Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Failure Redefined

Last night, I set out to make a beautiful citrus pound cake to bring into work today for my Tuesday Kitchen Adventures post.  However, the oven seems to have turned my hard work (and money) into a loaf of dry, slightly charred pound cake. Oops. Oh well, I guess I can use this example to lead me into something I've been thinking about writing for a while now.

Great Expectations
When we undertake a task, as humans we want to succeed. We greatly desire a successful outcome to anything we do. And yet, we live in a world where a successful outcome is not guaranteed and simply wanting something doesn't make it happen. In the case of weight loss, mine in particular, I wanted with a fierce desperation to be lean and healthy for many years.  The desire I had was not tempered with a measure of reality and belief. I would construct intricate plans that left no wiggle room and in my heart, I didn't truly believe I could ever lose the weight permanently. Each time I failed, I would immediately forgo any attempts at eating healthy and just wallow in self-pity with a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby. It was quite the defeatist attitude. At many points over the last 8 years, I expected more of myself than I was willing to commit and wasn't self-aware enough to realize that beating myself up over a failure serves absolutely no purpose.

The average person makes approximately 250 decisions about food a day. I used to make one bad decision and be stricken with regret and guilt. I'd let those feelings steer me to continue making bad choices because I thought, "What's the point?" In 2009, I signed up for a contract on Stickk and realized that one bad decision wasn't worth scrapping the whole day, especially not when a week's worth of bad food decisions could actually cost me money.  It helped me redefine my vision of food failure and start the long (and continuing) process of forgiving myself for not making the best choice in any given food situation.

Forgiveness at maintenance is a trickier topic to tackle and is an ongoing process. As I've written about earlier, sometimes (see: The Curious Case of the Chocolate Chips) I still slip up and eat something that I shouldn't. However, I now stop and think about what caused me to take that particular action instead of berating myself.  Sometimes it's meaningful and other times the answer is that I simply waited too long between meals. Ultimately I just pick myself up, dust myself off and make better choices for the rest of the day.

When life gives you lemons...
It's unrealistic to expect that you'll always make great food decisions, so you should make the best of a bad choice if it's unavoidable. If you can't avoid eating french fries and a hamburger, then eat them and enjoy them. Savor every single bite, don't rush the experience and eat slowly. Be mentally present in the process of eating, don't just scarf down your food.

You're probably wondering how I'm planning to save the partially failed pound cake by now. I'll cut off all the burnt bits and cut the interior into cubes, toast them in the oven and make a bread pudding. It's not really a failure at all when you redefine the initial goal.