That first day You, The Hero, beat the dragon, You and The Master cheered over the accomplishment. But The Master never again went with You to conquer The Dragon. Conquering The Dragon Alone was the new the task for The Hero.
[A quick aside to remember: you, the reader, (not You, The Hero) might actually be in a different place on your path than the Expert stage, so remember the distinction between you, the reader, and You, The Hero, as you, the reader, learns about the ranks on the way to learning how to lose weight through Weight Loss Mastery. Clear as mud? Ok, let’s dive in…]
That first time The Dragon won shocked The Hero. And The Dragon seized the opportunity to lay a foundation to win again and again in the future.
The Dragon Doesn’t Play Fair
“You didn’t expect I would win? I’m surprised The Master never warned you that I just let you win that first time. I’m much, much stronger than you are, you know,” The Dragon’s voice was sultry, and full of authority. “I am The Dragon, after all.”
The Hero tried to wear a brave face, but couldn’t mask the fear and shock at the loss. The Dragon laughed condescendingly in response to The Hero’s attempt at being strong, further undermining The Hero’s defenses.
“Here’s what you’re going to do now,” The Dragon’s laughter stopped, harshly. And The Dragon’s voice became as sharp as a sword. “You’re going to pick up those two buckets over there. And carry them back to your Master as evidence of your failure. Then, you must carry them back to me the next time we meet – or else.”
The Hero didn’t dare stick around to find out what Or Else meant. Slinging the buckets over each arm, began the trek back to The Master. The slimy contents of Shame and Guilt splashed as The Hero walked. The contents of the bucket thoroughly mixed together, and covered The Hero.
Along the way, The Hero passed A Tinker’s Wagon, with dazzling bottles filled with potions and tinctures. Painted on the side of the colorful wooden wagon were slogans like “Get Results Quick!” and “Overnight Success” and “Guaranteed to Beat the Dragon!” This interested The Hero.
“Do you have anything to make these lighter?” The Hero called to The Tinker, opening the small leather pouch hanging beside the sword on their belt.
“Drink this, and not only will those buckets be lighter, you’ll be able to fly!” In exchange for everything in the hero’s wallet, The Tinker happily handed over The Elixir. It was a small bottle with mystical blue liquid softly glowing inside. There was a small tag hanging off the top of the bottle. The tiny embossed writing requiring The Hero squint to read it.
“This product is Guaranteed only so long as The User believes in the product. Disbelief that it will work will cause the product not to work, voiding the warranty. No refunds for Products with voided warranty.”
The Hero made a determination to believe, and then guzzled The Elixir, the taste of blueberry cake flooding the senses.
Immediately, The Hero upchucked everything, blue liquid staining the front of The Hero’s tunic. The Hero took stock of the day’s failures – adding “not believing enough” to the list. The Hero didn’t even get the chance to fly! There was nothing left, but to return to The Master. And so, The Hero resumed the journey. Still carrying the two buckets, but with a lighter wallet and a stained tunic.
Shame and Guilt, when mixed together, are a recipe for Anger. It nearly bubbled out of both buckets by the time The Hero made it to The Master. The Master waited patiently at the gate, sketching the scenery.
Are You Ok?
“I worried you’d never return,” The Master’s concern etched into their forehead wrinkles.
“I have failed,” The Hero, lip quivering, the acidic smell of cooked anger and blueberry elixir wafting like cheap perfume.
“Yes, I can see that.” The Master was nonplussed, and watched The Hero quietly. The Hero waited for more explanation, beratement, or at least instruction on what to do next, but nothing else came. The pressure of silence felt painful, like that moment just before the can of biscuit dough finally pops. The anticipation of an explosion large enough to decimate a house building within The Hero’s soul.
The Blame Game
“You’re a terrible Master! Why didn’t you tell me The Dragon was so much stronger than I am? I can’t do this! I’m not ready, and you didn’t prepare me!” The Hero cried, The Anger bubbling furiously.
“And what’s the blue stuff?” asked The Master, head cocked to the side, finger pointing to The Hero’s tunic. This caused The Hero to try to throw their arms into the air. But as they still held the buckets, only succeeding in sloshing more shame, guilt, and bubbling anger everywhere.
“You know what, if you’re so smart, tell me how to fix this! I have no money, and now I have to carry these buckets all the way back to The Dragon tomorrow. And by the time I get there I’m not going to be strong enough to beat The Dragon… again! You are sure some scam artist. That Dragon is too strong for me! I am just wasting my time!” The Hero lashed out, fueled by the bubbling Anger caused by the Shame and Guilt. “I’m out of here!”
Set Down Your Emotion
“Ok,” The Master nodded, still calm and quiet. “But first, leave those buckets here.”
“What?” That caught The Hero off guard, spinning back to face The Master, and nearly losing balance and dropping everything. “I can’t.”
“Why not?” The Master asked, still eyeing the blue stuff splattered over The Hero suspiciously.
“Well, b-because… The Dragon. I mean, I can put them down now. But when I go face The Dragon again, I have to bring them with me, or else!” Panic crept slowly onto The Hero’s face, not realizing The Dragon was winning before the next battle even began.
“Or else what?” The Master poked The Hero’s tunic with the sketch pencil, disgusted at the weird rubbery texture. “And what is this?”
Get Distance From The Emotion
“Or else… I don’t know, but it’ll be bad. And that’s The Elixir. That will help me to beat The Dragon. Oh, and carry these buckets,” The Hero did finally set down the shame and guilt buckets. But only so that The Hero’s hands were free to set firmly on their hips. The Master took a few steps away, causing The Hero to follow, stomping petulantly like a child. The Master took a few more steps, and again, The Hero followed.
“Ah, yes… The Elixir.” The Master kept walking, but just seemed to be strolling around without any real purpose. “And what did it do for you?”
“Well, I mean, it just made me sick. But if I’d been able to keep it down, it would have helped me beat the dragon. The buckets wouldn’t have been so heavy, AND it said I could fly,” The Hero trailed off. The words carried different weight when said aloud. The Hero coughed, clearing a froggy throat. The Hero looked around, not feeling Anger, Shame, or Guilt any longer. “So, I didn’t have to carry those buckets all the way here, I take it?”
“And I don’t have to carry them back to The Dragon, again, do I?” The Hero picked at the blue stain on the front of the tunic.
“Do you think The Elixir could have made me fly, just, like, a little bit?”
“No, but that would’ve been pretty cool,” The Master said, glancing over at the birds perched in a nearby tree.
Challenge 1: Put down the buckets
Shame and guilt attach themselves to perceived failures like dog hair on black pants. One of the “secrets” of mastery is letting the dragon win, when appropriate. Giving in to a craving now and again is not a terrible thing. As long as The Occasional doesn’t snowball into The Normal. You have to beat The Dragon many, many times before you’re ready to allow The Dragon a win. Because he is a sneaky beast and will take a mile if given an inch. Part of the process is proving to yourself that you can decide when The Dragon wins and loses.
For example, I do not eat more than a tiny bite of ice cream – Ever. The most I’ve ever allowed myself is two or three actual spoonful’s in the last 5 years. Some might think I am a nut. Others will understand that The Dragon knows that this food can cause me to lose control. I’m not here to get in the way of my own understanding of how to lose weight. So, instead of ice cream every night, I do other things, like my self-care evening routine. I do not miss ice cream. Yet, thirty years of habit is hard to break.
More importantly, the feelings I have associated with having a bowl of ice cream is hard to re-train my brain, spirit, and body away from, and that starts with identifying what having a bowl of ice cream does for me in the short-term. That way, I can associate those feelings with other, non-food related things, like my self-care routine, that give my body, spirit, and mind the same pleasure signals that the ice cream used to do.
But I can never allow myself again to attach negative feelings, like shame and guilt, to an action that is imperative to keeping me alive, like eating. That is how we get into disordered eating, like food addiction and binge eating. And surprisingly, it’s how we get out, by removing the inappropriate attachment of feelings from the act of eating food.
Drop The Buckets To Beat The Dragon
The reason I use the phrase “Beating the Dragon” when I am talking about a food related behavior is so that in my mind I am making a conscious choice to win at an action today that isn’t directly related back to food. When I am in weight-loss mode, I am still not even obsessing about food, because food is not worth spending my emotion or my superhero power of focus (also called obsession) on in that way, I am more focused on “Did I do the thing or did I not to the thing?”
Because, when I attach emotion to food, that means I am handing over way more power than I actually want to or am consciously even aware that I am doing. When I attach my emotion to food, that means that ANYTIME I feel that attached emotion during the day, my brain automatically thinks of the food that I have most associated that feeling to in the past. This is how I would end up eating out at fast food four, five, or six times a day, without really having much control over it, and wondering why I was so fat and so broke at the end of every month. This is not how to lose weight.
When we associate our feelings of failure to something abstract, like Beating the Dragon, we can cut the ties to making good food choices from our personal worthiness. When we screw up and eat a whole package of cookies, our entire day isn’t shot, because we have the next opportunity to Beat the Dragon again, instead of thinking of the shame and guilt of our failure from eating an entire package of cookies. The shame and guilt from that failure only fuels the next failure, because – look, I’ve already screwed up, and my whole day is shot. No. That’s the Dragon winning all his future battles with you, and making you think it’s your fault.
Food Does Not Equal Love
This is also true of HAPPY feelings, like content or love. When we attach our feelings of worthiness or love to a particular food, we will attempt to reach those emotions through eating. So, when in the depths of despair, how would I try to get out? Eat everything, of course, until I felt better. When I felt anxious, eat! if I felt lonely, eat! When I felt bored, eat! I tried to eat my way out of my sadness… and found myself in a new place – morbid obesity.
You have the strength to conquer The Dragon – if not this round, then the next. You just have to know that each episode is a separate individual episode, not a compounding choice fueled by shame and guilt. Just because you lost it this time and drank the soda, you can still Beat the Dragon the next time you are faced with an eating or drinking option IN THE SAME MINUTE, HOUR, OR DAY as long as you stop carrying the buckets from your last failure.
Challenge 2: Focus like Gandalf The Grey
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”Gandalf The Grey
(The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien, 1954)
The Expert level Rank is achieved when The Hero has learned The Basics, and can repeat all of them from memory because they are LIVING The Basics every single day, no longer by choice but by habit.
They integrate “What They Should Be Doing” with “What They Are Doing” so effortlessly, that it is one and the same. An expert martial artist is captivating to watch, because their movements are so fluid and unconsciously effortless, that it looks like a dance instead of a series of limited basic movements. The expert painter takes 3 primary colors and create myriad eye candy in mixtures of shades we never knew could exist. An expert musician takes 8 notes on a scale and make your skin react in goosebumps and your eyes well in tears. And The Expert in weight loss can decide to lose weight and go from a clothing size Large to a size Medium without noticeable dietary change or extreme efforts of physical exercise.
It is harder to pull The Expert from their path. Experts can spot fraudsters, scammers, and grifters easily, because those predatory folks only live in the world of The Novice and The Competent. They appeal to the Heroes in in the lower ranks with their “Get Results Quick” and “Overnight Success” schemes.
You Are A Target
The Novice doesn’t really know The Basics, so doesn’t understand that mastery is made up of a series of a handful of simple steps, that only get more complicated as they advance in knowledge. Heroes should only ever pay for the more advanced knowledge – not the basic stuff – that stuff is FREE, laid down by other Masters who understand the importance of getting on the right path and then getting The Basics of how to lose weight right.
The Novice’s ignorance makes them a target – I would have to raise my hand multiple times to account for the number of scams I’ve fallen for on my way to mastery. No Hero should feel dumb or less-than because they also fell for the same scams, we’ve all been there, too. In fact, falling for a scam can help identify future scams, so if it’s happened to you, think of it as a painfully expensive lesson on the way to mastery once you’ve realized you’re ensnared.
The Competent can get discouraged if they feel they are not advancing fast enough, or seeing the results in the timeframe they have allowed for their mastery. They may turn away from the path toward The Fraudster out of a frustrated attempt to make the process move faster, handing over hard earned resources for things they already know, and ironically, stalling their journey.
Hubris reminds The Hero, in this form of scam artistry, that this mirror twin must be defeated over and over again, frequently and in different forms – just like The Dragon. In this case, Hubris takes the form of “Overnight Success” or “Guaranteed Fast Results” when on the path to mastery, because The Hero thinks they can cheat the system or “Use This One Trick” or get “The Secret to…” But these gimmicks are flashy Basics, lipstick on a pig or a polished Turd, to get The Hero, an easy mark, to part with their resources. Only the resources of Dedication, Repetition, and Time spent on The Basics will truly achieve lasting results.
When The Competent understands The Basics so well that they successfully achieve results consistently, they get a little bored. Just like they did when they graduated from The Novice to The Competent. When this happens, The Competent should seek peers with whom to talk, trade advice and experiences, and bounce new ideas against. If The Competent can hold on to The Basics with an iron grip, and understand that when in doubt they must go Back to Basics while they are collaborating with others, then The Competent advances to The Expert Rank. If not, there is no knowing where they will be swept off to.
Challenge 3: The Grass is Always Greener
Collaboration with others to increase learning is a step in Mastery that usually occurs as The Competent advances closer to The Expert Rank. But Collaboration and Comparison are not the same, not even close. There is real danger in comparison, because when you compare, you forget who you are actually in competition with – Yourself. Remember back in The Novice stage, when The Mirror Twin stood first to block the path and then to push The Hero backward? As with The Dragon, The Hero must conquer Hubris again and again. He takes many different forms to try to trick The Hero, and is a legend of disguise. In this challenge, Hubris tries some reverse psychology to make The Hero leave the path they are working on and jump to another path, making them a novice all over again.
I don’t know why Hubris hates us all so much, but man… I really hate that guy back.
Anyway, the collaboration stage can either propel The Hero to the level of Expert, or mire The Hero in the muck. By competing with another person, by trying to lose more weight than they do, or to be prettier or more accomplished or to have more followers or whatever… The Hero has lost sight of their own path. They are now focused on someone else’s path, and where you end up going is not going to be where you were wanting to go in the first place. You’ll no longer be focused on how to lose weight, for sure.
The Grass Isn’t Greener
The grass you can only worry about is your own. Is it greener now than it was before? That’s all that matters, not is it greener than anyone else’s.
When you start competing with yourself only, then you can really start to track growth and make change.
I think it’s the real reason everyone (myself included) just has this real hatred of the BMI metrics. It’s so unfair to be compared! But now, the metrics don’t bother me. It’s only a number to track how much progress I’ve made on my own awesomeness, not something to track my awesomeness itself.
Remember that the grass is always greener where you water it and use fertilizer – yes, good can come from bad. You can never go live in someone else’s yard, their yard is theirs’s, and the accomplishments or failures are theirs’s, too. You can’t really piggyback off someone else’s success. All you can do is see how they are using The Basics to the best advantage so you can learn how to do that for yourself.
This is your journey – there are no do-overs, only do betters. Remember that.
Challenge 4: Always Be AWESOME at the Little Things
Repetition over Time can only equal mastery, but mastery itself does not make you A Master. Good Mastery or Bad Mastery depends on the technique you use, and what actually are your definitions of Good and Bad. 2020 was an odd year for critical thinkers, as one of the foundations of logic is that the definition of words we use to communicate abstract thought cannot change. There were many who “Challenged Accepted” definitions in 2020, and I’m not here to debate whether that was Good or Bad. I just need to point out that it’s not a new thing for scammers or grifters to, in defense of their argument or lifestyle, change the definition of an acceptable concept in order to prove their flawed logic. These are fallacies at work, and understanding and being able to identify them is another topic for another day.
So, for an example from my own life, after 30 years of poor coping mechanisms and an unhealthy relationship to food, I became an Expert of Food Addiction. I could hide my habits, lie to myself and others, and unconsciously make the necessary choices that would always lead me back to food. I never made it to the mastery level of how to lose weight, where I taught others to glorify my unhealthy path (Fat Positivity Instagram Influencers come to mind immediately) and I thank God for that now, though I cursed Him plenty when I was trying to go down that path and kept getting blocked.
We Don’t Wake Up Skinny Immediately
What you need to understand today, is that when you work on The Basics, you need to focus on getting them right the majority of the time. Your goal will likely be to lose weight. But how I met my big goal, of 167 lbs of weight loss in a year, was not done overnight. It wasn’t like that episode of Dr. Who where the Adipose jumped off everyone’s body while they were sleeping. The most extreme weight loss is done a little bit at a time, but with consistency. That’s true of all amazing things that humans accomplish. But in our little pocket of lifetime, we expect the overnight fix, or to wake up skinny tomorrow when we started eating healthy today. Do the Small Good things every time you are faced with choice, and you will wake up skinny, just maybe not tomorrow.
Find the small action you are really good at doing, like always buying cheese sticks so you have them in the fridge for snacking. Then Rock Out at that action. Become a Pro at it, and then add more small actions, like always drinking water before you eat to make sure you’re actually hungry and not just thirsty.
Challenge 3: Letting The Dragon Win
If you ever find yourself in a moment of addiction, and you have a flash of sobriety, you can choose to keep losing or to start winning the battle. Sometimes, to be completely honest, I DO choose to keep losing because I like it, for some reason or another. Weirdly, that’s the addict part of me, and She is strong sometimes, and letting her take over is something I’ll work on for the rest of my life. As long as I’m not in a dangerous moment or my actions are not going to place me or others in physical, emotional, or mental health, I’ll let Her win sometimes.
It’s like when my toddler is in full on melt-down mode. He is going to cry, and scream, and rail at the world no matter what I do to bring him back to Earth. Emotions are big, and can be explosive, and if they aren’t allowed to work themselves out of the system in a safe environment, they can do internal damage instead. So, when he is screaming and crying, it’s best to let him continue to scream and cry, but in his bed or within a safe space that I can monitor for him. Then, when he is done, he will come out of his room and say “Mommy, I stopped crying!” And we both celebrate.
The emotion has burned off… until the next time.
In The Meantime…
"No Excuses Chili" is my Go-To weight loss recipe when it is cold outside, or I know I'm in for a busy day.
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