Comparing Behaviors

Doing what I do for a living is immensely gratifying. Most patients that struggle with weight & eating behaviors and have a genuine desire to improve them. It’s amazing to watch these people transform as they gain control over this part of their life that has eluded them for so long. It’s not always easy and every day isn’t perfect – but the powerful drive to learn and change and adapt and improve does amazing things for people. 

Once we clear up all of the misinformation about nutrition that has been bouncing around in our heads, we get to start tackling all of our dysfunctional eating habits and thoughts that we have with food.  And this is a big one, folks.  It takes some digging in and self-reflection.  

I love tackling questions like, “how can I handle…?” Or “what do you think I could do differently next time… happens?”  When people are willing to be vulnerable and accept help, they become brave – and allow themselves to improve and grow. The journey through weight loss and health improvement is unique and filled with obstacles. I get it. I really do. 

I’m working on identifying which of my patients are going to truly make lasting changes in their eating behaviors and weight and who is in for a struggle. I don’t have it down yet (wouldn’t that be nice!!), but there are a few obvious red flags.  When patients start talking in terms of comparative behaviors rather than focusing on their own behaviors, it tells me that someone is doing a lot more justification than improvement. Participating in comparative behaviors (in this context) means saying things like:

“At least I don’t eat fast food”

“At least I don’t eat artificial sweeteners”

“At least I eat whole grain bread instead of white bread”

“At least“

“At least”

“At least”

The underlying assumption buried in these statements is that the person saying them is somehow better than others because they don’t participate in behaviors that they feel are especially deserving of excess weight.  

Along that same line, we have other toxic statements like:

“At least I’m not as heavy as my neighbor”

“At least my kids don’t have excess weight like my coworker”

“At least I’ve never considered bariatric surgery”

Comparing ourselves to others rarely (if ever) helps us improve ourselves. Especially when we deliberately seek out comparisons that are “worse off” than we are. We can always find someone whose actions or situations make ours look pretty good. However, searching for those people and comparing ourselves to them does absolutely nothing to improve our own situation. If we want to improve our own health and weight and behaviors, we need to take a raw, honest look at ourselves and determine what we can do better. 

It’s tough stuff.  No one really enjoys dismantling their own actions and choices and analyzing them.  No one really wants to step out of their comfort zone and go against the grain.  We all like to be comfortable in our day to day actions.  However, in order to get control of something as long-standing as our eating habits and relationship with food, we have to do it.  If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will keep getting the results we have always gotten.  

If you are constantly comparing rather than self-analyzing, maybe it’s time to change that internal dialogue!

Until next time…

be strong – be healthy – be happy

Courtney Younglove, M.D.