Published on February 19, 2022
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The 10th step 10 (Taking Inventory) in the various 12 step programs for recovery from substance addictions, behavioral addictions and compulsions requires a person to “continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong to promptly admit it.” The purpose of this is for participants to demonstrate to themselves that they have the ability to control their actions because at that point (after completing the first 9 steps of the program), a person is no longer functioning like a robot under the weight of old habits or while not thinking about what he or she is doing.
From time to time, I use this Taking Inventory approach as a tool with certain clients — specifically those who have been in the program for a few weeks or months, and despite their believing, rationalizing and swearing up and down that they’ve been on-point, that every day has been perfectly planned and executed, either are not losing or have stopped losing weight. They cannot believe they’ve gotten sloppy or complacent or lazy. They deny ever mindlessly eating: grabbing two cookies or a handful of chips; or skipping a meal or snack altogether.
Of course, all clients ARE aware of their actions. They know exactly what they’re doing at the time they’re doing it. By taking an end-of-day inventory – an honest inventory – we always find the truth.
This is not to say that a cookie here or a chip there is the end of the world. Of course it’s not. But to look back on Weekly Menu Plans and to see ONLY what you planned and not what you actually may have done, is no accurate record at all. It’s a lie.
I will ask a client to commit to Taking Inventory for two solid weeks (14 consecutive days).
At the end of each day, I will ask a client to set aside 5 or 10 private minutes to constructively review their day. I want them to look at that day’s planned menu, to look it at from top to bottom and back. Slowly. And to consider the following:
❓ Did they execute that day EXACTLY as intended?
❓ Did they eat everything they planned? (Or, can they identify any emotional triggers, reactions, or mistakes that caused them to slide back into harmful habits? Did they eat more than they planned and fail to add it to the day? Did they have any junk food (cookies, candy, etc) that they failed to add to the day?)
❓ Were all their meals/snacks prepared by them and were they all properly weighed/measured? (Or was there eyeballing and guestimating, or a handful here or there?)
❓ Did they eat at the properly paced times they had intended? (Or did too much time elapse between meals/snacks? Or, did they miss certain meals or snacks altogether?)
❓ Did they eat any meals or snacks “out” (in a restaurant, or a take-away, or at a friend’s house) and forgot to mark those items as “out?”
❓ Did they drink all their water?
If a client’s day went exactly as planned on all cylinders, I ask them to put a check mark or a star at the very top of that day’s column (or at the top of a page if they’re using a one-day-per-page in a spiral notebook). And slight change or two (such as swapping a can of tuna for salmon; or swapping an apple for an orange), that’s fine. A check mark is still deserved.
If, however, while honestly looking back on the day, a client has to admit that it did not go as planned, whether they skipped meals (and to “X” it out of their day), or that they had a couple of drinks at dinner, that they grabbed a handful of chips, or a couple of Twizzlers, a few bites of their kids’ mac ‘n cheese, a couple of condiment usages (mayo, salad dressing, for example) that they didn’t count, etc. . . . they have to (a) add those items to the day, highlighting it so it stands out; and (b) at the top of that day’s column, there will not make a check mark.
When clients look back, then, on a week or two (or three or more; many clients like to continue this process) and see that every week has had a couple or more days with highlighted additions or deletions and no check marks at the top of a day, the truth of what they actually did vs what they planned and/or thought they did is very visible. Their weight stagnation (or gains) now make sense to them.
The fact is that successful people take personal inventory on a regular basis. And if you’re in business, it’s just like any other metric you look at in your business. Remember, you cannot manage what you cannot measure; and you cannot measure what you don’t track.
Your personal life is no different. You need to evaluate yourself and your skill sets on a regular basis as these are your tools that determine your level of success.
Difficult or not, self-inventory is a crucial element of not only addiction recovery but of healthy, successful, and sustainable weight loss as well.