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Making Peace with Your Inner Drill Sergeant

July 6, 2010

Aging abundantly is easier and more enjoyable to do when we are able to leave a bit of our physical abundance behind (no pun intended!). But as we age, losing weight and getting healthy is more difficult than ever. Our metabolism works against us, our muscles lose strength and tone ~ physical activity is harder and the results less encouraging. It’s simply the aging process, our changing hormones, and perhaps more than a few years of living a less than healthy lifestyle. This in no way means we should give up on our attempts to be and live healthier. It just means we have to do things differently and adjust our expectations.

As we age, we need to leave the past behind (there I go again!) in many ways. When it comes to our physical selves, our mental picture of our ideal body, like all ideals that involve perfection, probably was and never will be attainable.  It’s time to let it go and get on with what is really important in our lives.

Fortunately, our years of l experience have taught us a great deal about ourselves and the realities of life and we can bring all of that wisdom to bear on our efforts to take better care of ourselves. The damage that has been done is done. But, we still have today and hopefully tomorrow.

I’m not going to talk about diet plans or exercise regimes. There are already plenty of people more qualified than I am who have put thought, effort and research into developing good, solid healthy eating and exercise plans. The only thing I’m going to say here is that the bottom line to weight loss and health is and always has been ~ eat less and move more. Without even counting calories, you will make a difference in your overall health if you simply eat less than you are currently eating and move more.

The real difficulty we have in losing weight is not the plan we choose, it’s what is going on inside of our heads. Women have been at war with their bodies for decades and it’s time we stopped. Nothing good can come of such a battle. The typical pattern of the “yo-yo” dieter is the common diet experience among women of all ages and is the precise reason why the majority of women over fifty are at least marginally overweight. It’s not just a psychological issue but a physiological one as well. When we diet by submitting to the part of ourselves that is disciplined and controlled we think we’re doing the right thing and for a while we lose weight. For a time we pay attention to the voice in our heads that says more or less, “I’ve had enough of your lazy, slothful ways! Shape up!” And we do, for a while, maybe even a long while. But this part of our psyche is not all of who we are even if we let it rule for a while. It is a part of our brain than truly wants to help us but it lacks compassion and has a lot of trouble having fun.  Sooner or later our “wild child” takes over ~ she will not be denied as she is a part of us too! She too has our best interest at heart and knows if we are to be happy and healthy we cannot live entirely under the command of our Nazi general.

There is scientific research that has shown that at the basis of this “wild child”, the one that binges, sneaks food, refuses to exercise and generally wreaks havoc on all of our attempts to shape up, is actually a self-preservation instinct. Our “wild child” is terrified that under the rule of the Nazi general we will starve to death and the scarcity button is triggered in our brain. It is much like the fight or flight instinct induced by fear. Our wild child compels us to eat and is looking out for our best interests in her own way. The “wild child” does not want us to starve to death but she does not care about our health. She is concerned with life and death issues.

The important thing to realize here is that there is more to weight loss and health than will power and self-control. In fact, if you are overweight and have been on a life time of yo-yo diets, chances are you have an incredibly strong will power.  But the stronger the will power, or the rule of your Nazi general, the more rebellious your wild child may be when she lets loose.

Recognizing these two very important aspects of your diet and exercise brain is the first step to paving the way to a new approach to health and weight loss that is sustainable. More on that in my next post.

The Four Day Win by Martha Beck is worth reading.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 1:41 pm

    My wild child is still getting me in trouble after all these years, Dorothy. She keeps putting my past behind me too. Great post!

    • July 7, 2010 9:31 pm

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I’ve come to the conclusion that my wild child is in charge right now too!

  2. July 26, 2010 6:50 pm

    Wild child! I love it. Now, when she shows up at my house I can be more gentle with her. Ha! (Usually late at night after the kids have gone to bed is when she shows up. She usually wants chocolate). Wonderful post Dorothy and one that so many of us need to hear. I am going to pass it on for sure.

    • July 26, 2010 8:41 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this post Lisa! My “wild child” loves being in charge! But she’s a whole lot of fun and if I let her out to play now and again we get along real well! After all, I guess it’s all about balance.

  3. August 7, 2010 11:17 pm

    Thank you, great site: good information, common sense and humor. Look forward to more-

  4. August 10, 2010 9:54 pm

    Good stuff in this blog- I can really relate- If I make peace with the woman in the mirror and appreciate her body, regardless of her size I don’t find that the wild child needs to scream so loud for attention and she is easier to calm. When she comes it is no use telling her to go away- I need to reassure her that it will be alright. Thanks for the good thoughts. BA

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