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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!

The Stories we Tell – Ourselves

Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, has said that often the reasons why people fail to reach their goals is not a matter of willpower but a product of a kind of magical thinking – we search for and find what she terms “loopholes”, justifications that offer us an excuse for failing to act or to change in any particular situation.

But, Rubin says, when we spot the loophole, we can try to reject the desire to let ourselves off the hook: “I know it’s not easy. I use loopholes myself!”

Here are a few of Rubin’s top loopholes; perhaps some of them sound familiar to you.

1. False choice loophole: Putting two unrelated choices side by side and assuming that you can only have one or the other.

Example: “I’ve been too busy with work projects to prepare healthy food.”

Remedy: Instead of thinking “I can have this or that in my life”, ask yourself, “How can I have this and that in my life”.

2. Moral licensing loophole: Telling yourself that it’s okay because you’ve been “so good”.

Example: ”I ran two miles, so I deserve a cookie.”

Remedy: Make your actions, and your goal, part of your identity. Remember that choosing certain actions is about commitment to your underlying goals, not about being “good” or “bad.” With regards to healthier eating and more exercise, think of them both as independent steps that you have to take to achieve your weight management goals. They are not different sides of a scale but steps on a journey.

3. Tomorrow loophole: Telling yourself that it’s okay to not work on your goal today, because you’ll do it tomorrow.

Example: “It doesn’t matter if I spend (or eat) too much in December, because I’ll really cut back my spending (or eating) in January.“

Remedy: Be aware that overindulging today doesn’t make it any easier to cut back tomorrow.

4. Lack-of-control loophole: Telling yourself that you can’t control yourself or your choices.

Example: “I can’t help myself – when I go into that store I just have to have one of their….(chocolate truffles, muffins, loaded baked potatoes – you name it).”

Remedy: Accept that there are some things you truly cannot control – like the weather. Face the fact that there are many things that you can control – like what you put into your mouth.

5. Planning-to-fail loophole: making a series of seemingly innocent decisions that allow you to bring about circumstances that you are unable to avoid. Instead of avoiding temptation, you expose yourself to it.

Example: “I’ll just check my email quickly before I go to the gym … oops, I don’t know where the time went, but now I don’t have time to go to the gym, after all.” Or, “I’m not going to eat anything more tonight, but I’ll go into the kitchen and look in the freezer. I’m just curious.”

Remedy: Avoid temptation, rather than exposing yourself to it.

I’ll discuss more of Rubin’s “loopholes” in a future post.


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With your continued health in mind,

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.

Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management

Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.