, just wrong.

Patresa--I really like that you used the word bloody in your comment. And I like that you recognize C is a lucky man. And you are officially the 4th person who's said: that's a horrible name for a book! about Jackie's book. Tanya is the 5th. I think we, as a collective, should write to Jackie Warner and let her know she needs to consult with us before she titles her next book.

Wendy--I never looked at Judith's willpower definition like that. So true! That's a much more positive spin on my whole project! (Have you considered going into cognitive behavioral therapy? Because I bet your positive outlook on dire issues would be highly sought.)

amy said...

Tanya--woo hoo! I *LOVE* Bridget Jones! At one time, I absolutely identified with her. I WISH I'd had an opportunity to come down a fire pole right into a camera. But then I had a kid. I wish they would do a 3rd Bridget Jones installment and show her as a smug married with a kid.

You and Patresa are the 4th and 5th people to express horror at Jackie Warner's choice of book title. Jackie may need an intervention. It's too bad she's not in on our blog project. I really think it would help her.

Michelle--I'm so glad I'm not the only one with the resistance to schedules, but the incredible need to be on one. I'm also like this with lists. I HATE lists. But I accomplish so little if I don't make them.

Thank you for the positive vibes! I love positive vibes! Almost as much as new red shoes! :-P

Michelle said...

You're welcome! *flings out armfuls of positivity to the universe*
And yeah, schedules are annoying.

You know with that book thing (and that is an awful title btw), the stores here have self-check outs so I don't have to deal w/any "embarrassing" purchases going by a cashier. Don't ya'll have those down there yet?? ;)

And I wanted to mention something that may or may not help you, with your tracking. What I've done for my meds tracking is having a dry erase board ON the fridge door. Having it right there makes it easier for me to jot down the info throughout the day quickly and then I keep a notebook as well, so between the 2 I usually get the info recorded somewhere lol.
But it might be something to help you with your food journaling. :]

Steph said...

I'm with Patresa, girl... I thought the same thing about Dr. Judith that she did, only she was nicer than I'd have been!
The whole concept of having to DEFINE everything, whether it be time (schedules - blech!), how to achieve goals, who exactly we are, is so... irritating sometimes. Why do we always feel the need to have to DEFINE everything? Can't we just BE who we are, how we are, where we are? If only life were that simple! {wistful, overly dramatic sigh, complete with hair flip and fluttering eye lashes... oh wait, there's a tear rolling down for emotional effect}
As I read your post, a couple of things in particular caused a "hell yeah" to rise up from somewhere deep inside me.
1. GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT! As moms, teachers, friends, WOMEN, we just never seem to be able to give ourselves credit, even when we surely deserve it. I know, from my own experience, that I'm pretty good at giving other people their due kudos and thanks. I see women everyday, many of you COFFEE chicks included, who work, parent, love, serve, exercise, cook, clean, kick BUTT at life, and I'm in awe!!! KUDOS! Maybe it has to do with feelings of inadequacy or the hustle and bustle of life, but I never feel like I have enough time, enough to give, enough (fill in the blank here)... and somehow that translates to I AM NOT enough. Two totally different things, for sure. Dr. Judith says you're supposed to remind yourself "at various points this week what a good thing it is" that you're sticking to the task of reaching your goals. Dr. Judith is right, but I would challenge you (and all of us!!! ME, too!) to take a look a couple of times a day at what you've (& we've) done that day - in addition to working toward your goals. Wouldn't it be simple if, when we set a goal, that everything else (responsibilities, commitments, grading!!!) would conveniently go on hiatus while we worked to reach our goals??? Um... yeah! But that isn't going to happen; therefore, we need to remind ourselves that we are accomplishing A LOT in life every day (caring for kids, significant others, ourselves, chores, work, etc.... etc....) AND doing some things that are good for us, above and beyond those everyday things - like setting and working to accomplish our goals! I think that's a habit that could revolutionize the way I see myself and what I actually do in my life! How 'bout you???
2. I say BRIBE AWAY, if that's what it takes. I love that brutal honesty... And who doesn't need a cute pair of red shoes? If red shoes will get you into the gym or sitting at that desk to write or to DROP THE CHOCOLATE, AWESOME! Do it and get yourself those red shoes, girl!
Willpower is, indeed, a hiney-kicker, but Amy, I think you're on the right track. Keep on keepin' on! I can't wait to see pics of you in those new red shoes!!!!!!