Thursday, August 09, 2012

Does feeling bad do any good?

On my last post, Vickie left a comment that made me think.  Actually a couple of comments, one about the potential usefulness of a sort of self-surveillance system of mirrors and life-sized videos, and one about the dreaded PJs that she wears to keep herself from overeating at night. I don't doubt that these things work for her, but I don't feel like they would help me.

I don't avoid mirrors. I have a full-length mirror in my bedroom and I look at myself in it often, in various outfits or even -- gasp -- without clothes.  The outfit that looked so terrible in the picture looked fine in the mirror. I am always curious to see photos of myself, and I like about half of them. I already tend to dwell on the parts of myself that I don't like, and often forget to notice the things I do like, which is why I wouldn't sign up for life-sized streaming videos of myself.

I am all for accepting the truth of a situation. I'm not a fan of affirmations if they require me to say things I don't really believe. I think the view afforded by unflattering photos and tight pajamas might be making worse of the world than it really is, though.  I don't need more negative feedback to make me aware of my goals, and I think that it would probably be counterproductive.  Even The Willpower Instinct talks about the dangers of getting too down on yourself and triggering the "What the H-- effect."

Many of the insights in The Willpower Instinct are the opposite of what I think about as willpower. For example, turning our willpower struggles into moral challenges (carrot vs. cheesecake = good vs. evil) makes us actually less likely to achieve our goals.  In fact, many of the insights in The Willpower Instinct echo Intuitive Eating, because making yourself feel terrible might trigger a resolve to change in the short run, but in the long run, it's a better strategy to use self nurturance (getting enough sleep, exercise, and fun) to boost willpower than trying to punish yourself into compliance.  When stressed and self-critical, we tend to comfort ourselves with exactly the things we know we need less of, and avoid the things we know we need more of.

I don't have this all figured out, obviously, but I know I can't hate myself thin. If that worked, I'd already be there.  I know all too well the things I want to change, but I need to keep my energy and spirits high enough to make the work I have to do to get there possible.


  1. 6:26 PM

    Great post. I feel like I should read this book...

  2. 6:08 AM

    I love this line: "I can't hate myself thin." I'm happy that you've learned that 20 years before I did.

  3. 8:47 AM

    Very interesting.

    I don't think feel bad does any good either.

    Especially if it is the sucking vortex type feeling bad.

    My dreadful PJ's do not make me feel bad. They make me smile. Cameras and mirrors don't make me feel bad, but every once in a while, I see something I didn't know was there, but I don't think it makes me feel bad, it just makes me look for exercise moves that 'access' that area.

    I was trying to think of how I would have felt about my PJ's at higher weights, like even my first maintenance level, would they have helped or made me 'feel bad'?

    Not sure.

  4. I thought I had responded to this post...hmm. Oh well. I like it. I relate to it. The older I get the more fascinated I become with all the different kinds of people out there and what motivates them, what makes them resist, and especially how we all evolve over time.

  5. 7:37 AM

    Bloody awesome post Jen. That wouldn't help me either. Would send me on a Shame Spiral (TM Brene Brown ;) I'm all for accepting the truth too - goodness knows how powerful denial can be. But hating myself smaller just does not work. I think kindness combined with some structure and planning does wonders.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07