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What Makes You Disciplined May Be What Makes You Fat

When you have to get something done, do you go “all out”? If you have a project to complete, are you highly focused until it’s finished? When you undertake to learn something new, do you soon become an expert? I believe that what can make you a disciplined person can also contribute to making your weight difficult to manage. My view is just the opposite of the all too widely-held opinion that a lack of discipline and self-control are what makes you fat but I think I have a theory and I believe a lot of people would prove it’s true.

When it comes to weight, our culture wants us to believe that we are driven by negative subconscious forces—we’re stressed, we hate ourselves, we’re in pain, food is just a substitute for something else. We deeply invest food and eating with symbolism and vague meaning of questionable interpretation. I believe it’s more about our habits and routines. We stay fat or fail to lose weight because of what we do the most consistently. The real key is in closely examining the patterns that overlay our days, weeks, and months.

There’s no big secret lurking in the recesses of our minds! I believe some of us are simply better at establishing habits and routines than others and once we get into a pattern, it’s not easily broken. We’ll be resistant to trying to deviate from something we do naturally. We do this so innately, we may not even be aware how entrenched we are in certain behaviors and how often we do them. The nature and definition of “habit” is to do something with less than deliberate, conscious action. We’re on autopilot and we repeat ourselves again and again. But it’s the mechanics that underlie habit building that I believe reveal the truth about some of us. Consider that project or assignment you want to complete. If you’re the type of person who will quickly start doing whatever needs to be done and you work at it consistently and conscientiously until you’re finished, at the root are your innate abilities to build habits and put routines to work.

If you are a natural habit and routine builder, it stands to reason that you could adopt negative behaviors just as easily as you can fall into productive ones but acknowledging this will give you the tools to make changes that can finally work. When we go on a diet, we attempt to depart from our usual routines that fit the most naturally for our daily lives. We can’t sustain the dramatic change and soon we’re off another diet and feeling like failures. Instead of trying to figure out what’s the vague subconscious “reason why,” simply start looking carefully at what you do every day. Acknowledge and accept what’s natural for you and then make adaptations that will be a good fit.

In the last few years, I’ve heard from so many people who say they’re very disciplined, hard-working, even highly perfectionistic so struggling with their weight brought a lot of anxiety into their lives. They tend to be well-organized “planners” so they’d try launching into some detailed and specific diet or exercise program, in many cases over and over again, only to keep feeling beaten down by repeated failure. If something is going to work, it has to work for you. It’s got to leverage your own unique set of tendencies and preferences. Even what you’d call a “lifestyle change” still has to fit your lifestyle. Carefully and fearlessly analyze your own habits and routines. Acknowledge who are you and what you do without shame or judgment and then work within the framework of your own daily life. Stop believing everything “means” something and just start making changes for yourself.