Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pareto Principle

Do you know what the Pareto Principle is? This is something very fundamental that we teach students in my field. Basically, it says that 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your situations (or more generally, k% of your problems are caused by 100-k% of your situations). I am finding that this is so true on the WL/life change front.

This week we had a very not great weather week. School was cancelled 3 of the 5 days, and the roads were impassable. Friday I decided to work from home as the roads were still not good and nothing I needed to do required me to be at the office. Hence, I was stuck in the house almost all week.

During this time, I gained 8 lbs. EIGHT FREAKING POUNDS!!

It is funny. Sometimes I really think I've got the whole healthy living thing down. It feels easy and natural. I can go to a party, have lots of unhealthy choices, and have thought about how I am going to handle it, and make the choices I am comfortable with -- either a calculated splurge, or making the best choices available to me. I feel like a rock star.

Other times, such as this snowstorm and Christmas break, not so much. These uncommon (and/or unplanned) situations fall into the 20%(or less) of situations which cause me 80% of the damage on my WL/healthiness journey. I wonder "Why?"

Well, four days of not leaving the house will leave a girl with plenty of time to ponder such questions. Here are the things I can think of.
  1. Feeling trapped and cold makes me crave comfort food. I tell you, I really don't even keep anything unhealthy or trigger-food-ish in my house. However, during the break I found a way to eat unhealthy stuff. I made pecan sandies and pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting. Sure enough, I ate the whole freaking batch each time I made something. This was no small task, actually. Finding stuff to make required me to spend a significant amount of time browsing allrecipes for something that was simultaneously delicious (and unhealthy) sounding, and that I had all of the ingredients for which was quite tough given my very limited supply of unhealthy stuff (I think sugar and butter are probably the "worst" thing around). Sigh. I guess we can call that a "premeditated binge" and a case of "old habits die so hard".
  2. The idle mind is the devil's playground. Without the usual routine and distractions, it left me plenty of time to do what I wanted -- and to think about what I wanted. More often than not, that was food. Sigh.
  3. Willpower can only carry you so far. I find that when I talk myself up for something, I can usually last 24-48 hours. I was good on tracking and drinking water for the first day of the snowstorm. After that, it was significantly downhill. I find the same thing on vacation. After the expiration of the 24 hour willpower window, I basically do what I want. Sometimes that is the "right" thing. Sometimes, it's not (see bullet one).
Yes, the Pareto principle. While I am so proud of myself and convinced to maintain the changes and healthy decisions I typically make in day to day life, I find that I want to continue to change my life and move to the 90-10% or 95-5% rule. I am glad that many of my routines involve making the right choices, but if I want to truly be tranformed I need to find a better way to manage the atypical situations and circumstances that are still tough for me.

It is great that, per the title of my blog, I'm realizing that food doesn't define me about 80% of the time. The truth is, though, that I don't want food to define me, ever. I want to define me and not be captive to food. I'm not there yet.

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