Weighty Matters

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Yoda, English Cocker Spaniels and Me

on May 14, 2013

Much wisdom to be gained by a 900 year old fuzzy little green Jedi master.  When Luke Skywalker tells Master Yoda that he’ll try, Yoda responds, “Do or Do Not.  There is no try.”  I suspect that George Lucas might have spent some time in est seminars.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the past few weeks with the many stressful situations I’ve faced, and how hard I’ve worked to not eat over the stress.  Sometimes it’s almost a mantra in my head, “Don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat” as I am determined to get through the situations without falling back on the old coping mechanism of compulsive eating or overeating.  In another, completely different area of life, I was explaining to a good friend about teaching my dogs the behavior of “Leave It”.  When I first got Pyxi, she would repeat certain negative behaviors when bored and seeking attention.  For example, she’d plop herself down by one particular rug and attack the corner.  I was forever telling her, “No, Pyxi” and getting up from my chair.  She’d stop for a few minutes and then go right back to the behavior.  It wasn’t until I learned  the concept of “Leave It” that we were able to correct this behavior.

We began with bits of a treat placed in front of her.  If she went for it, I gently guided her nose away and said, in an upbeat voice, “Leave it!”   Then I’d give her a treat from my other hand.  She caught on quickly that if she stopped doing whatever it was she was doing at the time that I said, “Leave it”, she’d receive the positive reinforcement of a “Good girl!” and a treat.  Before long, I could ask her to “Leave it” in a variety of situations and she’d stop immediately.  Why does this work?  Instead of only receiving negatives in “No, no, no” that offered no positive reinforcement, she could do something, i.e. choose to stop a behavior, and be rewarded in a way that made her happy.

You might ask how I am now connecting the dots between an old fuzzy Jedi, an English Cocker Spaniel, and a woman with an eating disorder.  Trust me, it isn’t easy, but I do indeed have a connection.  🙂

At any moment in my life I can be faced with a situation where I want to compulsively eat.  At that point, trying not to does not accomplish anything.  Like Yoda points out to Luke, the choice is either do or do not.  In my case that would be compulsively eat or do not compulsively eat.

When I attempt to prevent compulsive eating by telling myself don’t eat don’t eat don’t eat,  I’m focused on the negative — much like Pyxi not understanding the goal of ceasing the undesirable behavior when all she hears is “No” without an instruction on what she’s actually supposed to do to achieve a positive outcome.

Recently I realized that I need to establish my own, personal “Leave it” reward.  Yes, maintaining abstinence from the compulsive behavior is a reward in itself, but I want to focus on a positive alternative so that “Do not eat” becomes “Do this (whatever this is) instead of eating”.  I’m not sure what to substitute.  Smile, whistle a happy tune, sip water or tea, or what, but I need to define some other action.  This will get the struggle out of my head and into a behavior pattern.  I believe this will be effective and more helpful in the long run.

Long term success is the name of the game.

4 responses to “Yoda, English Cocker Spaniels and Me

  1. “Where attention goes, energy flows.” ~or~ “That which you focus on will become your reality.” Oh, how I wish I could remember where I heard that… maybe it was in “The Secret”.

    For years, when I was looking for love, my primary focus/goal was to NOT go out with someone who abused drugs and/or alcohol and/or people… but guess who/what kept finding me, or who/what I kept attracting (over and over and over again)? Yup… Finally I altered my thinking, focusing on what I wanted instead of what I didn’t want! It wasn’t too long after that, that Pete and I started dating and he, and our relationship, is everything I DO want!

    Forget what you don’t want and focus on what you DO want, it’s like counting life’s blessings instead of disappointments. “Where attention goes, energy flows” – that’s my mantra and my life has changed dramatically since I’ve made it my mantra – no doubt you’ll be pleasantly surprised as well… Also, it’s surprising when you start realizing how much negative focusing you do!

    Great post, Thanks Mary!

  2. Skye says:

    Very cool story! When my therapist and I were discussing ways to help me modify my behavior for “sit around and do nothing” to “do things”, we were discussing ways to make that happen. Rewards are hard, because I can’t think of anything other than food or buying something. But a contingent positive thing that I can do if I do the desired behavior did have an effect. It isn’t specifically a reward; it’s more like, if you do this thing on your to-do list, then you can join your friends in watching a video and chatting online about it. When I was doing it, it worked quite well. Then, well, packing and getting ready to move started to take over and all that worked was having my friend Deb bugging me every day about getting done what I needed to that day to get ready for the move. Now I’m starting all over. So I look forward to seeing what works for you.

    And I agree. Long-term success is the name of the game. I have a lot of long-term issues to fix, and I want to fix them for the long term. Success to us both!

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