A Parable about a Hidden Force that May Be Keeping You Stuck
The sisters Regret and Guilt look a lot alike but they are very
When Regret makes a mistake she cries, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done
that!” or “Why did I do that?” or “I’m never doing that again!”
But when Guilt makes a mistake she yells, “You idiot, you blew it
again!” or “You are such a loser—what’s the matter with you?” or “You
might as well give up; you’re never going to get it right.”
Regret makes mistakes all the time. She figures that everybody does,
especially when they’re learning something new. Regret doesn’t even
really seem to mind making mistakes because she always learns something
that helps her do things a little differently the next time. She even
laughs at herself and shares her mistakes with others so they’ll learn
too. She doesn’t care that other people sometimes do things better—but
she wants to be the best she can be so she never gives up trying.
Of course, Guilt makes mistakes too but she blames herself
because she believes she should know better. Instead of helping her
learn, her mistakes just prove that she is a bad person and that
something is wrong with her. She is often angry with herself and
sometimes other people. Secretly, she feels unloved and unworthy so with
every mistake she resolves to do things perfectly the next time to
prove to everyone else that she is good enough.
One day, Regret and Guilt agreed that it was time to make some
lifestyle changes. Regret regretted that her energy level was low and
she wasn’t able to do all of the things she wanted. Guilt felt bad
too—guilty that she was “too fat and lazy.”
Like most people, Regret had been on dozens of diets and knew
they just didn’t work for her. She decided that this time she would make
small changes to the way she ate. She started by paying more attention
to her hunger and fullness cues. It sounded simple enough but it wasn’t
as easy as she thought, especially when someone brought donuts to the
office. After two days of eating donuts mid-morning, she realized she
needed to make a plan. She gave herself extra time in the morning to
have breakfast and pack lunch. She also made a list
of other things she could do when the donuts were calling her. She
continually tweaked her plan to figure out what worked the best and
congratulated herself on her small successes.
A few days into it, she had a really stressful day at work and was
thrilled when she remembered that it was her co-worker’s birthday
because that meant cake! She wasn’t hungry but had a piece of the
delicious chocolate cake while she celebrated with her friend…then went
back for another piece after everyone else returned to their desks.
Within an hour she noticed she felt tired and a little sick—but still
stressed out. Regret regretted her decision to have the second piece of
cake—but not the first! She decided that next time she felt stressed she
would take a short walk instead of going back for more.
Guilt liked the idea of using hunger and fullness too—but she had
failed on so many diets that she doubted she would do any better with
this approach. She told herself that this was her last chance to get it
right so every time she felt like eating she made sure she was hungry
first. She felt great because she was doing it perfectly! After a week
of only eating when she was hungry, disaster struck. She had already
eaten most of her lunch at her desk when her boss showed up with cake to
celebrate Secretary’s Day. She had a piece even though she wasn’t
hungry. Within a few minutes she was berating herself for her terrible
mistake, knowing that she had failed at this too. She gave up and went
back for a second piece. She felt so bad about herself that she picked
up a pizza and ice cream on the way home. After all, she couldn’t even
get this right so what was the point?
Although Guilt was well intentioned, her unrealistic expectations and
the shame and blame she heaped on herself were preventing her from
learning, improving, and forgiving herself when she made choices that
didn’t work out well. She even felt guilty for feeling guilty!
She finally asked her sister for help. Regret explained that while
there's always room for improvement, toddlers fall down many times
before becoming proficient at walking. They may cry but they don't feel
ashamed. Instead they get up, make adjustments, and try again. Her
favorite words of wisdom:
- Perfection is not possible--or necessary.
- When you make a mistake, don't miss the lesson.
- Small changes slowly add up to big changes.
Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly!Michelle May, M.D.
Have you taken our Eating Cycle Assessment to find out whether you
typically follow an instinctive
eating cycle, overeating cycle, or restrictive eating cycle?
Am I Hungry? Fall Retreat!
restore, renew, and re-energize! Join us in beautiful Vermont next fall,
October 3-9, 2010 for a one week all-inclusive retreat facilitated by
Michelle May, M.D. You'll experience life-changing workshops, amazing
mindful eating experiences, joyful physical activity, and connection
with others who know exactly how you feel. Mark your calendar because we
will sell out! Details and early registration available soon.
Freedom from your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle
What You Love, Love What You Eat, named Best Health Book
by USA Book Awards, has received high acclaim and is a finalist in
several more book awards to be announced in May. TIME.com listed
it as one of the Top 10 Notable New Diet Books of 2010 (which we thing
is funny since it is actually a how-not-to-diet book). We are
grateful that the message of freedom, self-care, and joy is resonating
with so many people.
Down load the first chapter of Eat What
You Love, Love What You Eat from our website, If
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