Monday, May 3, 2010

Of sin, guilt, redemption and what I ate over the weekend (not necessarily in that order)

Context for this weekend:  My wife was out of town enjoying a girl's weekend in DC, so I was left to my own devices (other than the usual shuttling around of my two daughters).  All choices were mine and mine alone (as it should be!).  So from a healthy life perspective, can I be trusted to make decisions for myself?  When I make decisions, can I handle the moral repercussions?

I was thinking about all of this while reading the Sunday NY Times Magazine, which had a fascinating article about people who track everything in their life with analysis.  They go way beyond diet and exercise, including variables such as mood, number of times they pick their nose, etc.  It was a good reminder to use my recently invented Guilt-o-lator which tracks my guilt levels at different points in time.  It's still a prototype model that is available only in Japan (or, more accurately, only available in my imagination).

BTW, for those interested, here is the article referenced above...

So what were the results as the weekend progressed?

Friday:  I got home a little bit early so I could see my younger daughter give her presentation on Walt Disney (the nice version, not the guy from the McCarthy hearings).  Afterwards, I was working from home.  So how did it go:

Friday afternoon:  little bit of grazing, but I focused on beef jerky (still loving it) and an apple.

Guilt-o-lator reading:  low

Friday night:  sushi.  Good news:  sashimi.  Not so good news:  spicy tuna.

Guilt-o-lator reading:  lowish (might have been higher, but it's a Friday night and I deserve a break)

Saturday workout:  lifted weights (had a great workout)

Guilt-o-lator reading:  erased any bad feelings about spicy tuna

Saturday breakfast:  Special K, banana, 0 fat Greek yogurt, coffee

Guilt-o-lator reading:  very low (except for the bite I took from my daughter's donut -- but it was only 1 bite)

Saturday lunch:  PB&J (on low cal bread), cottage cheese

Guilt-o-lator reading:  low

Saturday afternoon:  began grazing (couldn't tell you exactly what I ate, but hummus & crackers were in the mix)

Guilt-o-lator reading:  rising

Saturday pre-dinner:  my similarly stranded neighbor (his DSW was at a reunion) came over w/ his four kids for a BBQ.  Started with snacks (cheese, salami, crackers) and beer (Bud Select 55 -- 1 POINTS value per pop/nice!).

Guilt-o-lator reading:  rising faster, definitely in the yellow zone

Saturday dinner:  1/2 pound burger + bun, mayonnaise infused salad stuff, grilled vegetables

Guilt-o-lator reading:  in the red zone

After dinner:  kids up to bed, and I'm by myself.  What to do?  Why not have a glass of wine and the rest of the ice cream they didn't eat?

Guilt-o-lator reading (upon waking up next AM):  critical

Sunday AM exercise:  death-by-spinning (seriously, I wonder how many people actually self-combust on their bike when in their 3rd anaerobic cycle).

Guilt-o-lator reading:  back to the red/yellow zone

Sunday breakfast/lunch:  see Saturday

Guilt-o-lator reading:  edging back to the lower side of yellow

Sunday dinner:  grilled scallops and raw bar

Guilt-o-lator reading:  back to the green zone

Overall, Saturday night was far from a brilliant lifestyle performance, but I sandwiched my sin with some more angelic choices before and after.  I felt fairly well redeemed by the end of the weekend, and I'm fairly sure no permanent damage was done.

Bigger question:  is using the guilt-o-lator a good idea?  Logically, I would say that guilt can be a dangerous weapon in evaluating choices that have already been made.  It seems that I should not be dumping negative, self-flagellating thoughts on myself as a general matter of course.  That said, thinking about how I felt about my choices actually helped me course correct fairly quickly.  For example, at dinner Sunday night I turned down the bread basket.  I suspect that feeling a little bad about the Saturday binge helped fortify my defenses for the next day.

I may keep the guilt-o-lator around a little bit longer, and see if it is helpful or whether it permanently damages my soul and mental health.

What is your take on guilt?  And be honest!




  1. I'm a lifetime WW member myself and I live in France. Amazing how we all go through similar experiences, wherever we live, whether we're men or women. I hope you will keep on writing for a long long time! Thanks!

  2. I had a similar guilt-ridden weekend. It started with a +1.5 points over in Friday (I know, so small) but combusted into an all out binge on Saturday and Sunday. I wasn't feeling well, so that fueled the fire.

    For me, I know that the guilt-o-lator would be a bad idea. I have ti erase my brain of negative thoughts after a bad spell. Otherwise it's a continual downward spiral...

  3. I actually posted my feelings of self-pressure and guilt on my blog last night. It seems that being so close to the 100 pound mark had begun to freak me out a little subconsciously. I'm only a few pounds away from that milestone though you wouldn't know it after the way I ate this weekend.

    After spending the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (lots of walking around = awesome, right?) I finished the day off by eating terribly. It's not that my food choices were awful. I just ate more than I should have. Enter guilt. I ended the evening with a gut-wrenching workout, but I know I shouldn't have put myself in that position, period. This has only become an issue for me recently, but I've had enough of it already.

    Today is a new day, and with it has come repentance. I don't like using guilt as a driving force, but it has been fundamental in my choices so far today. And like you, I doubt any permanent damage has been done.

    I know it's important to forgive myself for the weekend in which I was deep in the red. And I'll be prepared to face the consequences when I step on the scale Thursday, but I'll remind myself I'll remind myself to let it go. And until then, I'll just be glad that the guilt has subsided today.

  4. As a Lifetime member since 1999 I still struggle with guilt of poor choices/planning, especially on the weekends.

    I've learned that I can't hang onto the guilt but rather learn from my experience because that slip could easily go into another day, etc. So I forgive myself and move on. The guilt-o-lator for me isn't such a good quickly as you can go "off program" you can get back on. Today was a fresh page in my journal and a renewed sense of motivation to stay on track.

  5. I really liked this post- I think the guilt-o-lator is a decent twist on feelings we all have whenever we make food choices. For me, at least, it's part of the food game. I mean, if you don't use it, that doesn't mean that you don't have it all the time, does it?

    Thanks for this post and good job getting back down into the green. It always feels so much better when I get back "in the green" and back OP.

  6. Ah, so that's what it's called!

    I have also have a clean-o-meter that fluctuates wildly. Sort of like: ah bacon! nitrate free- not too high in calories- fat is better for blood sugar than carbs- meat is bad- vegetarians live longer- gosh this stuff is expensive. Like that.

    Eating is complicated, isn't it?

  7. Having been raised Catholic, I have a complicated relationship with Guilt. I've come to believe that Guilt is not very useful if it's the ONLY thing to come from self-reflection. If you can take it a little further, to Repentance, you can usually get right back on track. "Repentance", after all, means "Re-thinking" or "Re-evaluating", and is an active state, instead of stewing in a vat of stalled-out bad feelings.

  8. I too had a lot to feel guilty about - starting this weekend with a Prayer meeting where everyone outdid themselves with their special dishes and desserts (I was soooo very sinful!) and then Sunday where my folks and I went out for lunch (I did have a WW dish - Applebees) and today was just a mistake where I thought my lunch dish with my girlfriends out was lean but it was high calorie! I did workout in between these but I will need a lot more heavy lifting in the gym to read a "no change" in my weigh in day.

  9. I have been told alot of things about Guilt, being a woman, we have "issues" with guilt- and in my 40 plus years of being alive, I have decided with life comes guilt..and our food should NOT be what we are guilty about TOOO!!!!!! We have plenty "on our plates", so to speak, so whats ACTUALLY on that plate??? don't dwell, don't beat yourself up, Exercise, and Start a new day.....Eat well and Live well my friends!!!

  10. I actually like the idea but if I had it my way would adjust it. Like online when we put in our weights or track our food for the day, it could incorporate the healthy habits... to keep everything in one place. And if we had a gain there could be a quiz or something to find out why we gained and how to do better next time.

  11. Hmmm... "Guilt-O-Lator". I try not to let myself get into a situation where a guiltometer (I prefer this term) gets a hold of me. But in order to hold myself accountable and be successful at changing my diet for the better, I'm guessing I'm going to have to acknowledge the guiltometer. The key will be to not let it get me down and send me running to my favorite fried flounder or bacon-burger for comfort and instead, find comfort in knowing that lapses happen and to get right back on that road towards an improved me.

  12. I think of it not so much as guilt, but self discipline. I know that many times we are too hard on ourselves and beat ourselves up for our bad choices. That is not productive. But we have to be careful of letting ourselves off the hook too easily as well. When I make the less than stellar choices, I discipline myself in some way (always in love of course) but I make myself own up to the consequences... whether it is extra work at the gym or with immediate and corrective food choices.

  13. *I* find the guilt-o-lator to be helpful in tracking my food-related attitudes. Much of what WW has done for me has helped me revamp my mental relationship with food ... and notice that I *have* one! No more eating by accident, pretending I didn't eat that whatever-it-was, etc. Also, the guilt-o-lator helps me pinpoint what *other* emotions might be going on ... and tempting me to emotional eating.

    Hooray for the guilt-o-lator!

  14. I love your guilt-o-meter. I found it to be very humorous but I'm certain that we can all relate. I am going to use this method starting today. Lately, my guilt-o-meter has been in the red but I am working to bring it down. My workouts have been high-intensity lately, causing me to snack more but on non-diet friendly foods. Gotta get back in gear! Thanks for sharing

  15. I like it! A little bit of guilt is a healthy thing that can get you back on track. As long as you don't over do it and beat yourself up with the guilt it is good.

  16. Guilt I am learning is a wasted emotion, and action. It serves no purpose than to cause us to judge ourselves. What I am trying to learn is to see but not evaluate. Takig a non-judgmental stance. Just the facts. Focusing on the what, not the good, not the bad, the terrible or the wonderful -- or in my case the should or should not. I laughed when my therapist said to unglue my opinions from the facts. Accept each moment and acknowledge the helpful and the wholesome but don't judge it. And don't judge my judging:)

    So if I slip I get right back up on the horse because what's done is done. Make sense?

  17. A friend of mine, who owns and operates another weight loss program, says for every one bad (meal, day, or in my case, month) balance it with three good. It works well to keep "guilt" away.

  18. I have made it a personal choice to live without guilt and start living. I hold myself accountable by journaling everything. I live by the golden rules of going to my meetings, reading and rereading the manuals that we are given, keeping active and the feedback I get from Wi. By these methods I have learned that there is anything I want to eat I can eat. I have also learned that sometimes there is a cost, for instance I may need to up my activity a bit, and self talk is it worth it? Most of the time it is, I get extra exercise and a reward. Now the big key here is Do you keep yourself accountable at all times?

  19. There is no "I can'ts" or "I have toos" there is only choosing.

    I think we all have to get out of control every now and then to remember why we choose not to make those choices.

    As your friendly WW leader your right you "should not be dumping negative, self-flagellating thoughts on yourself" - Ditch the Gilt-o-lator but thanks for the story. I love to read your blog.

  20. I actually think a bit of guilt is good for everyone. For me, it has made me stop and re-think choices I'm about to make. If i feel guilty about eating so much (or making bad choices like the frappe I had Sat) thenI'm more aware of what I am eating or doing...

  21. I am a WW leader in Ireland and loved that article. Not sure if I would use it in class, but def going to use it myself to keep in check.

  22. I am an online only WW member, and reading your blog is a perfect substitute for the meetings. I was never a fan of the meetings anyway and your thoughts are so much more motivational than 20 minutes of cheerleading.

    Yes, a little bit of guilt is a good thing. I agree. And if one makes bad choices for a week on end, then maybe a lot of guilt is in order :-)

  23. David, this is great! i loved ur sense of humor during ur guilt meaurments. It really got me thinking about my choices. I personally think its a great tool to use to help you make better choices after a bad night. Just remember that its ok to have a crazy night once in a while just dont over do it:) I hope you doing this:) Thanx

  24. I really like it. Just shows that even at the highest level in ww, you're still human giving in to temptation, and when you do, I laughed at your efforts to undo!

  25. Great post!!! I have a very similar mental sparing match with myself over what goes in.

    Yeah... after that burger I am ready to put my head in an oven. That's the problem... sometimes it is so hard to get past it.

    Thanks! - from your newest reader!

  26. I am sort of in awe of the people who can blithely say that guilt is a "negative" emotion. No. It is NOT, any more than fear is a "negative" emotion. Emotionally healthy people experience fear when it's appropriate to feel afraid, because without it, they could actually be injured or killed. Emotionally healthy people experience guilt when they make a choice they would rather not have made. It's NATURAL. It's part of being a human being. Being "judgmental" of yourself is also known as critical thought, which is actually a life skill and the hallmark of any true thinking person.

    That being said, if someone is not emotionally healthy, that's another story altogether, and yes in that case too much unmanaged guilt can be a negative thing. As someone quite well-versed in the mental health field, it really tells me a lot about someone when they say "all guilt is bad"; among other things, it indicates that their issues go much deeper than their clothing size or a number on the scale.

  27. Gwen Dowden I have been a life time member for over 8yrs. and have been about ten pounds under goal.... so for the last week or so I have totally flipped out! Ate everything I could get my hands on. went to ww this morning and have gained 6 pounds. Now I am so depressed I dont know what to do with my self. I was ashamed to go to ww this morn, I know the feeling you all are feeling. I want to put my head in the oven too! Thanks

  28. Very high guilt the last week. Devastating loss of one i love and drand myself into oblivion, finally got on the scale today, gained 7 lbs in one week. Today was better, got some control back, back to starving myself, helps with the guilt.

  29. I don't do guilt. Actually, the way you describe it seems to be more like the pursuit of balance rather than true guilt. I see guilt as the emotion of "geez I screwed up I'm a bad person, how could I do this, I'm so depressed, I don't deserve to be healthy" etc... I banished true guilt like that long ago. Now, I do have the "hmmm, yep, I ate a burger and fries yesterday so it's a chicken salad today" but I don't feel BAD about the burger, I'm just attempting to have some balance in my life.

    Make any sense? :)