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The most common complaint I hear from dysregulated eaters is that they’re not becoming “normal” eaters fast enough. Their frustration and disappointment are due to misunderstanding what the learning process is all about. It is explained beautifully in How to Keep Learning All Your Life, which also offers a prescription for finding happiness and satisfaction at every stage of life.
Authors Robin Abrahams and Boris Groysberg describe a key component to learning: “Experiences of mastery teach people that they can learn, that the initial state of helplessness or confusion in the face of a new challenge will dissipate and be replaced by competence. A healthy learning environment, therefore, provides plentiful and diverse opportunities for people to experience mastery.”
They add that such an environment includes, “safety to fail. No one achieves mastery—at crawling, coding or anything else—without some initial awkwardness. Learning inevitably involves getting it wrong, taking too long, forgetting key things, making poor choices. . . If these experiences are punished or made shameful, learning will be impeded . . . An environment that promotes learning is one that destigmatizes and even celebrates the mistakes that come from learning or worthwhile experimentation.”
I cannot stress the importance of valuing that learning means going from no skill or understanding, to greater skill or understanding, to mastery. No one escapes this process. There’s not a one of you who cannot learn how to learn. The major reasons you don’t follow the process through to “normal” eating is that you fail to comprehend that it is a process, have difficulty tolerating the frustration of going from helpless to empowered, and are unwilling to delay gratification until you’ve reached your goals.
An excellent predictor of whether or not you value the learning process, can tolerate frustration, and are willing to delay gratification comes from your upbringing. If your parents were impatient with themselves or you, you will likely be impatient with yourself. If they were impulsive and unable to wait for rewards, it’s probable that you’ll be that way as well. If they came down hard on themselves for mistakes, you likely will too. If they struggled alone, avoiding asking for help, you’ll probably follow in their footsteps.
It is only when you value the entire learning process—from not knowing to knowing—that you will succeed at becoming a “normal” eater. So, stop looking ahead and stay in the present, practice self-compassion and patience, and feel pride in the smallest accomplishment. You’ll succeed if you value the process as much as the goal.
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