Shortsightedness as a Barrier to Weight Loss, Writing Productivity and Other Goals

Shortsightedness is a hallmark of addictive behavior: the classic image of an addict is someone who can’t see past her immediate need for a fix, and who will sacrifice anyone or anything to get it. One of the primary aims of my weight loss efforts was to learn to defuse the urgency I often felt around food. And one of the big lessons I learned was that the food itself is almost beside the point: the root of the problem was the urgency. This was true even for the foods I craved most. (I’m talking about you, pasta!)

You probably are at least semi-aware of this, if you’ve ever pondered how it can be possible to go from anxiously craving a food with your whole soul to being wholly indifferent to it, in just a matter of moments after you’ve eaten it.

In his excellent book Breaking Addiction, Lance Dodes writes: “The drive in addictive behavior is rage at helplessness. It is this particular kind of rage that gives addiction its most conspicuous characteristics of intensity and loss of control.” His reference to helplessness syncs with our understanding of procrastination as disempowerment. Remember: disempowerment means you’re not missing willpower, discipline, or commitment; you’re just constrained from using that which you have. (Dis-empowered, get it?) Understand and remediate the sources of disempowerment in your life and work, and your joyful productivity will “automagically” return.

Note also his reference to “rage,” which syncs with the rebellion form of procrastination, as in, “Why am I stuck dieting when everyone else is having cake? Screw it, I’m gonna have a piece.” (Variant: “Why am I stuck indoors writing when everyone else is out having a good time. Screw it, I’m going out.”) The other form of procrastination is helplessness, where you just give up and don’t even try to pursue your goal.

Shortsightedness robs perfectionists of perspective and proportion.
For a perfectionist, life is one big, all-encompassing, hyper-judgmental “now.” If a perfectionist stays on her diet during a meal (or has a “good” writing session), she feels relieved and reprieved, but if she doesn’t, she feels hopeless and doomed—all overblown emotions, given the circumstances; and it doesn’t even matter whether she successfully stayed on her diet for a week, month, or year before the lapse. Of course, this lack of perspective and proportion demoralizes and demotivates her.

Shortsightedness also causes perfectionists to have trouble learning from their own and others’ experiences, and to have difficulty planning and executing long-term strategies.

Take all of the above—lack of perspective, lack of proportion, inability to learn, inability to plan—and you’ll see that shortsightedness robs perfectionists of insight and wisdom. Like perfectionism as a whole, it is a constricted, limiting viewpoint.

I’m not contradicting myself, by the way, when I say that, on the one hand, you should focus on the moment-by-moment process of losing weight rather than the overarching goal, and, on the other, that you should take the long view. We live in the moment, and the moment is where we should be. But you should approach that moment with a wise long-term perspective. You can develop such a perspective by becoming nonperfectionist around your food and eating using these techniques and some others I’ll be discussing shortly, and the more nonperfectionist you become the less anxious and shortsighted you’ll be as a result.

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