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Escaping entrapment of entitlements

“Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus

If you’ve read prior columns, you know that since losing 60+ pounds, I’ve worked to keep the weight off. Sometimes I’m successful, other times I regress, but always I continue.



Of necessity, I’ve been forced to analyze thoughts that trigger a breakdown in my efforts to stay fit. Almost always, the breakdown follows thoughts about entitlement.

When the voice in my head expresses a thought beginning with “I’m entitled to …” I’ve learned to listen up. Because they are both subtle and appealing, thoughts about entitlements are especially difficult to self-manage.




Here’s how mine work:

I exercise consistently and eat what I should during the week. Friday night rolls around. Spontaneously, the thought occurs, “Gee, I’ve been so conscientious, I’m entitled to some leeway tonight.” Before the kitchen closes for the evening, I’ve undone a week’s work.

Obviously, my body’s chemistry isn’t affected by notions of entitlement. It only knows if more calories are consumed than burned, extra ones are stored and numbers on the scale go up.

When I see people dining out, enjoying cocktails and fabulous desserts, I say: “Hey! What about me? Aren’t I entitled to these pleasures?”

Convinced of my right to treat myself as well as others treat themselves, I slip and fall, entangled in a trap of my own making. Or I’ve exercised regularly and am going on a trip.

“I’m entitled to take a break while I travel,” I think. Meanwhile, my body – paying no attention whatsoever to my thoughts – still needs daily exercise even on vacation.

When I return, I feel entitled to a few days of rest before I resume exercise. Ensnared by entitlements, I’ve now jeopardized the habit of daily exercise I worked so hard to establish.

Listening to others makes me realize that the sense of entitlement ambushes them, as well.

“I have a medical problem,” the person says, “so I have to take it easy.” Or, “I have a demanding job and a family to raise. When I have a free moment, the last thing I want is to work out!”

What these people are really saying is that “Because of a medical condition, I’m entitled to ignore my body’s need for exercise.” Or, “Because I work hard, I’m entitled to rest.”

Another favorite: “Sure, I’m thicker around the waist now, but I’m older.” The underlying assumption is that by virtue of graying hair, we’re entitled to gain weight and get out of shape.

Like mine, their body chemistry isn’t fooled by the rights and entitlements so carefully monitored and meted out. Their bodies don’t listen to them any more than mine does to me. Instead, as entitlements increase, so do numbers on the bathroom scale.

The dissonance between what the body needs vs. what the person feels entitled to is hard to measure. I’d hazard a guess, though, that the greater the dissonance, the greater the problem with fitness. Conversely, where there is little dissonance, fitness issues disappear.

To escape the snare of entitlements, I’m trying two strategies. First, I give my undivided attention to thoughts of entitlement when they occur. Instead of letting the notion pass unchallenged, I consciously examine it. Much of the time, the thought is simply a bogus excuse for doing something I want to do and know isn’t in my best interest.

Secondly, if I’m to succeed long term, I have to replace unhealthy entitlements with ones that serve me better, the first being, “My body is entitled to responsible stewardship.” The second: “I’m entitled to choose what I will eat and how much I will exercise.”

Freedom to make choices does not, however, come with a guarantee that wise choices will be made. Instead, freedom only gives us the chance to be better.

ooo

Carole Carson is a fitness and nutrition advocate from Nevada City. E-mail her at beltink@earthlink.net or write her at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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