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Take Your Foot off the Gas, Louise!

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Friday, April 29, 2016

We have reached the 25-year anniversary of that crazy road trip romp, THELMA & LOUISE. (Seriously? 25 years? How freaking old am I anyway?) I really did love the movie (um...that young Brad with the blow-dryer and cowboy hat? What's not to love?). Nevertheless, as I was watching Geena and Susan, two of my fave starlets, talking about it on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, something dawned on me. Maybe I'm just turning into a jaded, crotchety old maid, or maybe I have a new and improved (or at least more mature) state of awareness. Maybe it's just because I'm over the proverbial hill and am fast approaching that cliff myself, as time and mortality would have it. Whatever the reason, I now think very differently about the end of that movie. Before you read further, please take this as a SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't seen it (what planet are you on anyway?), stop here and immediately head to Netflix, Hulu, the local library, or that one movie-nerd friend's giant DVD collection and do so. If you have already seen it, read on, because of course I found a way to relate the movie to our weight issues! Hey, not all of us have Brad-esque six-packs, right?

I used to think of T&L as heroes of sorts, a real girl-power hoorah, bravely plummeting off that cliff, controlling their own destiny, not letting anyone or anything push them around any longer. I no longer feel that way. Today, as I was watching an older and oddly blonde Geena on GMA, it dawned on me that there are some anti-lessons in that movie. As dieters and people in general, we should really not follow suit.

T&L ANTI-LESSON ONE: Just walk away from the loose ends.
Two women are not happy with their lives, but rather than correcting the problems, eliminating them, or resolving them, they simply take off. This is not good advice for life or for dieting. Frankly, I've learned the hard way that the past really does continue showing up, unless you give it the ol' RIP to begin with. Whether it is bad relationships or a bad outlook on life, bad decisions, mistakes, crimes, unethical choices, sabotage, purposeful foolishness, or anything else, running away solves nothing. It is akin to taking an aspirin for a brain injury; it might make you feel better for a minute, but ultimately, it will simply allow the problems to brew and fester while you neglect them for the sake of synthetic, temporary bliss. When it comes to weight control, this is also an issue. I've said much recently about the mental state of weight. If you don't work at getting a handle on negativity, poor self-esteem, low or no self-confidence, nonexistent self-worth, and unhealthy eating habits, your weight-loss efforts will be as temporary as a fling with Brad in a two-bit hotel. Sure, you'll have a few memorable moments, like those good weigh-ins, and you might have a few months or even years of successful maintenance, but in the end, unless you work at the root problems behind your weight problem, you will ultimately find yourself right back where you started--or worse. Running off in a shiny, blue '66 Thunderbird does nothing, because eventually, you're going to run out of gas.

T&L ANTI-LESSON TWO: Facing the music is settling.
Sure, that guy at the bar was a jerk. Sure, the trucker deserved what he got. Sure, the police would have put the chicks through the wringer for a long time, but T&L caused a lot of chaos on their getaway, then ran off like two preschoolers who'd robbed the cookie jar. Instead of admitting their oversteppings and fessing up to their poor judgment, they just kept running. What did this accomplish? Something similar to stirring up a hornet's nest. If you stick your hand in the honey, you're going to get stung. If you keep stirring the honey around, you're going to get stung by a whole army. In weight control, I liken this to the handy-dandy Nutrition Tracker we should all be using. If we gobble up a tablespoon of that honey and don't account for it, a couple of lbs. is gonna chase us down. If we gobble up a bowlful, even more lbs. are going to be on our tails--literally. We must be accountable for what we've done, and we must work to correct it. When it comes to fight or flight, we really need to fight, even if it's fighting to rectify the problems we, ourselves caused. In the end, the scale catches up to us anyway.

T&L ANTI-LESSON THREE: You don't have to change.
"If you always do what you've always done, you will always be where you are." I have said this time and time again, courtesy of my beloved grandpa pounding it into my head, courtesy of his mama pounding it into his. Many people who want to lose weight or make other positive improvements in life seem to struggle with the idea that they can do so without making sacrifices or being flexible. This is not logical, nor is it reasonable, nor is it possible. Do I love candy? Yes. Can I still eat the entire box of Goobers in one sitting? No. Do I hate walking? Yes. Will parking three feet from the Kroger entrance help me burn as many calories as parking clear out at the far end? No. Do I abso-freaking-lutely love McDonalds Filet-O-Fish, to the point where I could eat a whole ocean's worth on a daily basis? Yes. Can I eat those instead of a piece of baked salmon and still maintain my healthy weight? No. If you want to lose weight, you have to be flexible. That may mean 24 Goobers instead of the whole box, if any Goobers at all. It may mean parking all the way out in some Third World country so you force yourself to walk further to get your eggs and toilet paper for the week. It may mean not lovin' it so you don't grow your love handles back. If you want to be thinner than you are right now, or if you want to maintain that healthy weight you worked so hard to achieve, you have to be flexible--and I'm not just talking about on the workout equipment. Sure, that creepy king with the plastic head promises "Your way right away," but if you aren't careful, that kind of thinking may end up making your weigh quite a weigh.

T&L ANTI-LESSON FOUR: Jumping off the cliff is brave.
At the end of the film, the lovely ladies glance in the rear-view mirror and realize they are basically screwed. If they turn themselves in, they will be in heaps of trouble, and there's a chance they might even get shot. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and all those angry hornets are right behind them. The ravine in front of them may look like a choice, and most people cheer them on as they dive over the edge in what appears to be a victorious bout of finally taking control of their own lives. This is the theme of the movie after all, but maybe we shouldn't be so thematic sometimes. Were they really that brave, or was it cowardly? Isn't there some lack of courage in refusing to face the consequences? Isn't there some pathetic-ness in giving up instead of trying? Isn't it sad that that poor Thunderbird had to be smashed on the rocks, just because the so-called heroes decided that ending their lives was better than trying to correct them and make them better? For we dieters, at any point in time, we can look around us at all those Big Macs and muffins and ballpark chili dogs, and we can decide that we should be able to do whatever we want. We can gulp all that down, the edible version of Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff. We can say, "To heck with all this counting nonsense! I'm not gonna settle for 1,200 calories anymore!" The trouble with this sort of flying leap off the wagon is that while we may feel brave and courageous for a moment, we end up a smashed mess on the rocks below. There is nothing pretty about a smashed Thunderbird, and there's no getting it back on the road again either. In life and in weight control, giving up is as far from heroic as you can get, and it will get you nowhere.

I realize many people who read this blog will not agree with me, because the movie was a big hit. I understand that, because it's still one of my favorite movies of all time. I've got nothing against Geena and Susan--and I wouldn't mind being against Brad, in a literal sense (wink-wink). However, like food, lessons are a whole lot more dangerous when they are sugarcoated, so we should pay as much attention to the ones we shouldn't learn as we do to the ones we should. Do not run away from the deep-rooted problems and loose ends that helped you earn your waistline in the first place. Do not live in denial, refusing to account for the mileage you should be confessing to your Nutrition Tracker. And, most of all, do not give up and drive off a cliff or jump off the proverbial wagon. You deserve a sequel at your goal weight and beyond, so be sure not to put too much butter on your popcorn when you watch the movie later!
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