Monday, June 18, 2012
The Path to the Holy Grail - Final Chapter - Response-ability
Mastery of response-ability
Any guide, no matter how good they are, can only take you as far as they have been themselves. I started my journey in 2005 at 295+ pounds. To date I have lost 163 pounds. The first 83 pounds I did not keep off, I regained 70 of that. I have since lost that 70 again plus an additional 11 pounds as of this morning! During this time, I have survived many battles. I have waged a valiant war against old habits and behaviors. I have earned my stripes and I have something to say. While I am not yet at my goal weight, I have managed to accomplish something that few do. I have lost a significant amount of weight and in doing so this time, I also was able to rewire my brain. I have beaten the odds and am now sharing what I have learned with others, in hopes of helping them become stronger. I am not blowing my own trumpet. I am simply sharing, what I have come to know as the 4 most important aspects of my journey.
I did not learn this over night. This has taken many, many hours of reflection on why THIS time I have known success, when all of the other attempts, would end with me crashing and burning and regaining even more weight.
I believed when I was banded that this would be the 'last and final time" that I would ever have to battle my weight. That was my first error. ( This is a life long battle for me....which is OK, because now I have the right army for the fight). You see, the BAND is not a cure for what was wrong in the first place. It only masked, for a little while, the things that needed to change deep within me. This is why I regained weight, and a significant amount after 15 months of living a nearly perfect band existence. Once, this was recognized and accepted by me, I finally was able to heal, and move forward in my journey, I only plan on looking back to remember where I have come from.
So the four points to my Holy Grail are -
Reprogramming the reward center
Drying Out, Food addiction recovery
These four concepts are synergistic in nature, working together like the four legs of a table, to provide a stable platform on which you can build your journey. If one of these legs is missing, the platform can become unstable and can fall over at the slightest nudge. If you notice not one of these principles involves an eating plan or an exercise routine. These principles are the structure that supports the plan and routine. I believe that the key to my long term success is the practice of creating a proper internal environment because in the long term, that is what will keep me. Just like a submarine diving to great depths, if the proper internal pressure is not maintained, implosion will follow.
The last in this blog series in mastering Response-Ability.
I read the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. In it, there was one habit that really caught my attention. Response-ability. Response-ability is the ability to step into the narrow gap that exists between stimulus and response. This gap is what makes us uniquely human. Without exercising ourselves in the ability to choose our response, we are no better than Pavlov's dog. The iconic Pavlov's dog was the dog subjected to the famous stimulus/response experiment by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. In these series of experiments, he was testing the theory of conditioning and it's effects on the stimulus /response process. Ring the bell, show the steak, dog drools. Done often enough, you can ring the bell, and the dog drools without showing the steak. The dog was conditioned by the stimulus sound of the bell to drool.
Without response-ability, we are reduced to animals driven by stimulus rather than logical thought. I needed to bring reason into my choices rather than reacting and diving into the ole donut pile at work simply because the opportunity and stimulus presented itself.
Here are some of the biggest battles I faced and won over time:
Goodies at work - this was a HUGE battle for me. As I have blogged many times, the 25 people in my department, think that treat day should be each and every day. We constantly have unhealthy, high calorie, sugar and fat laden foods abound. I would of course have great intentions. I would pack a good healthy wholesome lunch, only to be derailed by someone offering me an unhealthy lunch choice, like fast food or worse. I would arrive at my desk early in the morning, only to pass two dozen donuts, or bagels with cream cheese and muffins, chips with dips, cookies, and even cakes. These of course were from very notable bakeries in town and they were just beckoning me to indulge and so I did. The same would apply to pizza, we would work overtime, and the company would order pizza. To the tune of 12 t0 13 pizza's for 25 people. They would be neatly lined up on the counter by our copier, the smell resonated everywhere. Imagine being hungry, and POW get slammed with the sight and smell of a wall of fresh pizza. I hear a bell ringing, here comes the drool. A difficult scenario indeed.
Then there is the all you can eat buffet - I am not talking about a well stocked salad bar either. I am talking about a Home Town Buffet or Golden Corral with unbelievable entrees, steak, chicken, prime rib, fried fish, and every imaginable dessert. Please, let us not forget the Chinese ......the yummy, delicious, divine, unbelievable taste explosion of Chinese....oh dear. The Pizza Parlor lunch buffet's that have 15 different varieties to choose from including that absolutely mouth watering dessert pizza...oh baby hold me back!
Anyway, all of the scenarios begin to have some common threads when I began to pick them apart like an autopsy as to why my resolve melted and my instincts took over just because something "rang the bell".
Fear of loss/"The Last Supper" trigger - There is a limited supply of pizza or donuts. If I do not act now, I will lose out. Another scenario would be if I am traveling or out of town and find some place that we do not have at home that is not known for the healthiest of choices, be it a buffet or pizza joint or whatever. I would have to stop because of course this was my only choice.
The fix for me was/Hey they make this stuff EVERY DAY. This will not be the last time in my lifetime that I see this. I do not have to be like an inmate on death row facing his last meal. There will be another opportunity, really.
The OMG this is Soooooooo Goooooood trigger - It took a great deal of time of stepping into this gap over and over again until I came to a place where I can walk away rather than self-destructing over a plate of cookies, or gooey cake, or a pile of crab Rangoon on a buffet. It took a long time.
The fix for me - The Law of diminishing returns applies here. How many times has the first plate, been an almost out of body experience, the second plate was tasty but not as stimulating, the third I was simply eating it because I could, because I had access to it, and the memory of that first plate was still ringing strong in my brain. Sound familiar? I came to realize that I needed to slow down, and the following plates that I am conditioned to eating will not taste as good so why bother? Live in the moment, savor that first plate realizing that this is as good as it's gonna get. It only goes downhill from here. I would totally savor the first plate, focus and be mindful of the moment rather than being driven to get more before someone else gets it. I made myself wait a while before I would even entertain a thought of having seconds. With my band this helped me, because seconds truly was not an option if I followed the rules. It was when I would eat things that slid right through that I had trouble saying no to seconds. This fix was essential during these times. It took a long time, but after awhile one plate would do.
You do not undo years of conditioned response to stimulus, in just a few weeks. It can literally take years of making alternate choices in your response to stimulus before the re-programming takes place.
The greatest victory in my journey did not happen when I broke the 100 pound weight loss mark. It didn't happen when I finished my first Zumba class. It did not happen when I ran my first mile. It did not happen when I swam laps for 60 minutes. These were all notable events sure, but the greatest event of all was when, for the first time, I stepped into the gap between stimulus and response. I said NO, and walked away, and I did not feel a sense of loss. No gravitational pull threatening to engulf me in its grasp, drawing me back to the pleasure of the moment and the self-condemnation that is surely to follow. Long term success is and has always been how one reacts to the moment by moment challenges that arise.
Each time I stepped into the gap and said no, something inside of me gets stronger and the gap gets wider. When I first started the gap was so narrow it seemed like all I had to do was see the food and SHAZAM, I'm chowing down. Slowly, overtime, decision by decision, the gap got progressively wider until I felt I had more control. I, not the food, was calling the shots.
Sometimes, the stimulation was so strong with certain foods that I could not exercise moderation but had to exercise abstinence. There are times, when moderation is just not enough. I had to walk away from certain things, until I could take it or leave it. Until I was back in control. The best example of this is my relationship with SODA, especially Mountain Dew.....I loved it, craved it and drank it as if it was my life source.... water. I would easily consume 8-10 servings a day or more. PLEASE, I could not drive by a gas station, or fast food place without feeling the pull, I needed that 32oz drink to get me through my morning meeting, it was almost invading my thoughts. Each time I drove by, and caving in many, many times, I was finally able to drive by and say NO and drove right on past. It felt like I was cutting off my own arm to escape a trap. Sometimes it is a painful separation. However, each time I did, I got stronger, until one day it never entered my thoughts. I was finally free. Then came the day that I would make the decision to stop and enjoy one. It had been months since I had any soda. After all, we were instructed in our nutrition classes to never go back to drinking soda after the band, as we had to give it up before being banded. I wanted to try it though, because I could do it in moderation ( I thought). The anticipation was building.....I literally could not wait. I got my mountain dew and pulled off in parking lot, and began to drink it and ewwwww is all I can say!
It was the biggest non event of my life.
Not only had it lost it's pull on me, it also had lost its taste BIG TIME. What once was heaven in a cup, tasted like drinking pure sugar, I felt the same when tasting diet soda as well, the after taste was disgusting, and it cause me to recall back when I first drank a diet soda when I was 14 years old. I hated it, it was horrid. I forced myself to like it until it became palatable to me. WOW, did I really do that? Yes, I certainly did, if I had only known back then, what I know now!
By practicing the ability to choose my response, I broke it's pull. By breaking its pull, I bought the necessary time to dry out from my compulsive addiction. By drying out, I was able to clearly taste it for what it truly is, empty calorie junk food!!
I have not had any since, and I have no compulsion to do so.
This is only one example out of many. Anyone who has been successful in the long term process of weight management can tell a similar story.
As I close this blog series, you can see the sequential nature of these habits that I have expounded upon over the last several weeks.
Practicing the things that make for emotional stability puts out the inner fire and anxiety that drives so much of our over eating, creating a calmer inner environment. This allows us to re-examine why we do what we do and seek out new things that will bring us a sense of reward. Having something other than food that brings us a higher sense of achievement and self respect. Clean eating that gives our bodies a chance to dry out from the non stop flood of addictive processed foods and exercising the ability to say no gives us greater control and self respect which in turn makes for a more stable emotional environment.
These are not individual principles, they all work together in one continuous cycle until we are empowered to succeed, until we can truly believe that we can do this and earn our own self respect. From this empowered center flows the exercise routine and the eating plan. When these principles are practiced and reinforced, they provide for a continued stability that will keep me, when life gets in the way of my routine.
It keeps me grounded, settled, and headed in the right direction.