I am a really good liar. I know I shouldn’t be proud of that but truly I can tell some real whoppers with a completely straight face, so much so that even people who know me well are wondering. Part of it is that my dad’s family loves practical jokes and you’ve got to be straight-faced to pull them off. Part of it is also growing up in a family that was pretty screwed up and so you learn to lie so the rest of your classmates don’t know how screwed up your family really is. Unfortunately I got a lot of practice.
I’ve learned over the years that there are three kinds of lies that work really well. The first is Double Talk; the second is the Big Little Lie; and the third is the Bold Faced Lie. Double Talk is when you just bury your listener with words. You over-explain and essentially confuse them with terms and procedures so they lose the thread they’re trying to follow. It has to be done carefully, as if the explanation is simple and obvious. The trick isn’t talking fast or giving too much detail (a common mistake of novice liars): it’s slowing it down as if you’re not quite sure why they’re not understanding the obvious. A lot of times the listener gives up trying to understand because they think they’re missing something and don’t want to look stupid.
The Big Little Lie follows that old chestnut: “the best way to hide a lie is between two truths.” You tell the truth about 90-95% but the 5-10% you lie about is the important part. This usually has the benefit of the Plausible Deniability defense: “W, X, and Y were true, so I just assumed Z was true also! How was I to know it wasn’t??”
That last statement happens to be a good example of the third category, the Bold Faced Lie. I know most people call it “bald faced” but you need to be bold to lie flat out to people. And I’ve found the bigger the lie, the bolder you need to be, plus you need to believe it yourself to pull it off.
And that is the reason we’re discussing lies in a weight loss blog. We want to eat healthier and we want to keep our calories low while keeping our exercise burns higher. Kind of the definition of weight loss, right? But sometimes, the lies we want to believe get in our way. We lie to ourselves because we want our lies to be true: we want to believe that one donut isn’t going to get in the way of our weight loss. We want to believe that we can blow off our workout to go shopping- we really will make it up later in the week and hey, walking all over the mall is aerobic, right? We do the Double Talk technique where “we heard that ABC was good for burning calories even though we don’t understand it, it ‘obviously’ works,” so we’ll figure it out after we have the Fettucine Alfredo. We tell ourselves the Big Little Lie because we know that “cardio burns calories and walking is cardio so all the walking at the mall is going to burn almost as many calories as our workout would have.” “We will make it up later in the week, so we’ll be ahead!”- the Bold Faced Lie! If we all had noses like Pinocchio, we wouldn’t be able to turn around without poking each other in the eye!
We believe these lies when we tell them because we are looking for an excuse. We want to justify our behavior and believe we are “still doing the work!” What we are really doing is setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment and self-recrimination. The truth is eating the donuts and the sweets and the junk food is not going to help us get healthier, and it sure won’t help us lose weight! It doesn’t matter how much of the magic pill or powder we take- eating unhealthy food is eating unhealthy food. Yes, walking is healthy but is shopping going to be a ‘cardio workout’ or is it going to be a lot of stopping and looking and trying on stuff? As for ‘rescheduling our workout,’ need I say more?
Since I know I am a really good liar, I have learned to cut myself off before I even finish the lying thought. I ask myself one question: am I being consistent? Did I miss my workout for a legitimate reason, ie something else that cannot be moved has priority? Or am I blowing it off because “I don’t feel like it”? Am I choosing the pasta/ bread/ cake because it’s healthy for me or because “I’ll eat less tomorrow”? I don’t even try telling myself that “I’ll reschedule” because it never happens! (Sad, but true!)
We need to slow down and make a considered choice when we are trying to justify our behavior. The justification/ explanation is the first clue that this is really a lie. We’re trying to lie our way out of the behavior we really want to do! If we can’t be proud of what we are doing, maybe we don’t need to be doing it. The same with explaining it: if we have to explain why we chose the cake or the garlic bread, maybe we don’t need to eat it. Do we really have to explain spinach or baked chicken? And unless we are picking up a friend from the hospital or something else that can’t be moved, we really have no excuse for blowing off a workout.
There is nothing wrong with owning inconsistent behavior: sometimes pushing ourselves hard is enough of a reason to say “I’m taking a break before I burn out.” The problem comes when we use that excuse over and over again. If you feel chronically burnt out, there’s a bigger issue going on! Maybe instead of blowing off workouts or ‘cheating on your diet,’ you need to make some serous adjustments to a schedule or eating habit you can maintain.
This is the flip side of lying to ourselves: if we are really pushing too hard, we are still going to end up with failure, disappointment and self-recrimination. We need to be realistic about our goals and our strategy for getting there instead of biting off too much. If we lie to ourselves when we say we’re going to make five workouts a week and then beat ourselves up because we only made three, the solution isn’t to push ourselves to make the five we scheduled! If five really is too many for you to handle, then schedule a number that’s realistic for you! Not only will you be more consistent, which builds good practices, but you’ll feel pride in your accomplishments instead of disappointment in yourself. The same goes for your eating: if you eat great all week but regularly “blow it” out with friends, then set a realistic goal, like only eating certain foods when you are out with friends!
We need to tell ourselves the truth, even if it’s things we don’t want to hear, like I’m not going to reschedule my workout, I’m eating the Krispy Kreme because I want it, and I’d like to think I can make five workouts a week and get to sleep by nine p.m. each night, but nope- not happening! Realistically, I eat a couple donuts now and then, I make it to three workouts a week and if I’m asleep by 10:30, I’m doing better! That’s a key phrase: doing better! I don’t have to lie to myself about being perfect, because I don’t need to be perfect as long as I am consistently trying to be better. Telling yourself the truth is one step to being better!