Reflecting on "failure"

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kccc
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Reflecting on "failure"

Post by kccc » Wed Nov 15, 2006 2:22 pm

I've been doing No-S about a month, and feeling quite smug about it. You see, coming from a high-maintenance system, I found it pretty easy. The glamour of "something new" carried me through the first hard part (getting used to no snacks) and after that, I did pretty well.

So, as I said, was feeling QUITE smug. Which meant it was time for a come-uppance. ;)

Happened last night. I had planned a decent meal, but it had to be super-fast b/c of PTO meeting. When I got home, the meat hadn't thawed, and I didn't have time to work around it. So, my husband agreed to take our son for a Chick-FilA sandwich (which our son has been dying for, b/c he "won" a coupon) while I went to the meeting, and I grabbed PB&J on whole wheat.

Except... I ate it standing up. I started "virtual plating" b/c that didn't "feel like a meal" and went over-board. And when I got back from my meeting, I snacked on more stuff because "I'd blown it anyway."

Fortunately, I "heard myself" think that phrase - a real red flag - and I stopped. In real terms, it wasn't a lot of damage - a handful of tortilla chips, about half a cup of pumpkin seeds, some cheese and crackers. But I could see "eat until I'm sick" from there... and drew back.

Which leads me to... one of the things that I think has contributed to success thus far is planning "real meals" that are genuinely satisfying, and sitting down to enjoy them. Even if I gulp them down, they are bounded. No seconds means I don't extend my "meal" all evening (yes, I used to do that.) No snacks means no extra meals snuck in (yes, I used to do that).

I'm learning. Hate admitting "failure" (yes, think I'm going to be a euphemism-user on that), but glad it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

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Post by pangelsue » Thu Nov 16, 2006 1:15 am

First off, KCCC, I really have been enjoying the comments you have been contributing to these boards and my threads in particular. They are insightful and well written. Thanks.
Regarding getting smug, been there, done that. Going along just great and then splat. But that is life. There is no perfection on this plane and we have to live with that. But we don't learn from success, we learn from failure so learn and move on is the best reaction. Failure is such an ugly word. How about, unplanned time off plan or overly creative plating??? LOL. It makes it sound so much more acceptable. OK OK, it is a failure but we learn and we move on. Think of all the successes so far and then one slip up doesn't seem so disasterous. Just keep moving in the same general foward direction and you can't get lost.
A lot of growing up happens between "it fell" and "I dropped it."

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Post by hexagon » Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:00 am

Hi,

I understand the whole smugness thing. I sailed along pretty well for a month. Then I moved from a liberal big city on the west coast to a small town in a southern east coast state for a new job, with no friends or family, and my smugness bubble was burst! The change wreaked havoc on my eating habits. I'm just coming back after almost a month of overeating. Anyway, compared to a month of ditching NoS, your little mistake is really trivial, let me assure you.

When it comes to weight loss (as with many things in life), failure is a pretty subjective term. What you did today doesn't sound like a failure to me; in fact, you had some little successes. First, it doesn't sound like you overate until dinner. Second, it sounds like you conciously pulled back before anything went too much out of control. Plus, it sounds like you're learning from today, which is great.

Personally, I feel a bit uneasy with the word "failure" as it is such an absolute. I guess it works for some people, but if you're anything like me, a person with some perfectionistic tendencies who has tried a lot of other diets, the concept of a full-on failure really adds a lot of anxiety, which makes me more likely to screw up. When I've stuck to more of a binary success/failure system, then I've been way more likely to think the following after eating one "forbidden" item. I would think "well, now, because of this one cookie, this day is a failure, and therefore I might as well bury my woes and eat eight more cookies because today is a total loss anyway." I would ignore any of the progress I had otherwise made and emotionally pummel myself for that transgression. It was a depressing and miserable thing to do, and it made living with such eating plans untenable. From what I've read and heard, this sort of psychology is a pretty common problem with most diets.

Anyway, I think it is best to emphasize the progress we make. Even when we slip up, we can learn from it and still appreciate that probably, our eating patterns are far improved from what they once were, despite the mistake. Changing major patterns in our lives takes time.

--H

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reinhard
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Post by reinhard » Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:16 am

Sorry about your hubris come down... but good for you for catching yourself. I've found that knowing I've committed to reporting failures here (and a little about their extent) is is very helpful both in keeping me from messing up to beging with and for "damage control" when I do.

Virtual plating is tricky to pull off...

One reason I like "failure" is I like "success" even more, and want to keep it meaningful. When I use euphemisms, the failure is still there, in fact, it's all over the place: it then infiltrates big tracts of the language. An enemy that was out in the open is now hiding in the jungle. I have to worry about being ambushed all the time. I feel like a self-deceiver and a fool.

Failure isn't nearly so bad if you just call it that and face up to it. I had a glass ceiling failure last week. I can give you all kinds of wonderful excuses and try to minimize it, but honestly, it feels much better just to admit what it was and move on.

Having a failure is different from being a failure, and I'll agree that the latter is probably not a productive way to think about oneself under any (non-criminal) circumstances.

Reinhard

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Post by zoolina » Thu Nov 16, 2006 5:58 am

I was thinking about a success /failure system for my s days, which have been out of control so far. Success would mean managing my compulsion, if ever so slightly, so that I do pull back, assess and act more or less intelligently around food. It's an S day, so this doesn't mean "only one S" or anything that constricting. It means stopping before the WHOLE bag of m+ms is gone. For me, with my compulsion, that's sucess.

Failure would mean "being an idiot" aka, not being able to stop eating compulsivly.

Framed in these terms, I would call your slip up a sucessful failure!! Keep up the good work

Z

kccc
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Post by kccc » Thu Nov 16, 2006 2:06 pm

Thanks for the comments.

Hexagon and pangelsue, I consider myself a "recovering perfectionist" (which is kind of like being a recovering anything - you have to watch for lapses your whole life) and have very similar responses to the word failure. It's SO binary, which for me leads to "in for a penny, in for a pound" thinking... or "since I've blown it anyway..."

I see your point about making failure evident, Reinhard, so that success will be evident too. One of the problems with perfectionist thinking is that you take winning for granted, but hate to lose. No satisfaction in that. So, you've given me something to think about with that.

Even so... for now, I'm more comfortable with a few more "levels" in my personal scale - maybe not the Olympic levels you use, but something more gradated (but not overly complex). I would consider yesterday a blend - Yes, I broke the rules. No, I didn't go overboard. Plus I used the incident to learn the importance of "meals that feel like meals." Overall, better than I would have done before this month of habit-establishment.

And I will say that deciding that I'd report DID make a difference. :)

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Post by wosnes » Thu Nov 16, 2006 2:30 pm

What I think is intersting is that especially in the area of eating/dieting we interpret any little slip-up as a "failure."

Think about everything else you do in your life -- from your job to being a parent or spouse or anything. If you make a mistake, are you a failure? Actually, we pretty much get through life by making mistakes and learning from them or going one step forward and two steps back. So why is it that in this one area we see ourselves as failures?

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Post by navin » Fri Nov 17, 2006 12:23 am

So why is it that in this one area we see ourselves as failures?
I think, as Reinhard said, there's a big difference between *being* a failure and *having* a failure. I think it is good to recognize that we have failures. For instance, at work, I may not get a specific task done on time. Or I might fail to communicate with a co-worker. These are failures, but it does not mean I'm a failure at my job.

Same way with No-S - even though I've been doing this for about 3 years now, I still have failures. I try to learn from them so they happen less often.

Yes, considering youself a failure is not healthy. But recognizing that you have failures from time to time and learning from them can be. One failure - or even many failures - on the No-S diet does not mean I'm a failure as a person!
Before criticizing someone, you should try walking a mile in their shoes. Then you'll be a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

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Post by reinhard » Fri Nov 17, 2006 2:48 am

Thanks for the clarification, Navin.

Not only are the concepts of "having a failure" and "being a failure" distinct, but I think that by admitting that you have failures and calling them that, you are actually less likely to think of yourself as being a failure.

Why?

Because you take this bad thing that clearly exists in the world and has some relation to you and acknowledge its badness and its relation to you while still keeping it separate from you. Otherwise, it sticks around, unauthorized, like a ghost or a disgruntled relative, much closer than you'd like. Own it, own up to it, or you become it.

Reinhard

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Post by reinhard » Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:00 am

KCCC,

In terms of "levels," personal olympics works well with big picture, positive goals. For something like no-s, where a sustainable daily "good enough" is really all we're looking for, and additional postive levels can actually be counterproductive by enouraging a hoarding mentality, a "negative" personal olympics system might work better. In other words, "green/success" is still the best possible outcome, but to keep yourself from just saying "what the hell, I screwed up, I might as well go hog wild" you might want to add another "basement" level to give you some more incentive to catch yourself (blinking red capital FAILURE!) or even a full complement of sub basement anti-medals (made of increasingly radioactive elements, perhaps?).

But I hate to add complexity... just the knowledge that you have to give some details about the failure here might be sufficient motivation for damage control. It is for me.

Reinhard

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Post by hexagon » Fri Nov 17, 2006 5:09 am

Hi,

I agree that you don't want to sugar-coat or soften your mistakes. After all, a big part of No S seems to be that of taking responsibility for yourself, and facing up to the fact that you can pretty much only blame yourself for being overweight.

The whole binary system is nice and simple, and deals with accepting responsibility. Unfortunately, for a person who is recovering from harsh, absolute diets, with over-perfectionistic tendencies and a lot of guilt issues surrounding food and weight, having days classified solely as successes or failures may be initially a problem. Let me illustrate my point. I've seen people here sometimes write guilt-ridden comments like "I had one taste of cookie dough today when I was making cookies for some friends--so I guess today is a failure." Okay, compare that to the person who freaked out and ate a whole box of Cap'n Crunch, an entire cheesecake directly from the freezer, and a can of EZ Cheese. Yeah, both are technically failure days, I guess. Would you really consider one the same as the other, though? Of course not! Yeah, the cookie dough eater should acknowledge that he/she shouldn't have eaten those two spoonfuls, and that's a failure, but they should be happy that they otherwise ate balanced, well-defined meals. It is unreasonable for that person to put themselves in the same category as the Cap'n Crunch-cheesecake-EZ Cheese person. (Ugh, I'm making myself sick just thinking of that.)

A lot of us come to No S after years of severe diets, and we have serious guilt and self-esteem issues. The great thing about No S is that it is a much more realistic approach to the role of food in our lives. Part of this approach is to acknowledge our responsibility for our failures AND our successes. I'm just saying that for those who have been in the habit of self-flagellation about food, it might be easier to not always completely categorize a day as a total failure (like the cookie dough taster did), because we'll be more likely to forget our successes, get discouraged, and give up. I am (obviously) one of the many who carries a lot of emotional baggage about food, and I know I've had much better control with food when I've assessed each day with a balanced view.

--H

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Post by kccc » Fri Nov 17, 2006 2:24 pm

Reinhard, I saw your first post on acknowledging failure "related to but not of" you (paraphrasing) late last night, and ended up journaling about it this morning. (I write 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness stuff every morning, as a brain-dump. My Western form of meditation.) Obviously something to think about. Then saw your second post this morning.

I think you're right. For those of us who have started dealing with perfectionism (and seeing for the crippling thing it is, rather than rationalizing about how it just being "high standards" or whatever), "failure" is a tough concept. The whole nature of perfectionism is that we internalize both our successes and failures too much - the essence is really "I must be perfect in order to be loved." Even recognizing the foolishness and untruth of that cognitively does not vanquish the emotional power of that kind of thinking. Learning otherwise - at a deep level - is a slow process. (If you ever come up with an Everyday System for perfectionism, I'm in. I have a collection of strategies, and feel that I've made rather dramatic progress in the last few years... but I do liken it to being a recovering alcoholic, or <fill in the addiction of your choice here>.)

And many of us - not all - struggling with weight issues also struggle with perfectionism-thinking. Which leads to foolishness such as...
- I've blown it anyway, so... (downhill from here)
- It wasn't really a failure, because (insert rationalization here... one of the pitfalls of being intelligent is that you can be really, really good at rationalizations.)

I think the idea of learning to accept failure SO THAT you can also accept success is very powerful (rather a zen quality to it that I like). And learning to accept it as being owned by you, but NOT you is also powerful. I've been working with concepts like "being allowed to be a beginner/learner" and looking at mistakes as learning opportunities, but that only works in some areas of my life. Not in the places where I consider myself "good at this."

But this idea of owning failure is tough for me, and I do need baby-steps toward doing it. Your idea of "basement levels" is very appealing. That will keep me from the first big mistake ("blown it anyway")... and help me toward the second (refusing to own my failures). Because of course, being a mere mortal, I do have them.

Thanks. This is applicable elsewhere in life... and worth of a podcast at some point, I think. The idea of "basement levels" to help with "all or nothing thinking" would work nicely.

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Post by pangelsue » Sat Nov 18, 2006 3:30 pm

Wow, what a good conversation this is! I loved reading it and related to a lot of it. As a recovering perfectionist myself (When I fail as a parent, for at least a day, all I can remember are all my failures as a parent. When I fail at work, I think everyone now sees me as a total failure. I have very few close personal friendships because I am always afraid they will see my feet of clay and reject me.) Sick, I know and like others that wrote here, I have been working on that way of thinking, with and without professional help for many, many years. The passage of years has allowed me to put the parenthood thing somewhat in perspective and my wonderful husband, who is very good at making friends, has helped me through the friendship hurdle. Getting close to retirement, has put the work thing in some perspective as well. That's called the "who cares anymore" way of thinking. LOL. BUT the big one, the one I have never, ever conquered is the diet one. I have given up every diet I was ever on because of all or nothing thinking. This is the first one ever that has lasted beyond the first or second failure. Parenting, friendship, marriage, none of these things have roadmaps to follow. When a failure happens, it is usually a land mine situation. For those of us who overplan everything in our lives to avoid mistakes, these land mines are devastating and we reel long after the bomb goes off, living it and reliving it and trying to make sure it never happens again. (I personally think most post traumatic stress victims are perfectionists.)
And for me, this is the rub with eating and food. Being fat is wearing your failure on the outside where everyone can see it. It is a total and continuing failure, visible to all. To make matters worse, there was a clear roadmap to follow to avoid this failure. This food is good for you, that one isn't. This is success, this is failure. This is allowed, that isn't. Even amounts to eat are roadmapped. So, as a perfectionist, why didn't I follow the roadmap and take this rare oppurtunity to be perfect in this one area of life that has a clear roadmap clearly stating the rules? Because, I am human that's why, and I have a great deal of trouble dealing with the fact that failure is inevitable. If the map is clear, if it is a no brainer and I fail, it must be really be me who is the dunce, the dullard, the idiot who just can't follow even the simplest plan without screwing up. That is how I see it. We are all attracted to new diets because they promise: follow these simple rules and you can't fail. Sounds easy and we get to score one for the perfectionist in us. Whenever I found an interesting new diet, I would immediately picture myself thin and gorgeous and everyone would ask me how I did it. I would tell them and they would be amazed at how in control I was. Never again would I be at a beach or trying on clothes and have some look at me with that "back away from the buffet, lady" look. I'd buy the book, read it from cover to cover, buy all the foods and/or get rid of all the bad foods and start the diet the next day. This time would be the charm. I would be a success and everyone would be able to see it, just by looking at me. A short time later, I'd fail, give up that diet and frantically search for the next one. I am obsessed with getting rid of this very visible failure in my life.
Slowly, very slowly I am accepting the fact that failures and successes are all part of the continuing process to reach my goal. And that the only REAL failure, is giving up all together. Like Reinhard and others have said, acknowledge the failure without becoming the failure. Sounds so easy, but is so hard. So for me, onward armed with basement levels of failure. Level one, funny stuff. (tasting while cooking, nibbling while cleaning up. Level 2 - one all out ceritfiable snack, sugar item. And level 3 -Landmine day complete with loss of limbs and triage. But whether it is level 1,2 or 3, they will still be failures. Undeniable but survivable.
A lot of growing up happens between "it fell" and "I dropped it."

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Post by eschano » Wed Feb 19, 2014 3:12 pm

Wow, another one I just had to bump up. I promise I'll stop but I had a fail yesterday and just needed this and in case someone else here is in my boat - this is an incredibly insightful conversation.
eschano - Vanilla rocks!

July 2012- January 2016
Started again July 2018

clarinetgal
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Post by clarinetgal » Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:28 am

This was a great conversation! I don't have much to add, but one thing you said, KCC, that really hit home for me was about planning your meals. That is something I am starting to work on, because I have found that when I don't plan ahead, it is too easy for me to eat junk and then feel like I need to snack 2 hours later, because I didn't eat a proper meal.

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Post by Jill d » Sat Feb 22, 2014 4:42 am

Thank you for bumping this, eschano! This conversation was *exactly* what I needed to read today, after a major setback of red days this past week.
"A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labour of a spasmodic Hercules." -Anthony Trollope

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Post by eschano » Mon Feb 24, 2014 10:30 am

Hi Jill, I had a similar week so when I found this thread I just loved it :)
To a new start today!
eschano - Vanilla rocks!

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