I keep thinking about a recent interaction with a client. After a fairly significant weight loss – 20 pounds – she was stuck . . . couldn’t get motivated, and was in fact gaining. Life threw her a curve ball – injury – causing the loss of mojo.
After looking at the plan she still thought she should follow (but wasn’t!), I could see that it was quite rigid and restrictive. It was probably a struggle while she was losing, but she could manage it . . . it’s so much easier to do that when weight is coming off! It was easy to see that without the weight loss to make it worthwhile, it was so hard to get back to it.
I suggested loosening up the plan a bit. “I just can’t ‘gray it up’,” she told me. “Whenever I loosen things up, I lose it!”
Hmm . . . this is what seemed so interesting to me. If, in fact, she were thinking in gray terms (flexibly, realistically, humanly), she would have been more likely to keep moderate eating habits going, even if they were not by the book (or diet in this case). I’m sure she would “lose it” (control, that is) less frequently if she were not so black and white in her thinking.
What was really happening: She was viewing anything less than “perfect” as bad (the “black” in the black-and-white cycle). She couldn’t seem to get back to “good” eating (the white side of it), so it all looked bleak . . . and, as a result of this thinking, the situation was much bleaker than a gray scenario ever would have been.
Truly gray thinking would have validated the change of circumstances and set some new guidelines (flexible ones) that took into account the new situation in which she found herself. Maintenance would have been a more realistic goal until her injury healed, and maintenance is better than gaining.
Without the positive feedback the scale offered when she was able to follow a vigorous exercise program, the drive to follow a rigid eating program just wasn’t there! This is where truly gray thinking would have helped by making the eating plan less restrictive, making maintenance seem like a just and fair outcome. In other word, if you are not sacrificing much, you do not expect as much in return – simple “return on investment” thinking applied to behavior change!