Why We Don’t Do What We’re Supposed to Do


When my son was little, I read Aesop’s Fables to him over and over again. We loved them.

Our favorite was called, “Belling the Cat.”

The story is about a bunch of mice who are tired of being terrorized by a vicious cat.

They decide that the best way to deal with their problem is to put a bell around the cat’s neck, so they can hear it coming and run away.

They are thrilled with their idea until one of the mice asks, “But who will put the bell around the cat’s neck?”

Lots of suggestions sound good, until it’s time to actually do them.

You might read WLS articles and think some of the ideas about how to improve your WLS program are pretty good. You might even want to try some of the ideas, but then the time comes and you realize you are not going to try them.

You realize “the cat” (the scary thing you know you should do) is too big, and besides you don’t have the strength and courage to put that bell on him.

Why is it so hard to do what needs to be done?

So many WLS patients want desperately to do well. We don’t want to be obese anymore, or suffer the shame and self loathing that come with this disease.

But we also have a very hard time doing what we know will help us. This is because we are in a comfort zone that we don’t want to leave.

Any change is scary. Even good change.

So, instead of taking the risk of making a change that will help us in the long run, we focus on how hard or scary or uncomfortable it is in the short run.

Or we don’t think about the change at all, and accept what is — even with all it’s horrors.

Leaving your comfort zone is worth the effort.

While it’s uncomfortable stepping out of your comfort zone to “bell your cat,” ultimately, it will be a wonderful gift you’ve given yourself.

To get out of your comfort zone, and get a handle on your big, furry problem, you can do several things:

1) Visualize “belling the cat.” By going over the change you want to make in your mind, you can prepare yourself for real-life change. Athletes visualize their competitions and improve their performance. You can apply this tool to your own challenges. Even draw a picture of it.

2) Role play. If you need to set limits with someone (like asking someone to hide from your view the candy they have been keeping on their desk) and you are uncomfortable doing that, practice by role playing. Find a safe person (me, for example 🙂 who can help you work through what you want to say and how you want to say it.

3) Practice by getting out of your comfort zone in small ways, before you make big changes. For example, make a few small changes in your eating behavior, like asking for the salad dressing on the side, or choosing unrefined carbs at mealtime, or putting about half as much half and half in your coffee.

4) Get enough sleep. Honestly, everything is much more difficult if you’re tired. This is one of the biggest problems people have, and the most underestimated in its impact on your life.

5) Reach out. Obesity and eating compulsively are such sources of shame for people, it’s easy to isolate yourself and feel alone in your struggle. But, the people most likely to get out of their comfort zone and overcome their eating problem find some person or group to lean on for support.

6) Track something. As an observer, not a judge, track something to get a better understanding of your current patterns. Just note how much water you have over the course of a day, or how often you walk into the kitchen to browse. Just notice and record it.

One of my son’s favorite exchanges in “An American Tale,” the animated movie about mice who triumph over cats, is:

“Are we men or are we mice?”

The crowd of mice yells: “We’re mice and proud of it!”

But you, my friend, are not a mouse. Don’t let the big cat scare you so much you don’t get out of your comfort zone.

Get out there and bell your cat!