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Ever wonder why some people succeed in overcoming their eating problems and others don’t? Ever question why people you know have changed their behavior around food while you’re still struggling? Thanks to a posting on Linda Moran’s Diet Survivors message board at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors, there’s evidence which points to at least one major key to success: the concept of effortful study.
In a July 2006 Scientific American article entitled “The Expert Mind,” Philip E. Ross writes about effortful study—“tackling challenges that lie just beyond one’s competence”—and explains what has been learned about achievement through the study of chess masters: success comes from motivation and practice. Contrary to general opinion, it is not due primarily to native ability or luck, although they may play a part in any endeavor. Instead, Ross concludes that, “Motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability in the development of expertise,” pointing out that “success builds on success.”
This conclusion is exactly what I know to be true from 30 years of working with people who have eating and weight problems. The folks who succeed are single-minded in their determination to do so and won’t stop until they reach their goals. They don’t focus on what’s hard, but persevere through adversity. You’ve read my thoughts on this subject before, but I can’t say it often enough. Yes, it matters that you’re genetically predisposed to having weight or eating problems, yes, it matters that you’ve suffered through a traumatic or damaging childhood which wreaked havoc on your neuro-biochemistry and stress management system, yes, it matters that your life is full of tragedy or stress due to poor choice or unfortunate circumstance.
However, this article maintains that all these things are not as significant as motivation and practice in reaching goals. I’ve had clients who’ve had fairly decent childhoods get and stay stuck in their eating problems, while others with horrendous histories have kept on truckin’ til they got where they wanted to go, not just around food, but in other areas of their lives as well. So, again, it boils down to why you want to change and in doing new behavior over and over, which means doing everything in your power—whatever it takes—to heal your eating problems. If you get side-tracked by the unfairness of life, refuse to let go of a victim mentality, or would rather lament than learn, you’re not going to get there. Instead, it’s important to acknowledge your frustration and hopelessness, then replace them with determination and the will to keep on striving
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