The Difference Between Self-Discipline and Self-Abuse

It goes without saying that losing weight requires self-discipline. In fact, as most of us have probably heard our parents say, achieving anything worth-while requires self-discipline. What does self-discipline look like?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 6 years old. When it comes to learning a musical instrument, self-discipline means sitting down to practice every single day even when you REALLY don’t want to and would rather be playing with friends. It means saying “this is worth the sacrifice of a few hours of play because it is important to me!” (Actually, when you’re 6 years old, it means your parents saying “you are going to sit down and practice because I said so”… but that’s a different story.)

I also used to take Tae-Kwon-Do in elementary school. Martial arts are all about self-discipline! In Tae-Kwon-Do, self-discipline meant control of your entire self: emotions, body, mind. It meant saying “I can break this board if I just believe in myself and practice the skills that my instructor has taught me.” (And also if I don’t aim directly at the knot in the board, ‘cus knots don’t break very easily!)

In middle school, I played basketball. Like any sport, it required a lot of self-discipline, and our coaches tried to help motivate us as well.

I once had a basketball coach who believed in motivation through degradation. The first time my coach yelled at me for screwing up, I beat myself up about it for over a week. I cried. I hated on myself.

My dad told me that this was a method used commonly on boys’ sports teams. But, I didn’t understand. He explained to me that when my coach yelled at me for messing up and told me how badly I’d just messed up, he was hoping that it would pump me up more and make me want to do better!

When it comes to the self-discipline of weight loss, I sometimes tend towards that coach’s methods when trying to bolster my self-control. The problem with that type of self-discipline, though, is that it leaves me feeling like a failure instead of feeling empowered.

“You are too fat for this cake, self! Fat you doesn’t deserve cake! Why don’t you just stop eating, fatty?”

That isn’t self-discipline; that is self-abuse. And, just like when my coach yelled at me for messing up, this type of inner self-degradation only leads me to feeling like a complete and total failure.

But losing weight DOES require sacrifice, discipline, and self-control. In the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to learn how to turn my self-abuse into self-discipline. I try to identify self-abuse by asking myself two simple questions before really harping on an “inner thought:”

  1. Does it empower me?
  2. Would I say it to someone else?

If it doesn’t empower me and I wouldn’t say it to someone else, then chances are it’s not something that I should be saying to myself. So, I try to think of the empowering version to motivate myself.

“No cake this time, self, but you can bring a piece home and plan for it tomorrow when you have the points.” (Weight Watchers Points, that is.)

This thought empowers me and does not leave me feeling hopeless or like I can’t do anything right. The immediate physical outcome is the same: I still don’t eat the cake. But, the total result is very different: I don’t go home and binge on cake because I hate myself so much and feel that I can never lose weight or be successful anyway.


That leaves me Points for stealing my boyfriend’s pizza! 😉


I felt like I had just one more thing to say…

As I’ve said about a million times on here, the hardest part of this journey has been learning to love myself. Degrading myself into starvation has been my method time and time again in the past. Yes, it makes me lose weight. Yes, it is faster than following Weight Watchers. But, if I lose weight rapidly, but degrade myself into action in order to achieve the weight loss, what have I really achieved?

I would rather love myself at 200 pounds than hate myself at 120.

I Can’t Because I’m Fat

It’s amazing what I think I can’t do. Even more amazing is why I think I can’t do things: 9 times out of 10…it’s because of my weight. I’ve spent most of my life missing out on things in an attempt to avoid embarrassment or judgment. I’ve spent a lot of my life not even trying for things because I truly thought that some things were just impossible for someone who looked like me. As I’ve grown up, I’ve begun to ask myself how much my weight really prevents me from doing… how many times have I said “I can’t” without even trying?

When I was a teenager in high school, I really wanted to go on a date with a boy. But I told myself it was impossible because I was too fat for any boy to like me.

Everyone pestered me about my clothes in my teenage years. I wanted to like clothes and shopping like other girls. But I thought I was too fat for anything pretty, and clothing shopping was torturous. I wore mostly t-shirts and jeans.


I wanted to play the lead role in a play. “But I can’t!” I told myself constantly. “They’ll never pick me! I’m not good enough…I’m fat.” I never even tried out for the lead roles.

(Music Man ~ 2004ish)

I wanted to learn how to dance, but I thought that I couldn’t ever dance because I was fat. Nobody even knows that I wanted to learn dance! I never told anyone… I didn’t want them to laugh at me.

I wanted to try out for American Idol! Even if I didn’t make it, I still wanted to try out! I told myself I would as soon as I was thin enough. I told myself I was too fat to make it through auditions; they’d laugh at me for even trying.

I wanted to go to a club and dance with some random people… let loose and be young. But I’ve never even been to a club… I never went because I knew…just KNEW… that I’d be the fattest one there, and nobody would ever want to dance with me.

I wanted to go hang out at a bar or someplace with some friends, get hit on by a stranger, have someone buy me a drink! Instead, I stayed in every night and pushed my friends away. I told myself I was too fat for anyone to want to flirt with me.

When I grew older and wanted to have an actual long-term boyfriend who loved me, I told myself that it wouldn’t happen until I wasn’t fat anymore. I should be grateful for whatever affection I got…right?

I wanted to ride horses again after college, but the first place that I looked had a 200-pound weight limit. I stopped looking altogether. After all, it said right there in black and white that I couldn’t ride because of my weight. In my mind, this reinforced everything I’d always believed about the things that I couldn’t do because I was fat.

(Horseback riding outfit right before I started riding again in 2011)

The truth is that I could’ve done every single one of these things at any time in my life regardless of my weight. The only reason I couldn’t was because I never tried! I’ll never forget the very first time I saw an ad for sky diving and was like “I could do that!…oh my gosh, I could actually do that!” It was the very first time that my first thought was “I can” and not “I can’t.” Will I ever go sky diving? Uhm, we’ll come back to that after I confront my horrendous fear of heights. But, I have, at least, started doing other things that I always could’ve done. And guess what…I didn’t wait until my goal weight to start trying!

Which brings me to my very last can’t…

The biggest “I can’t” of them all has been constantly telling myself that I couldn’t lose weight in a healthy way and maintain that loss. This is one of those “can’ts” that the world tries to reinforce. But, just like with all of these other “I can’ts,” the truth is that I can if I just dedicate myself to trying; in fact, I already have.


 (Hahaha…this picture is from a year and a half ago…but I couldn’t resist!!)

My Current Struggle With the Scale (& with myself)

My goal weight is 135 pounds. I am almost 5’6’’, and 135 pounds is a healthy weight for me, but that is not why my goal weight is 135.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve really needed to confront my weight goals and the thoughts associated with them. It’s funny… as much as I remind myself that those numbers are just numbers, I still struggle daily with the lies I tell myself about what those numbers really mean.

200. Someone once told me that if I weighed less than 200 pounds, I was not fat. Can you guess what my brain has done with that tidbit? Originally, when I first dropped below 200, I was ecstatic! It’s a huge milestone, of course. Now that 200 is well in my past, getting anywhere near it causes me to absolutely tear myself to shreds. The moment I hit 190, I Freak. Out.

Seeing 190 on the scale immediately equates to the scale opening some very well-hidden mouth and saying to me “hey, Lisa…you’re now a worthless, un-loveable failure!” 190 freaks me out.

145. This is where I used to be. This is the absolute lowest weight I have ever attained since I reached maturity. I was 16 when I weighed 145, and I think (now) that I looked darn good back then.

(Pic of me in a play during High School…I actually don’t know how much I weighed in this picture)

In truth, I feel that 145 should be my goal weight. 145 looks good on me and is something I feel I can maintain for the long term, but 145 is not my goal weight because I have a very messed up relationship with numbers on scales.

135. Someone very important in my life once told me that 135 would be a perfect weight for me. Of course, what I heard and seem to still believe is that 135 will make me perfect.

Hello, big silly lie that I tell myself. I’m pretty sure weighing 135 is not going to make me perfect. But why can’t I get my heart to understand that? Something inside of me is screaming to get to 135

because this person never believed that I could…

because this person wasn’t able to love me at 145…

because I was never able to be good enough to reach it.

Wait a minute! Aren’t goals supposed to be something you set for YOURSELF? Aren’t they supposed to be something I want to achieve for ME? Not for anyone else! Isn’t that what I’ve talked about over and over on here?

I’ve talked on here so strongly about how these numbers shouldn’t equate to worth, but every time I think I’ve leapt that hurdle for good, I find another one right in front of me waiting to trip me up. Even now…writing this…I’m going to be honest with you: I’m not ready to give up on 135. Even while I’m confessing to you that my goal should NOT be 135 because setting my goal at 135 gives this past person and the number on a scale too much power, I can’t bring myself to change the goal.

But I will…eventually. Just like my head seems aware that the number doesn’t equate to worth, my head has also accepted that my goal should be 140-145. I really, truly hope that soon I can leap over this really daunting hurdle and love myself enough to change my goal.

Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Gain

Sometimes, I don’t feel very inspired. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere in this weight loss journey. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve stalled out, screwed up, gone backwards, and will never get to my goal. This is one of those times.


I haven’t been very dedicated for the past couple of weeks. I didn’t feel like tracking points (the Weight Watchers system) while out with friends; I didn’t feel like saying no to cake at another birthday celebration; and I didn’t feel like choosing a salad instead of a burger when eating out. While most of my posts thus far have been about the mental and emotional struggles I’ve had on this journey, the truth is that sometimes…it’s really just as simple as the food in front of me. Sometimes, I want a big piece of cake more than I want a loss on the scale.


So, the scale has crept up over the past couple of weeks. The good news is that it hasn’t crept up 60 pounds! It’s only crept up about 4 pounds. During times like these, I try to remind myself that 4 pounds is not 60, and that I can definitely recover from my back tracking.


I also (confession time) haven’t gone to an official weigh in at my Weight Watchers center in 2 weeks. It can be rather difficult to let someone else weigh me when I know I’m going to have a gain. It embarrasses me and makes me question what they think of me. But, ultimately, I know that every single person at that Weight Watchers center has had a week (or 2) like mine. All of us have gained weight! Weight loss journeys as big as this one are not as simple as loss after loss each week. In fact, if I never had gains, I think I’d be far less likely to keep the weight off!


The only way to keep this weight off permanently is to learn how to handle all kinds of different situations, including gaining and maintaining. When I’ve tried other systems in the past, I’ve always given up as soon as I stopped losing for a couple of weeks. Why? Because drinking Slim Fast twice a day and NOT losing weight is so not worth the struggle. Cutting out all carbs and NOT losing weight is absolutely not worth the will power for me. But, with something as livable as Weight Watchers, following the plan and not losing isn’t a crisis. I truly feel that if I were to stop losing right at my current weight and NEVER lose anything more, I would still stay on Weight Watchers.


This plan has gotten me so far… no other plan has ever gotten me this far. The idea that I can actually eat 3 meals a day and not starve while also losing weight or even just maintaining completely boggles my mind. So, I have no losses to report this week. I’m up about 4 pounds. Guess what…


I still haven’t failed 🙂


And I promise to go weigh in at my center this Saturday!

(Congratulations to my mom, who graduated this weekend with her second Master’s Degree! YAY MOM!)

What Losing Weight Won’t Do

Why do you want to lose weight? Anyone who has ever started a weight loss journey has probably had to answer that question. What will losing weight mean? What will it change? How will things in my life be improved?

For me, these questions have had many different answers throughout my life. When I was younger, I wanted to lose weight because someone told me that I should. Eventually, I wanted to lose weight because I would look better, it would make me happier, and I would feel better about myself if I lost the weight. I wanted to be good enough; I wanted to be happy.

Take a look at this picture of me and my dad:

This is a picture of me when I was 16 years old. I had lost 40 pounds and weighed in at 145; I am almost 5’6’’, so 145 is a healthy weight for me. I wore a comfortable size 9, and I had lowered my cholesterol to a healthy level. We were on a family vacation to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

I still thought I was fat.

I still thought I wasn’t good enough.

I still wore long sleeves and jeans even in the hot Dominican climate because I didn’t think I looked good enough; I was still embarrassed about my body. Heck, I’m wearing shorts over my bathing suit to hide my thighs!

I remember walking along these beautiful pathways at our resort in the Caribbean night breeze still worrying that I’d always be alone…and still thinking that if I just were thinner, a boy might like me. I worried about the things I ate on this trip; I was embarrassed to be seen eating ice cream from the free ice cream bar, because I just KNEW that people were thinking “that girl would be thin if she just didn’t eat things like that!”

Pictures from this time in my life have forced me to confront my reasons for losing weight. There is no denying that at that time, I had already lost the weight; I was at a solid, healthy weight. But, losing weight didn’t give me what I was looking for. Losing weight did not solve everything for me. In fact, there are many things that losing weight won’t ever do for me.

Losing weight will never make me good enough. There is nothing about my appearance that could ever determine whether or not I am good enough for anything or anyone.

(That’s my great grandma; the most “good enough” person I know) 🙂

Losing weight will never give me a healthy relationship with food. It will not make food into JUST food for me; it will not make me into someone who has never struggled with my weight. My relationship with food must be addressed outside of my weight loss.

Losing weight will not make me beautiful.

I was beautiful already; I just couldn’t see it. And no amount of weight loss will make me see it until I can believe it is possible for me to be beautiful.

Losing weight will not fix the turmoil in my relationships. I cannot control things in life that are beyond my control just by losing weight (or trying to become perfect).

And losing weight will never make me perfect.

Losing weight will not make someone love me if they didn’t already love me.

Losing weight will not protect me from loneliness, heart break, or disappointment in my life.

Losing weight will not make me happy… because so many other things determine my happiness.

So, why do I want to lose weight? What will it change?

The accepted answer is that losing weight will make me healthier, and that is true. I have seen drastic changes in my health as I have lost weight. I do want to lose weight and be healthier in order to give my children a good chance of a healthy start at life…and to hopefully keep myself here for as long as they need me.

But, to be honest, at this point in my weight loss journey, losing weight has edged out of the “big picture” as I have addressed all of the above issues in my life and developed healthy relationships with food, my body, and myself.

As I have accepted what losing weight will NOT do, I have started looking outside of food (and weight) for my answers and solutions, and that has made all the difference.

(God forbid I not finish with SOME sort of goofy picture! …I’m running out of these, guys)