Exorcizing Your Demons

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It’s funny how our minds work. We can start down the path of a simple, innocent, harmless rationalization to explain away an action and that takes on a life of its own. In past posts, I’ve written about how our thoughts drive our feelings and behavior. A runaway rationalization can turn into one heck of a monster.

During an online discussion, one individual stated:

I find one particular “Mental Trap” can be very dangerous. Basically it becomes easy to slowly start justifying eating bad/worse just because you are working out. It’s like your subconscious is whispering, “pizza ain’t that bad… besides, you just had a great workout.”

Does this sound familiar? This can get magnified when the “working out” is elevated to “body building.” I know a lot of guys that lose weight then set themselves back because they now want to “bulk up.” To bulk up, you have to take in more calories than you need. That’s what you were doing when you were overweight. You’ve returned yourself to the exact same behavior, just under a different label.

To exorcise these little demons, you need to recognizing rationalizations for what they are and put them to rest. The key is to first realize what you’re doing then examine your motivations. Once you’ve gotten that far, it just takes some discipline (and maybe the help of your coach) to change your mindset allowing you to make decisions that are in your best interest.

Here’s an example. A man has a girlfriend that won’t eat unless he’s eating. Because of schedules and eating preferences, this forces him to eat more than he should. His rationalization is that he has to do it to make sure that she’s eating enough. So, how should this be handled?

The first step wasn’t too difficult; he realized what he was doing. Now, let’s look at the motivation. On the surface, his concern came from a genuine place of caring for his girlfriend. Delving deeper, however, we learned that there’s also a sense of guilt and responsibility for another person’s actions. Instead of addressing the core issue, he was looking for ways to tweak his eating to account for these inevitable extra calories. To move forward, he needed to be exposed to more options.

To activate the necessary change in behavior, he first needed to acknowledge that he can not be responsible for his girlfriend’s eating choices. (He, better than anyone, should recognize this having come to terms with his own choices.) Having an honest discussion with his girlfriend is a place to start. He might even discover that his girlfriend wasn’t aware of what she was doing and that she would be supportive of him. A more difficult but far more productive option might be to provide the support needed for his girlfriend to confront her own eating issues. Regardless of the final path chosen, identifying the real motivation behind his actions and changing his thoughts related to the situation will allow him to put an end to that rationalization before it further ruins his weight loss and maintenance efforts.

So, do you have any mental vampires you need to stake?

Image by Flickr user elycefeliz  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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