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A Big Weight-Loss Challenge is Your Conflicting Feelings

Posted Oct 28 2010 2:00am

Women who want to lose weight often are ambivalent about doing so. They have conflicting positive and negative thoughts and feelings about what it takes to lose weight.

Having mixed feelings is nothing new. We all have mixed feelings. Often we can solve our mixed feelings quite nicely. We see how we feel and what we think on balance.

Ambivalence is not just having mixed feelings; it is a horse of a different color. When we are ambivalent, there is no easy answer. We don’t decide and then move forward. We are in conflict with ourselves: we want to and we don’t want to; so we can’t.

Take the case of a woman who is ambivalent about starting her diet. What’s causing the ambivalence? There is any number of possibilities. Here are two:

  • She wants to lose weight, very much so. In fact, she is eager. She has had too many bad experiences being overweight: feeling uncomfortable, looking fat, being seen as unattractive, being warned by her doctor, not being taken seriously. On the other hand, food has been her life for so long. She turns to it for comfort. She is a great cook, and she loves to make good food for others. She doesn’t want to give all this up. So, this woman sits on the fence.
  • This same woman doesn’t want to fail, and so she doesn’t start. Her logic, although she hasn’t thought of it like this, is that if she doesn’t try, she won’t fail. This way of thinking is her way of being. In other words, even her thoughts about experiencing failure are defended against, and kept out of her awareness by a pattern of behaviors designed to avoid and minimize any and all opportunity for failing.

The first cause of this woman’s ambivalence is one in which she lays out the advantages and disadvantages of starting to diet. Despite her delay, despite her difficulty in taking action, she is providing herself with the facts needed to eventually make an informed decision.

The second cause of ambivalence is going to be much harder to resolve than the first. There is too little information for the woman to use to break through the ambivalence. And she wants to keep it this way.

How are you dealing with your ambivalence? What do you know about it? What can you learn about it? The more you know, the easier it is to turn ambivalence into the kind of mixed feelings you can weigh out and come up with a course of action for.


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