We’ve all played this particular game! Whether it involves weight loss or not, we’ve all blamed our failures on someone else at some point in our lives. Usually we’re angry at being embarrassed or called to answer for our failing, or we just don’t want to take responsibility for not reaching our goals. There’s always a reason that prevented us from doing what we were supposed to do!
Sometimes, there really is a reason, such as I was supposed to get these documents done, but I needed material from someone who failed to provide it therefore, the documents aren’t completed. When my boss asks why, my answer is simple: “I can’t present information I don’t have.” The problem comes when confuse ‘reasons’ and ‘excuses.’
When it comes to eating, we are used to looking for excuses. I know I am! One of the typical excuses is “I forgot my lunch so I had to order out and there weren’t any healthy options available!” That’s an excuse to eat junk food. A reason to eat junk food? Hmmm….. [sound of crickets here]…..I honestly can’t think of a reason for eating junk food. Unless your blood sugar is dangerously low, you can probably wait to eat until there’s a healthier option. Incidentally, it takes about a teaspoon of sugar to even out your blood glucose, which is why many diabetics have a piece of hard candy around in case their sugar does drop that low. One piece of hard candy, as in a little Jolly Rancher! Certainly not a burger, fries, and a Coke! The point is that we want to eat what we want to eat, whether it’s healthy or not, and lacking a legitimate reason to scarf down cookies, we come up with an excuse and use that instead.
Sometimes getting it wrong is a reason for not reaching weight loss goals. We thought we were doing the right thing, but it turns out we were wrong! This happens a lot with things like salad dressing. We bought the Lite dressing because it has “50% fewer calories than our original!” We just miss the part that says the original has 300 calories per two tablespoons! So that Lite dressing still has 150 calories in an ounce (since one tablespoon is a half-ounce!) Then there’s the whole sense of portion size! We pour on some dressing, eyeball it and yeah, that’s about a couple ounces, thinking one tablespoon is one ounce! So instead of getting it right with the Lite salad dressing, we’re actually getting it all wrong: we’re getting 300 calories in the dressing alone on that salad! As many practiced dieters know, that’s where the calories are in salad and vegetables- it’s usually what we put on them to make them ‘delicious’!
When we fail at reaching our goals or we go off track, it’s embarrassing to admit that you wanted the cupcakes or the chips more than you wanted to lose weight. It’s admitting that you can’t control your cravings or that your desire for whatever food you ate is more important to you than being healthy. It feels like you’re choosing to be sick or fat or unhappy rather than be thinner, fitter and more confident. No one wants to think, let alone admit, that we chose to be fat rather than saying no to Oreos. Surely we couldn’t have made that choice, so there must be some reason that we had to eat the Oreos, the Ruffles or the cheeseburger! Someone or something else must be to blame!
While blaming someone or something else might soothe your conscience for a little while, it has some toxic side effects. It robs you of responsibility and your free will. If there is always someone or something else keeping you from making good choices, then you have no free will at all: you are constantly at the mercy of others or fate or whoever you are blaming for your poor choices! How can you improve if the deck is always stacked against you? The fact is, unless someone held you down and force-fed you Krispy Kremes and Whoppers, you chose to eat those foods. Your failing to take responsibility for those choices by blaming circumstance is not helping you. It’s keeping you helpless and keeping you from making progress. When we are constantly blaming others, we start seeing excuses everywhere and we become locked into that thought pattern, and once locked in, it’s hard to get out. We get in the habit of choosing the excuse instead of choosing to be responsible.
Recently I wrote about healthy eating on the road which is a common excuse for eating junk food. You and your family stop at a fast food restaurant while on a long car trip and everyone is ordering burgers, fries, and soda. You see there is a salad on the menu but you really want the burger meal everyone else is ordering. Excuse: “It’s too hard to eat a salad sitting in a car since I have to hold the bowl or balance it on my lap, so I have to have the burger.” You wanted a “reason” to have to eat the burger and you found one, but you really have a choice. You can choose the salad and while it might be more difficult, you can still eat it or you can ask your family to eat in the restaurant rather than eat on the road. How long does it take to eat a salad- fifteen or twenty minutes?
Another example: your family wants pizza on movie night so you go to a pizza place and everyone is eating the pizza. They have a salad bar but rather than “making everyone uncomfortable by choosing to eat healthy,” you choose the pizza. Or maybe you say you want the salad bar but everyone cajoles you into “living it up” and eating the pizza instead. You chose to eat the pizza and everyone else’s feelings or opinions are the “reason you couldn’t have salad.” This may sound a little harsh, but everyone else’s feelings and opinions are not your responsibility. You are responsible for your feelings, your choices and your behavior. You are also responsible for your health and while it may sound childish to think that you chose the pizza over your health, when you blame everyone else’s feelings for your “having to eat the pizza,” you are saying their feelings are more important than your health. How foolish is that? Rather than bruise their feelings, you chose to eat a few thousand calories of pizza instead of a few hundred calories of salad bar!
It’s a difficult transition to make: moving from blaming circumstances to taking responsibility. I’ve recently been responsible for choosing sweet potato chips over my regular salad, as well as way too much whipped cream on my strawberries. And there’s been a few bags of pork rinds in there that I chose also! Why? Because they taste good and I wanted them. I am not happy with myself for choosing them but no one held me hostage and forced me to eat them. While this is where most people beat themselves up for these poor choices (as in “why did I do that? why do I sabotage myself?”), choosing to take responsibility instead of blaming some flaw in myself means I can make better choices! Choosing to be responsible doesn’t mean that I am choosing to live a life of abstinence. It simply means that I am responsible for my choices, good or bad. I am not at the mercy of circumstances or someone else or even my own failings: I made one choice- I can make another! I can choose to eat healthier foods and I can choose not to buy chips, whipped cream, or other junk foods I know will tempt me. I can choose not to put them in the grocery cart! This is part of being responsible and it’s the first step in making progress. I am choosing to take responsibility for my choices and I’m choosing not to play the Blame Game.