Excuse Abuse: It’s Not My Fault!

We’ve all heard them; we’ve all said them: “it’s not my fault because…….”  We probably believed them when we said them, but really, who was to blame?  Those of you who have read some of my previous posts know I am a huge fan (eye roll) of My 600 lb Life and My Big Fat Fabulous Life, and those are pretty much regular excuse-o-ramas!  It’s always someone else’s fault if the patient gains weight or if Whitney eats badly or misses her training appointments.  There was always something beyond their control or it was someone else’s fault xyz happened.

I’ve heard it a thousand times: the patient had to move to Houston and they “had” to get fast food because that’s the only thing available on the road.  They have to feed their husband and kids and they like “insert junk food here.”  Whitney’s back has been hurting so her nutrition hasn’t been good.  She works out of town and has so many other activities going on so she’s missed her training appointments.  Her eating habits are so bad because “everything spills over onto everything else and then it’s the middle of the day and [she’s] starving.”

There are several problems with making excuses and abdicating responsibility.  The first is that it keeps you powerless.  Every time “something happens,” it keeps you from taking charge.  You are left being reactive instead of proactive.  Maybe this sounds like a lot of psychobabble, but it’s true.  Things are going to happen that are beyond your control, but you are still left with options.  Let’s look at some of the above scenarios and the excuses.

Scenario #1: you are on a road trip and will be eating on the road.  Yeah, fast food is the easiest option, especially if you are traveling with a lot of people or kids..  However, most fast food places these days have “healthier” options.  They may not be the best option, but they are available and even if you don’t opt for the pathetic fast food salad (there are some places that really do have great salads, but my experience with one of the larger chains has left me really disappointed!), you can still get a bunless burger, a grilled chicken breast sandwich (most have those too!) and you certainly don’t need the fries and sugary soda!  You can make the best of a bad situation.  You can also take a cooler (depending on how long you will on the road) and bring something healthier for you, or when you stop for gas, most of the gas station food marts have something with more choices, like cheese sticks, fruit, nuts or lunch meat.  Some of them even have veggie snack packs. (Maybe that’s just California because we are a little weird!)  Either way, there are some options!  This one I have to confess bugs me more than a little because I eat on the road all the time: breakfast for me is always eaten in the car, weekdays at least and I bring something healthy these days instead of getting fast food.  It’s an obvious excuse to eat the junk food they want to eat and choosing to remain powerless in that situation gives them the out they want to eat the crappy junk.

Scenario #2: They have to feed their husband and kids and they like “insert junk food here.”  This is one that I saw not too long ago on a 600 lb Life rerun.  The patient ordered 3 pizzas and a family size brownie for herself, her husband, her disabled 12 year old (I think he got fed through a feeding tube, incidentally), and her one year old baby.  She not only fed the baby the pizza, she fed it to her dog.  Most of you know that I make a habit of feeding my pets pretty much anything I eat as long as it’s safe for them. My pets are my “kids” and they are my responsibility, but they are still pets and not real children.  How much more important is it to feed your children nutritious food and teach them healthy eating habits?  The patient’s sister who was there and very disapproving of the pizzas made that very point, to which the patient responded with “this is what they like.”  Her husband would have eaten anything she wanted for dinner (he deferred to her regularly) and as for the baby- HE’S A BABY!! If you ask any kid what he wants for dinner, he’s pretty much going to say things like pizza and ice cream or fast food or things that taste good rather than things that are nutritious.  When was the last time an 8 year old said she wants broccoli for dinner? Or baked tilapia? Or a sweet potato?  Children learn their eating habits from their parents and other adults in their lives and as a parent, it’s your job to make sure that: #1) they are getting good nutrition; and #2) they are learning to make the right choices for themselves.  If your family’s eating habits aren’t good, then making positive changes for everyone is a good thing.  If the adults in your family insist on making “junk food” choices for themselves, then let them, because they are adults, but as the parent, it’s your job to make sure your children eat healthy nutritious food and learn to make good choices.  Ironically, my pets eat healthier than that woman’s family and they make their own choices in what to eat. (The last time I gave them cake, it sat there and got stale!)

Scenario #3: Whitney’s back has been hurting so her nutrition hasn’t been good.  Her trainer Will called it:  her back has nothing to do with what she is eating! It’s like saying “I had to eat junk food today because my shirt is yellow.”  One has nothing to do with the other!  Her back is hurting so does that mean she can’t cook?  Her back is hurting so does that mean she has to eat junk food? Or over eat? What does that have to do with anything?  If cooking is an issue, get something you don’t need to cook, like a salad kit or a rotisserie chicken.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that very same dinner sitting in my recliner with my tv tray.  It’s easy and takes almost no time.  You can mix up the salad sitting down and eat the chicken cold or heat it in the microwave, so if your back is hurting, no excuses!  It takes no more time to walk into the store and get those than it does to get drive thru.

Scenario #4: She works out of town and has so many other activities going on so she’s missed her training appointments.  Will called it again: she needs to budget her time, and so do we!  It’s great to have a lot of activities, but keep in mind, the more things you have in your schedule, the less time you have to focus on them.  I also work out of town and my commute is about 2 hours, so that’s four hours out of each weekday that is spent in the car.  Obviously my time there is severely limited, so I usually devote that time to listening to podcasts or calling my friends (on my hands-free of course).  I wish I had more time to read but again, it’s something that I need to fit into my schedule.  I do water aerobics twice a week and I’ve signed up for a resistance training class one night a week.  They offer it twice a week, but I’m not sure I can fit that in.  I would also like to take a dance class, but that’s also twice a week and I would have dance twice a week, water aerobics twice a week, resistance once a week, (all during the work week I might add!) and all of those on top of my job, my commute and other regular activities (like this blog, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc.) and I’d need to do it all and still get to bed at a reasonable hour!  Yeah, having a lot to do is not always a bad thing, but over-scheduling is just irresponsible.  The more you have on your plate, the less time you can devote to each of them!  Showing up exhausted and burnt out to water aerobics so I can just “phone it in” isn’t benefiting me.  Phoning it in at my job isn’t at all acceptable.  Sometimes people do this so they can feel accomplished, or because it gives them an excuse to phone it in.  As Whitney says in this episode, she’s missing her training appointments but she’s being “active” so it’s all good.  As Will tells her: no, it’s not good.  Just being “active” isn’t the same as not showing up for the training because he’s there to keep her focused and move her towards her goals.  She was also making a dance DVD and rehearsing for a dance competition.  The DVD is a one-time temporary thing and so is the dance competition, but she was having to cram in the rehearsals because she didn’t have a lot of time before the competition: maybe she should have not signed up for the competition? I’d really like to take the dance class, but really, how much can I cram into my schedule and still do it well? There’s also a yoga class I really want but again, how about rescheduling something?  How about being realistic?  Again, it’s called being an adult versus being a child: kids want everything but adults use discretion.  Be an adult, people!

Scenario #5: Her eating habits are so bad because “everything spills over onto everything else and then it’s the middle of the day and [she’s] starving.” This happens a lot to most of us. We think we have everything planned out and then, real life happens!  The best laid plans, blah blah blah- smack right in the middle of your day!  It happened to me twice last week and once the week before: I brought my healthy breakfast and lunch and then the day went sideways and my time for lunch went out the window!  By 2:00 p.m. I was starving and this would have been a perfect opportunity for me to say “I can stop for a giant mocha on the way home and get Jack in the Box for dinner!  After all, I missed lunch!” I could have completely rationalized the junk food, but that doesn’t move me forward to my goals: it’s an excuse for me to stuff my face with junk.  So when I couldn’t warm up my lunch (and I didn’t want to eat it cold), I had some of the nuts that I keep in my desk for situations like this!  That’s why they’re there!  They won’t spoil and they are a whole lot healthier than junk food.  They are not the best option (which would have been the turkey and veggies sitting in the office fridge) but they were enough to hold me over until I got home and had the chicken and salad which was waiting for me.  I learned the hard way that not planning for situations like these (and they happen to all of us!) is setting yourself up for disaster.  In Whitney’s case, I think her lack of planning is the problem.  Will had given her some healthy bars for those occasions, but she ate them all and didn’t replace them.  Again, I think this goes back to choosing to remain powerless so you can always use “real life” as the out to eat badly.

 “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”

As much as I dislike Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, this is one of my favorite quotes, and in this instance, it is exactly on point.  It’s easier and more convenient to blame fate, the universe, God, “real life,” or whatever for why you didn’t reach your goals, whatever they might be. Sometimes, things really do happen to you that you cannot control, but you still have options.  In the season finale, Whitney said something that really struck me; she said “I will probably be fat for the rest of my life.”   She had accepted that as fact and it struck me because at one time in my life I had come to the same conclusion.  “This is it; I’m just going to be fat all my life” and almost immediately as the thought was sinking into my brain, I felt a palpable sense of relief, and I realized I had just given myself permission to give up on ever being thinner, being healthier, trying to lose weight and improve my health and I had given myself license to eat whatever I want as much as I want and forget about ever exercising or trying to improve my health. Every health related goal I had went out the window with that thought.  “I’m giving up.”  That’s what I really should have told myself. I know that Whitney probably tells herself that she is still working on being healthier, but she always has her fallback excuse for not trying her hardest, for not giving it her all, for why she’s not making progress: she’s just destined to be fat.  That’s so disappointing, and I hope she rethinks her position and doesn’t give up on herself.

I know in my case, telling me that I can’t is pretty much guaranteed to make me try to prove you wrong.  I may not get there, but it won’t be for lack of trying.  I may never reach my goal weight but I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to get there.  Granted, I’m not going to do crazy things to try getting there (sadly, I had an aunt who killed herself to be thin and she died skinny.) I want to be healthy and fit and enjoy getting there.  Choosing to let someone or something else decide your day, let alone your fate, is pretty much a guarantee that you aren’t going to get to your goals.  That’s not to say you have to regulate and schedule every minute of the foreseeable future, but there’s nothing wrong with planning for a few detours along the way.  It’s the difference between an adventure and a catastrophe.  I’d rather have the adventure and get where I want to go eventually, even if it means eating nuts for lunch.

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