I like to think of myself as an independent thinker. I think that's at the root of American Culture: The desire to believe that you are an individual, that you're special, that you don't just march to a different beat but rather that you don't need a beat to begin with. That's probably why I was so dismayed when I discovered just how malleable I can be.
Fall is conference season in my office. That means that we do a lot of traveling together before the formidable winter weather makes it impractical to leave the area. I don't always have the same companions on my journeys, in fact, it seems that I'm the one constant in all the office travel.
What I noticed was that when I traveled with people who ate dessert, which was most of the time, I ate dessert. If they ate it at every meal, I did too. If they decided they needed a late night snack, I was totally game. It was a time of total indulgence with warm brownie sundaes and rich triple layer cakes. Uggggg!
Conversely, when I traveled with someone who was diet conscious, I made good choices. Of course, we had no choice but to eat out, but I stuck with things I knew would be harmless like broth based soups, grilled lean meats and veggies. I skipped dessert and we walked to a local store for fruit and yogurt. Unfortunately, I usually travel with junk food eaters, so I've gained a total of 5 pounds!
It troubles me that I could be so malleable. The fact of the matter is that if I want this enough, the company I keep shouldn't matter. Marie Antoinette might have said, "Let them eat cake," but that doesn't mean that I have to scarf it down. I have a clear idea of my goals and I know what it will take to reach them, so why don't I win those difficult moments?
I've kicked around a few theories. A good friend suggested that I'm afraid of success or that I don't want to be happy, point to examples of other major examples of self-sabotage in my life. She made a good case, and I suppose it's entirely possible, but I really do think that all people want to be happy. I may choose frustration and unhappiness when I order dessert, but I don't think I consciously decide that I don't want to be happy. Therefore, I reject this possibility on the grounds that it runs contrary to my fundamental nature and that it might be too complicated to solve if it was true.
More likely, I think it stems from two converging difficulties. Firstly, I was away from my computer, my major source of support on this journey, most of the time. Secondly, I'm uncomfortable in most social situations, especially with people I don't spend a lot of down time with. Food was a comfort and a bonding experience that helped me ignore my discomfort. In the future, I'm going to try to be more aware of the choices I'm making and to be mindful of the fact that I do often have the opportunity to choose between happiness or despair.
I think my reaction to this situation is key. My weight loss came to a screeching halt this time last year. The holidays follow quickly on the heels of conference season, and I just gave up. I'm developing a plan to keep that from happening that includes:
1. Writing down every bite I eat.
2. Walking at least 45 minutes a day.
3. Posting 4 times/week.
4. Checking in on other blogs daily.
5. Forgiving myself and moving on.
What will you do to help you succeed?