Crossing the Divide

by Anne Bennett on September 5, 2010

When I was in high school I had a boyfriend, Jim, whose parents made him go to a psychiatrist because they thought he had serious anger issues. His parents were so unfair, I thought. They didn’t know him like I did.

But then one afternoon after school he came over to our house in his father’s car. With the engine idling, he pressed on both the brake and the gas pedals at the same time, and laughed at the screeching sound the car made as it struggled to simultaneously stop and go.

The message was loud and clear:  a.) his parents were right; and b.) I should seriously consider telling him that I was busy…uh…for the rest of my life.

Nutty people can teach us valuable life lessons, and I learned one from Jim. There he was, pressing on both pedals at once, in opposition to each other, and not getting anywhere in the process.

I see a lot of people struggle to lose weight only to regain it when they revert back to their old bad habits. It made me wonder: what is so damnably hard about the process? Is it the thought of never getting to eat Doritos again or huge bowls of ice cream at midnight? What makes them act like Jim and keep their feet floored on both the stop and go pedals?

And then a light bulb went off in my head: if you really, really want something, it shouldn’t be that hard.

Case in point: two Weight Watcher members, Ruth and Edgar*, who recently celebrated losing more than 50 pounds each. When asked what got them started, Ruth said, “I bought a scale and when I got on it, I started to cry. I told my husband I just had to do something. I wanted to be there for our children.”

Edgar said to her, “Well, you’re not going to do it alone,” and together they joined Weight Watchers.

Here’s where the life-lesson comes in: once they made the decision to lose weight, there was no looking back. They had crossed the divide from a lifestyle that could eventually kill them to one that would almost certainly prolong their lives. Although each of them has another 50 pounds to lose, they are determined to go the distance. To do this they have decided that any junk food that stands in the way of their success is not only off limits, it’s not even worth considering.

This decision actually made it easier for them, because taking junk food off the table released them from the push/pull confrontation that most dieters struggle with and eventually cave into. There’s no gas-and-brake-pedal pushing here, no impossible white-knuckle struggle to resist Ding Dongs. They are simply not an option. Period. How easy is that?

OK, so perhaps I’m making it sound a tad bit easier than it really is, but you get the idea, don’t you?  One difference between people who succeed and those who don’t is this: successful people don’t fight with themselves. They make a decision, they set ground rules and then they let go.

When you cross that divide, when you stop fighting with yourself, you can actually get somewhere. You go a lot faster with your foot on just one pedal.

*Names changed.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha September 6, 2010 at 10:18 am

Great analogy. You’re so right. When you are ready, it’s not that hard! That has really clicked for me too. This is the first time I remember losing lots of weight that I haven’t binged because I ate something I shouldn’t have.


Michael September 6, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Anne–what a great post. It is true for eating and many other situations.

Sticking with your story, you wrote ” You go a lot faster with your foot on just one pedal.”
I’d add: Be sure your foot is on the right pedal. If you put it on the brake you stay where you are.

My point is that part of the answer is knowing which foods are the “brake” for you. Sure, we all know that junk food is bad, but sometimes you just don’t resist and it can act like a brake to your progress. Lots of things seem to act as a brake.

I think it is important to do an inventory and know ahead of time what foods, situations and people act stop your progress. As with driving, you can always move your foot to the other pedal and move on.

Jody G. January 19, 2012 at 1:21 am

Extraordinary post, Anne. If I could just get out of my own way, I’d be in business. And also, why do I keep forgetting this and having to relearn it? Very frustrating. Thanks so much for your wisdom!

Kathleen September 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

As you said last night, off the table.
You be talkin this way a long time.
I think I’m gettin it

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