I had an interesting discussion with a client yesterday that got me thinking about how important it is to be aware of the boundaries on our healthy habits – how much we can “get away with”! Knowing this helps to limit the anxiety that comes with not knowing. It’s human nature to wiggle around at the edges of our “rules” until we know how flexible they are, or should be.
This reminds me of the typical two year old who pushes the limits until they see more clearly just exactly how far they can go. Isn’t there a little of that spirit left in most of us! My personal favorite: “How low can my car’s gas tank indicator get before I run out of gas?” I still have not answered that question, but one day my car may run out of gas, and then I will know!
I see people testing the limits with weight loss all the time. The typical scenario goes something like this: A person loses a few pounds by following a plan that we agree is realistic. They become more aware of what they are doing, and often they keep track of their food for a week or so. Then they start to wiggle around the plan by trying a little of this, a little of that – nothing big, but slowly little extras creep in. Weight loss stops, and we usually end up having a discussion about why that happened.
This is a normal part of the weight loss process for most people. It is a learning experience, and it helps to determine how “tight” the boundaries need to be for success with goals. Some people do very well with relatively wiggly guidelines, like eating according to their perceived hunger. Others need more structure, at least at the moment. The common theme is that everyone needs to know where their boundaries are. It gives a sense of security and predictability . . . just as it does for a two year old.
The guiding principle, as I see it, is to be aware of the level of structure you need at a given time. This is an ongoing learning process. Do not add more rigidity to your plan if it works with less! That way, you feel like you get more for less, and we all can appreciate a good bargain! On the other hand, learning to see the needed structure as a good thing that you are choosing (not something imposed on you) can help to resist the urge to bust out of it. Willingly choosing to make changes will limit the resentment that sometimes creeps in. That is the difference between us and the two year old – we rely on our inner control to guide us. In fact, we really hate it when other people tell us how to eat, or how to live our lives! Try to remember that you are in charge.