Acquiring Skills

One model from this field is the Dreyfus skills acquisition model, which proposes that we move from novice to master.  Hopefully in our weight loss journey, we have already understood some of these things.

Dreyfus model(click to enlarge)

The novice relies on black and white rules to guide their behavior.  The first stage, recollection, involves understanding that the world doesn’t come in black and white.  A lot of food (at least outside your kitchen) is not clean or dirty.  There is no one ideal exercise.  What motivates someone else may not work on you.  We come to appreciate nuances in situation, and this situational recollection brings us to a point of competence.  Recollection asks “where am I.”

The competent is working toward what solution to bring to the situation.  Early in my maintenance I relied heavily on dietary consistency, after watching people struggle with binge/restrict cycles.  But over time, I realized that there are answers between rigid dietary consistency (always eating the same calories even on weekends and holidays) and binge/restrict.  I could eat an extra dessert one day and eat a little less for each meal the next day, and I began to think more about my hunger levels.  Recognition asks “what should I do?”

The proficient is working at the level of whether it is hard to make a decision, or if we still struggle for motivation.  There are some situations that even Masters know they are not up to, so in this case decision involves understanding what we may be powerless over.  I happen to abstain from chocolate, something I adopted in my 12 step days, and people assume I am struggling and to be pitied, but I really don’t want it.  I can be surrounded by it even and not be bothered because to me, it isn’t food.  However, I sometimes will get some treat and relearn that even if I don’t eat it, it makes me miserable to have it around… like twinkies.  So decision involves a broader scope of self knowledge, of knowing what you can and can’t be alone in a room with without arguing with yourself.  This is the expert level.

Awareness involves attention, or flow.  It is when our capacities are a match for our challenges.  We no longer observe ourselves in what we are doing.  Hopefully this is something you’ve experienced in other areas of life, and it can eventually come about in healthy lifestyle maintenance.  At this point, the lifestyle maintains us as much as we maintain the lifestyle.

The four domains of the Dreyfus model is just one way of describing transition.  Divisions of three or up to six have also been argued.  However you define it, the idea is to secure development in a stepwise fashion.  Even if someone is far ahead of us, they still serve as a source of inspiration.  On the maintenance team, we believe that people can and do learn how to maintain.


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