Why Do We Behave Contrary To Our Own Self ?

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Why do we behave contrary to our own self-interest?

In this day & age, it isn’t because we lack of information. Bookstores are stocked with countless books about how to eat to lose weight; dozens of professionals & specialists in their fields advise us to save and invest our money; manage our time, what vitamins are the best. We have plenty of information on getting rid of clutter,  taking care of our bodies, managing our finances, fulfilling our business or career dreams. But all this information doesn’t change our behavior. We know what to do but we still don’t do always do it.

Actually, sometimes, we do just the opposite of what we know is good for us!  We overeat and plop on the couch and watch TV for hours; we spend our very last dime (or more); we pick the wrong friends or partners to fall in love with (again and again).  We buy stuff we don’t need, postpone, avoid and waste away time, neglect our bodies, botch our budget, and bail out on ourselves in numerous ways. If anyone else treated us the way we treat ourselves, we’d be outraged!  RIGHT?!

Why don’t we do the things we know are good for us?

“The only way you know you love yourself — or anyone else — is by the commitments you are willing to make and keep.”, so says therapist & author Dr. Pat Allen.   I know this sounds like a cliche, but one of the main reasons we don’t keep our commitments is that we don’t love ourselves. Heck, sometimes we don’t even like ourselves!

We are our own worst critics – how many times (in a day) do you berate yourself for faults and shortcomings?   So many of us are plagued by our failings and mistakes?  If the majority of our self-talk is coming from our dark side, no wonder It’s hard to love ourselves.

Another reason we also have difficulty acting in our own best interest is because immediate pleasure applies a stronger influence than concern for long-term health. Chocolate now is more appealing than weight loss later.  A purchase today feels more pleasurable than a savings account balance at the end of the month.  We have a hard time delaying gratification. We want what we want when we want it — now.  There’s even a term called ‘’Retail Therapy” – going shopping to make our selves feel better.  Of ‘’Comfort Food” eating certain foods when we feel stressed or grieving.

There’s usually not one specific why we don’t do what’s good for us.  Other reasons might include gender issues (women are socialized to put everyone else first); religious traditions (self-sacrifice is seen as a virtue in many religions); family history (my mom was overweight, her mom was too, so I’m doomed) . Most times it’s a combination of many reasons.

So, what’s the solution?

Changing a habit is simple — but not easy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Re-train yourself with love. Many of you saw our office mascot, Chachi before he passed earlier this year.  Our first dog together, Dr. Sandra & I got him 15 years ago & immediately started training him. Most people know that dogs respond best to training with love.  Is the exact same way with people.  Teaching & training ourselves new habits works best when it’s done lovingly.

Drop “should” and “ought” from your vocabulary. Wendi Francis (our clinical nutrition director and Monday Live Q & A Call leader) has said this more times than I can count.  “Should” and “ought” are moralistic, negative words — certain to de-motivate you. Instead of “should” and “ought,” try using “want” or ‘’choose’’ It’s a positive word that is more likely to get good results. Example: “I want to be fit and trim,” instead of, “I should lose weight.” See the difference?

KISS: Keep It Small and Simple. Set yourself up to succeed — set small, achievable goals.  Don’t compare yourself to others or even your past weight loss results.   Ask yourself, “What three simple things could I do today that would make a positive difference in my life?” Not just in the arena of weight loss, but multiple areas in your life.  Wash your car; clean out one drawer, try a new fruit or vegetable you haven’t tried before or thought was terrible tasting, take a walk at lunch. You’ll be surprised at how small changes can make a big difference.

No one can do it for you, but you can’t do it alone. Ask for help. This is what we are here for.  Your success.  We are a judgement free zone.  Get an action buddy, a walking pal, or someone to keep you company doing things you don’t like to do. Consider hiring, a life coach, a professional organizer, a therapist — someone to help you keep your commitments to yourself.  Reach out to your church family and ask for support and accountability.

Success is about progress, not perfection. As long as you’re moving in the direction you desire, you’re successful. Give yourself credit; pat yourself on the back; acknowledge the changes you’re making, even if they’re tiny changes. Catch yourself doing something right — or, approximately right.

“A habit cannot be tossed out the window. It must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.”  Mark Twain

Be patient with yourself.  Love yourself.  You deserve to be healthy and happy.

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3510 Remson Suite 101-A
Charlottesville, VA 22901
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