I knew it was coming. It always does. Whenever I’ve tried to make a change in my life – there comes a time when I slip up and revert to the very habits I’ve been trying to forget. Those neural pathways have been so well traveled that as soon as I stop paying attention, I find myself barreling head long down that road often traveled.
It started the very day I hit 170. Had more wine than I should have…you know, to celebrate. Then on Sunday, even though I intended not to have wine with dinner…there was an open bottle and it’s good wine!!!…so easy for that voice to re-surface…as if she had never even left me. What a smooth talker — oh you deserve this!! You’ve worked so hard, one day won’t hurt.
But I forgot about the guilt. I forgot how it works on me. And I forgot about the fact that I’m actually addicted to that fantastic combination of sugar and fat that makes a delicious cookie.
So I fell off the wagon so hard yesterday that I actually made myself sick. I’m not used to eating a lot of sugar now. I had the worst case of indigestion (complete with gas and bloating – TMI, sorry!) and nausea – I was up most of the night.
I got out of bed this morning, determined to put the slip up behind me. I gave myself a pep talk – “everyone slips – those who reach their goals just get up, brush themselves off, and start down that path again.” I am drinking lots of water today because I think I am dehydrated. And I got on the scale to see what the toll would be. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
There’s a book I’m reading called, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More Of It, by Kelly McGonigal. It’s fascinating to me. I love reading about how our minds work. Why do we do what we do???
That guilt I alluded to before…it’s says vicious things and I often buy right into them. You may be familiar with that voice of guilt – but mainly it made me ask, “What the hell is wrong with me??? Why can’t I be focused and disciplined? I must not want this enough. I’m broken and will never be fixed…”
But McGonigal says this about that voice: “The What”-the-hell Effect: Why Guilt Doesn’t Work”
“Welcome to one of the biggest threats to willpower worldwide: the “what-the-hell effect.”…describes a cycle of indulgence, regret, and greater indulgence. These researchers noticed that many dieters would feel so bad about any lapse – a piece of pizza, a bite of cake – that they felt as if their whole diet was blown. Instead of minimizing the harm by not taking another bite, they would say, “What the hell, I already blew my diet. I might as well eat the whole thing.”
Crucially, it’s not the first giving-in that guarantees the bigger relapse. It’s the feelings of shame, guilt, loss of control, and loss of hope that follow the first relapse. Once you’re stuck in the cycle, it can seem like there is no way out except to keep going. This leads to even bigger willpower failures and more misery as you then berate yourself (again) for giving in (again). But the thing you’re turning to for comfort can’t stop the cycle, because it only generates more feelings of guilt.”
She goes on to say that self-forgiveness is the antidote. And I would say that I agree. Because I’ve tried the self-criticism route and it doesn’t work. McGonegal says,
“Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion-being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure-is associated with more motivation and better self-control.”
So today, I am releasing the guilt because, afterall, slip ups happen. I was bound to have one at some point and will probably have more but the difference is that I won’t let a slip up spiral into a month, 6 months, 6 years, etc. I will show some self-compassion and forgive myself for the slip. I’m moving on…