Will Power, Failure and Blame

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Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:42 pm

Pretty simple question coming from the post yesterday. Over the years, I have tried any number of things (within healthy boundaries) to lose weight. I exercise, I eat far better than many of my peers, I calorie count, I research and tweak, and I still don't lose weight.

I still it said everywhere that if you're not losing weight, you are to blame. "Calories in, calories out." That if you're not losing weight, you are some kind of freak of science, or you're a liar.

This reminds me of parts of "Bright-Sided." The author talked about how Americans in particular are very self-responsibility biased, almost to the point of absurdity; you can't find a job in an economy that's tanked? You aren't looking hard enough, you didn't study the right things! You can't lose weight? You're doing something wrong. It's as if "boot strapping" is the only way through life, and things like luck or systematic advantages are just non existent.

These messages really, really get to me. Like I said in my thread yesterday, when I am doing absolutely everything in my power short of starving myself/plastic surgery and still not losing weight, it hurts enough. But when people insist that I must be either doing something wrong, lying, or a scientific freak, I don't know how to emotionally process that, short of locking myself in my bathroom forever.

Is it ever okay to blame failure on something you maybe can't control? Is it ever okay to not take responsibility or blame for something you feel is beyond your ability?
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by Werel on Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:03 pm

Man, this is sort of echoes of Aggrax's thread, and I'd say the same thing in both cases: sometimes it's actually not your fault, and it's not that you're not trying hard enough. Because there ARE actually things in this world beyond your control, and some people (and yeah, you're onto something about it being an especially American problem) lose sight of that-- sometimes to unhealthy degrees. You don't have to listen to those people. Would you keep punching a concrete wall over and over because everyone around you is saying "just punch harder!", or would you at some point look at your broken and bloodied hand and say "gosh, I'd better accept that this wall's existence is beyond my control before I lose all use of my fingers"?

In your case, it may be that you're currently just at the weight your body's optimized for. Your body prefers that weight, even if you don't, and it's going to work damn hard to get its way. It might actually be a concrete wall. So: would you feel better or worse if you really, truly accepted the idea that it is beyond your power to change your body in this way?
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by reboundstudent on Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:15 pm

Werel wrote:Man, this is sort of echoes of Aggrax's thread, and I'd say the same thing in both cases: sometimes it's actually not your fault, and it's not that you're not trying hard enough. Because there ARE actually things in this world beyond your control, and some people (and yeah, you're onto something about it being an especially American problem) lose sight of that-- sometimes to unhealthy degrees. You don't have to listen to those people. Would you keep punching a concrete wall over and over because everyone around you is saying "just punch harder!", or would you at some point look at your broken and bloodied hand and say "gosh, I'd better accept that this wall's existence is beyond my control before I lose all use of my fingers"?

I feel like there is an entire page of TVTropes dedicated to this very idea. "I can break this concrete wall if I try hard enough!" One of the most infuriating conversations I've ever had was with a guy in my martial arts class. He kept insisting he "could" fly, he just "hadn't figured out how yet." "No," I'd said," Humans are not built for flight naturally without machines or modifications." "Nope," he insisted," I just need to transcend my limitations." Me, finally reaching the end of my rope," Oh you mean like your bones?"

Werel wrote:
In your case, it may be that you're currently just at the weight your body's optimized for. Your body prefers that weight, even if you don't, and it's going to work damn hard to get its way. It might actually be a concrete wall. So: would you feel better or worse if you really, truly accepted the idea that it is beyond your power to change your body in this way?

I sort of, kind of have. Like nowadays I look down at the scale and just sort of shrug. The only time it really stings is when other people won't accept it, and so use it as an excuse to ever bludgeon me ("Well no wonder guys aren't attracted to you, you're fat and therefore lazy, you're not even trying to get skinny and thus be attractive for men!") or shame me ("You clearly don't care about your health/your appearance, so I'm not going to take anything you say about your dating experiences seriously.")

It's more like I need to accept that other people are never going to accept me. But short of slicing off the part of my brain that craves social inclusion and acceptance, I have no idea how to achieve this.
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by Mel on Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:38 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
It's more like I need to accept that other people are never going to accept me. But short of slicing off the part of my brain that craves social inclusion and acceptance, I have no idea how to achieve this.

I think your best chance is more strictly controlling which people you spend any significant amount of time around/listening to. Obviously not everyone is going to refuse to accept that you can't lose weight--lots of people in this forum take you at your word, for example. So seek out those people who understand that people have limitations and don't shame them for them, and when you run into people who don't understand, spend as little time around them as possible. If there are some people who'll include and accept you, who needs the unreasonable people?

(For example, may I suggest staying away from Reddit, at least on certain topics? It sounds like every conversation you have there around dating/appearance/attraction ends in frustration, so why bother with them? There are lots of other places on the internet that are less harsh and judgmental.)
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:55 pm

reboundstudent wrote:....

It's more like I need to accept that other people are never going to accept me. But short of slicing off the part of my brain that craves social inclusion and acceptance, I have no idea how to achieve this.

That right there is the key. Sometimes you just need to accept that others are not going to accept you because of inherent quality X. So the key is to identify those people and stop trying to gain their acceptance, stop asking their opinions, etc.

Now the extra special difficult thing about doing this is giving up on acceptance from many, even the majority of, members of a group whose acceptance is highly valued by you or your society/culture or confers social/cultural value. It is learning how to say "I do not care what the people that do not accept me think" and actually mean it.

Easy to say, not so easy to do, but it can be done with enough time.
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by StrangePanda on Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:35 am

ReboundStudent, I am very sorry you're hearing these messages! I did give up on being as skinny as I would like to without falling into very close to eating disorders. Women from my familly have this particular body shape - heavy hips and legs, puffy arms, and a tummy. It's not obese but it's definitely not skinny. I  also inherited my mad tallness from my father so I look very big and weigh a lot. When I  was actively working out I ended up being more like a Viking Lady (not muscles, but not slender either..).  Yeah, sure, I can maybe become lightweight as a feather but at what cost? Feeding myself two apples and an egg a day?

It has  little to do with not trying enough. I have known two girls who eat junk food and literally never work out and they're skinny like models but with conventionally big enough boobs and butt. There are dozens of guys I know at school who eat three times more than I do, and yet they're not fat. I know a guy who does lifting a lot and is incredibly strong (hey, he is the only one who can lift me!), but you'd never say that if you saw him for the first time. There is one of my friends who is a large "Viking Lady" herself and trust me she's doing very big efforts but not much weightloss except for a few pounds a year and she hates herself for it.

I think  the real things that count is that when we work out and eat healthy, we have more chances at being skinny in comparison to when we don't. But it's not absolute 100% chances. It's great for your health if you try to be more active instead of just sitting there and doing nothing. It can help you relax and vent your emotions. But it's not a magical formula for losing as much weight as we want. Just think about it, if it really was a magical "calories in, calories out", do you think we'd have this big weightloss industry?

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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:17 am

reboundstudent wrote:This reminds me of parts of "Bright-Sided." The author talked about how Americans in particular are very self-responsibility biased, almost to the point of absurdity; you can't find a job in an economy that's tanked? You aren't looking hard enough, you didn't study the right things! You can't lose weight? You're doing something wrong. It's as if "boot strapping" is the only way through life, and things like luck or systematic advantages are just non existent.

After almost an entire year I am done with my job search. I have a job. I expect it to be a really good job, actually.

But in that year I was applying to jobs almost nonstop. I was almost-not-quite-perfect for most of the jobs. I pestered people. I called and talked and met with people and I hate doing pretty much all of those things.

Which is to say, I spent almost an entire year hearing family and the occasional friend ask me how the job search was going. How many jobs had I applied for lately? How about this one, or that one? Did I really feel like I was doing everything I could?

I worked with a few recruiters, too. They asked the same questions. After a few months of not getting hired, they started asking in more worried tones. This is a fast-moving job market, they said. Five/six/eight months is a long time to go without a job in this field, they said. They wanted to know how I was staying current. They warned me that the HR people at tech companies would be wondering if I was truly as desirable as implied by the skills and work experience listed on my resume, given that nobody else had hired me in X months.

I got a fair number of interviews. Most of these were with companies I didn't actually like all that much, for jobs I was actually nowhere near qualified for. I have absolutely no idea why they wanted to interview me; my feedback, when I got any, was that they thought I interviewed really well and I seemed extraordinarily competent and honest, but they had decided I just didn't come with the existing knowledge they were looking for. One said they might have been willing to hire me except that they couldn't afford to match the salary I used to make. I did not get a chance to say, hold on, I don't care; I promise I won't tell anyone how little you're paying me. Several of these businesses informed me that they'd be holding on to my contact info in case something else opened up that was closer to my level. I figure they probably say those kinds of things to everyone, but it's meant to be encouraging.

Now I'm finally a few weeks away from starting a new job, and it has almost nothing to do with my year's worth of efforts to find one. I was simply recommended for the position by a close friend. Am I going to kick all kinds of ass at this job? Absolutely. But it also helps that I was the only candidate they ever considered. I can't make my own luck, but sometimes nepotism does it for me.

And so I have lived through a year of failure, rescued from the tail end of it only by a miraculous confluence of sheer chance and the charity and mercy of others. A year of essentially being blamed and judged for that failure. Yet...somehow I've always been far more optimistic about that area of my life than other areas, and I think there are a few particular factors that helped mitigate the self-hatred here. First: I knew for a fact I wasn't just going to the wrong people, and that "not even trying" wasn't a problem I was having. I had an exact tally of the jobs I was applying to, and it was never a small number. Second: I knew I wasn't actually "not good enough". I know my work ethic. I know the quality of the work I've done, and the amount of time I spend on it. I know which things I do fast, and which things I put in extra hours for in order to finish on time. Third: there was a small but significant fraction of people within my friend-group that completely understood what the current job market is like, no matter what "career" you're getting into, and was willing to occasionally offer a few words of unsolicited support or sympathy.

I don't know if any of those are the kinds of things you can really seek out when it comes to the other parts of life we're all supposed to bootstraps!! ourselves through. (Maybe the third—"build a community" seems to be a popular answer to a lot of problems we end up discussing here, actually—but it's also much easier said than done, even if it ends up being worth the trouble.) I do think that without those extra helping-things in place, I probably would have despaired of finding fulfilling work a long time ago. And I think that according to the American cultural narrative, I have ultimately learned all the "wrong" lessons.

I've learned that playing "fairly" under the system gets you nowhere; you will not be treated fairly and you will not be given a real chance. I've learned that self-reliance and self-acceptance count for nothing when what you need (in this case, income) can only come from outside sources. (Absolutely no way I was gonna be approved for a "small business loan" with my family's outstanding debts, even if that was something I wanted to do.) I've affirmed (not really "learned") that failure is nobody's choice; that you can be the best you can be and try your absolute hardest and still never see a payoff. I've learned that sometimes the outcome really does make you happier than the journey. This new part of my life is not hard-earned—or, for that matter, earned at all—but I'm gladder to be here than I was to not be.

The revolution, incidentally, will not be televised.
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Re: Will Power, Failure and Blame

Post by Caffeinated on Sun May 03, 2015 4:24 pm

I saw this article today and was reminded of this discussion. http://news.discovery.com/human/health/why-some-lose-more-weight-from-exercise-150501.htm

Women in the study who had certain genetic markers gained weight after following a strength-training regimen for a year, whereas women who didn’t have those markers lost weight after following the same regimen, researchers said.
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