Sometimes I forget, but most mornings I still weigh myself. I keep a homemade Excel chart on the bathroom counter (next to the other chart); I pencil in a little dot. Each graph lasts a calendar month. At the end of each month I file away each graph in a three-ring binder.
It is hard for me to let go of data.
Despite that, I try to maintain a certain distance from the numbers. The numbers aren't my target; behaviors that keep me mentally and physically healthy, and non-gluttonous, are my target. The numbers only serve as a signal that my habits and behaviors are working -- and only in one particular way. I know this intellectually, but I have to work at it to believe it.
+ + +
So let's say that I have observed my weight creeping up. (Hypothetically, ahem.) That's the wake-up call to deal with habits that I already know have been slipping. Gluttony creeping back in:
- second servings just because I can,
- eating the children's leavings,
- joining in on bedtime snacks just because everyone else is,
- feeling full and still going because there's still some pleasure to be had on the plate.
What happens next is kind of funny.
If I stay focused, and the weight keeps going down, a little voice in my head urges me to make an Akron U-turn. "Look how great I am doing! I guess I don't really have to change my habits after all! My numbers are lovely! I can go back to big portions and extra chocolate at bedtime!"
(As I wrote on the Akron U-Turn post, this is certifiably insane. X causes Y, therefore Y is inevitable.)
If I don't stay quite as focused, and the weight pops back up -- maybe not as far up as it had been, but not dropping quite so fast -- a little voice in my head urges me to give up since "it isn't working anyway." This is also certifiably insane, and is in fact the exact opposite argument being made by the Akron U-Turn voice.
Picture on my shoulders -- not the angel and the demon, but a skinny demon and a fat demon. They take turns. The skinny demon's line is "You're doing great! You can afford to be a little gluttonous!" The fat demon's line is "Give it up! You might as well be a glutton for all the good this is doing you!"
I am telling you, there is part of my brain that will try anything, including the complete suspension of logic, in order to get more cake.
+ + +
I guess there are two counter-thoughts I could be having here.
When the number on the scale makes me happy, I can think: "What I am doing is working well. Keep it up."
When the number on the scale makes me worried, I can think: "I know what I need to do. I have done it before."
So I am working on that.
One thing that is definitely getting better is the long-term view. I keep coming back to that. Because this is a rest-of-my-life thing, it is okay if the trends are really, really slow and slight. I don't really care about getting quickly back to my target. I only care about not getting farther away and making course corrections that nudge me back to where I am going.
+ + +
As an almost but not entirely unrelated matter: there was a thread on the front page of reddit today about smoking cessation. The question went like this:
Ex-smokers of reddit, what was your motivation and/or technique for giving up?
First, I think this person was right to post the question to /r/askreddit (which is a general-interest subreddit) and specifically asking "ex-smokers," rather than posting to /r/stopsmoking and getting answers from a lot of people who are still struggling with their addiction.
And I thought to myself -- where would people struggling with nicotine addiction be if mostly they just turned for advice to people who haven't (yet) successfully quit, or to people who never had an addiction in the first place? It seems pretty obvious that while they are not the only source of useful advice for would-be quitters (the medical profession probably has at least some), those who've been addicted and managed to quit would be a good population to turn to. Learn from the proven.
The same thing could be said for the battle against gluttony and sloth (and by extension, excess adiposity). It is really surprising how much of the popular narrative is devoted to pointing out that few people succeed permanently, without rounding up a bunch of successful losers and trying to learn from them.
That being said, I noticed as I was lurking on the reddit "how did you quit?" question that there was a great deal of variety in the answers. One swore by antidepressants, another warned against them. Many said that cold-turkey was the only way, others thought that cold-turkey approaches were doomed to fail and advised keeping a pack of cigarettes around to ease the really bad cravings. E-cigarettes and patches were common tools, but some didn't find them helpful at all. For some, a "wake-up call" was all they needed (becoming a father, coughing up a wad of black stuff, counting up the yearly cost) and for others, mental effort alone wasn't enough.
I have never been addicted to nicotine (never smoked a cigarette in my life, in fact), so I can't directly compare the two experiences of kicking nicotine and kicking gluttony. However, I was struck by the similarities evident in the list. Highly personalized approach; the necessity of learning to deal with physical suffering; the way it gets slowly better with time, even though relapse is always a sobering possibility; the knowledge that even though it is hard, some people do succeed, every year.