Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Adolescent rebellion

Last night's "The Biggest Loser" turned on a couple of lightbulbs in my head. First, one of the at-home contestants weighed in with a 2-pound loss from her month at home and Allison and the contestant tried to explain it away. Allison asked Jillian, "Do you ever see that, where someone has made big changes and it just doesn't show up on the scale?" Jillian cut her off. "NO! She lost two pounds, don't sugar-coat it. Let's move on." Then Joelle tried to pull the same stunt later, rattling off excuses when it was clear that even she didn't believe her own stories. Her eyes were flat as she talked, like she had checked out.

People don't flake out like this because they're just lazy, they do it because they're afraid. Joelle can't drop her psychobabble defenses long enough to learn anything about herself, and Aubrey couldn't bring herself to ask for help because she was afraid of being disappointed, again, by people who had let her down. Like kids who get caught cheating at school, first they come back with excuses and then they get angry.

I have been experiencing my own adolescent rebellion with the whole Beck Diet Plan. I felt discouraged because I wasn't able to fill out my checksheet perfectly even once. Yesterday I didn't fill out a food plan, read my cards, or really do any of the strategies from the book. I sat down today to read my cards, do the food plan, look at the checksheet, and realized it all feels like homework. Reading the cards, which is supposed to be motivating, makes me feel stupid and angry. It all seems remedial somehow. Flash cards, worksheets, notebooks. And if I'm not going to get the gold star for doing it perfectly, I start thinking, "Listen, Beck, you're not the boss of me!"

Of course that's not what it's about. Judith Beck, Ph.D. does not give a flying fig about whether I lose weight, and she's certainly not going to drag herself to Northwest Ohio to grade my checksheets. But I care, don't I? If I flake out, I'm flaking out on me. I'm flaking out on the clothes in the closet I want to be able to wear. I'm flaking out on the feeling of wearing shorts in the summer and not having them ride up my thighs when I walk. I'm flaking out on the realization that every pretty, thin woman is not my enemy. I'm flaking out on being happy in my own skin. I am not going to be able to trick myself into thinking that I will be just as happy carrying these extra pounds around with me for the rest of my life, so I need to find helpful strategies to get rid of them, and that's what this plan represents.

Inky left a great comment on my last post to remind me that perfection isn't the key here. She linked to the exact article that had inspired me to try the Beck plan the first time around. She also reminded me that perfection isn't the point, "I'm a big BDS devotee, but I've never been able to get through a day without crossing something out" (skipping something on the plan).

If the advantages cards make me feel like an idiot, maybe I can make a list instead. Maybe I can even write down a list each day, because reading the same motivational cards every day seems to turn my brain off and I just start counting how many I have left to read. So what if that's not the "Right" way to do the plan, as long as it accomplishes the same goal.

So far the most helpful strategy by far, and the one that I have been able to hold onto even when in rebellion, is the idea that hunger is not an emergency. A little hunger is not going to kill me. It has been a big revelation to me to find that I can wait out a little hunger until it's time to eat, even if it means waiting an hour or more. Even just learning that one strategy has made a big difference in my life, so imagine how much more powerful I'll feel when I have a whole arsenal of them.

That's a lot more exciting than a gold star.


  1. OK, after reading about how you were fighting yourself on this, you finally listed what you have learned. Stop a minute and give yourself credit for that because you learned some very huge (life changing)lessons! It is not about perfection because you will never be perfect in your eating (or how you think about food). Normally thin people are not perfect in their eating and you won't be either. It's about avoiding extremes and learning how to handle it when we fall short of our own expectations. It took you how many years to learn how to do it wrong? Learning to do it "right" is a journey, not something that will come to you over night. So relax because at the end of the day if you improve in any area, you've done a good job. And like it or not, you have made progress . . . so give yourself credit!!!! You are being way too hard on yourself. It takes time to change the tape that runs in the back of our minds. Your success will be not in leaps and bounds, but by putting one foot in front of the other, staying focused, and moving in the direction of your goal. You will succeed, you just hit a bump in the road. Don't strive for perfection, strive for improvement.

  2. Great post, Jen. I think you are spot on with Joelle. I feel sorry for her. She needs some professional help, I think. Carla irritated the crap out of me. Perhaps the producers showed the worst of them both, for good TV, because the other contestants--without exception as far as I could tell--couldn't stand Joelle & loved Carla.

    You have learned a lot from the BDS, it seems to me, and you are continuing to learn more about yourself. It's all going to pay off. Just keep at it.

    And great job on your morning runs!

  3. Hmmm, the site I saw showed Joelle as a non profit founder so I'm not sure what that means.

  4. Oh yeah... brilliant post :)

  5. In the bio, Carol, it says: "Joelle is a zealous and optimistic person who challenges herself and her listeners to 'Stay Positive' through her non-profit Internet radio show 'My Music – My Choice.'"

  6. I think BDS is like any diet, in the end you end up plucking out the bits that suit you and modifying others, chucking others out completely... eventually you'll have the Jen Solution :)

  7. Thanks . . .I just can't imagine anyone listening to babble . . . babble . . . babble???

  8. THat was such an interesting part of the show. I also get the rebellion too. I lost 130 lbs on WW but I find myself rebelling against counting or eating healthy. Your non-emergency strategy is a great one too.

  9. Hey, thanks for the shout-out! I'm not watching TBL this season, so I can't join the water-cooler conversation (here or IRL!), but I wanted to share a little more about BDS/index cards.

    I use lists instead of index cards. I didn't enjoy shuffling the cards around, and I like to be able to see bigger chunks of information at once.

    I use a pocket-size Filofax. The pages are the same size as 3x 5 cards, but vertical. I use the calendar in the front to record my daily wt, exercise, and water drunk. Then I have tabbed sections for Advantages, Eating Diary, Responses, Distractions, and Memories. (In her 2nd book, Beck recommends a "Distractions Box" and "Memory Box," but I like keeping it all on paper and portable.

    BTW, I've gone back to planning out my meals in writing the night before again. I can't rely on myself to write down what I eat after the fact yet, and I had stopped doing it completely!

    I've developed my own daily checklist, and this is the one thing that I do consistently now. It's such a big help, and I feel so much better when I do it. I've taken items from the books that work for me the most right now, and added some of my stretching and taking vitamins. When I find I've skipped something a few days in a row, it jumps right out at me as an area that I need to work on.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07