Monday, October 16, 2006


Way back in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was studying Psychology, I learned a concept called "Locus of Control." Essentially, the polar opposite traits are described as "internal locus of control" and "external locus of control." People with an internal locus of control feel that it is within their power to affect change in their lives, be it positive or negative; whereas people with an external locus of control tend to blame (or thank) external forces such as fate, luck, or authoritative will for what happens in their lives. Of course, as with all personality characteristics, there is a continuum. I think that is a rare person that is 100% in either direction. It is theorized that locus of control is a learned behavior, cultivated in the home and effected by multiple variables including socio-economic status. My own childhood home is an interesting contrast. I, the first child and the only child for 6 years, have always been a responsible person. I have always had what I felt was an internal locus of control. I was internally motivated to study, to be involved, and to set goals and achieve them for myself. If I bombed a test, I didn't curse the horoscope for a bad day, I accepted that it was because I did not study correctly. Don't get me wrong, I do have some great "good luck" rituals, and I love to dabble in Tarot cards and horoscopes, but ultimately, I know that I am accountable for my actions and for my fate. My younger brothers, on the other had, are completely different than I. Until very recently, both lived at home ( they are in their mid-20s), neither have completed college, one has never held a job, and everything in their lives happened "to" them. It has always boggled my mind how we could be so different, being raised by the same parents in the very same environment. I know that I have difficulty relating to people on the opposite end of the spectrum, and get easily frustrated with those that do not take responsibility for their own actions. I encounter this daily with my patient population. The victim mentality is alive and well, and it is a personal pet peeve of mine.

So, imagine my deep chagrin when I noticed the one area in my life in which I have not employed my internal locus of control, my weight and my health. I look at my eating and exercise habits, and the excuses just keep rolling on. It's too hard, it takes too much time, I'm too tired, I have too much to do, I only slept 6 hours in the last 3 days, the stars aren't correctly aligned, it's too hot, too cold, not cold enough, too windy, it's just one bowl of pasta, one glass of wine, one serving of french fries, I'll start tomorrow, after the next football weekend, when we get new workout equipment etc. etc. etc. I have started over again more times than I care to admit. My father has a saying that is simple and true, and I have probably mentioned it before, "There's nothing to it, but to do it." I can make excuses and caveats until I am blue in the face, but in the end, my health, weight, and diet are no other person's responsibility but my own. I know that I will not do this weight loss thing perfectly, and I have to accept that. I think that my perfectionism leads me to an all or nothing mentality. Once I fall off the wagon, so to speak, I don't just fall, I roll around on the ground and wallow in the mud. I am not going to become that which I dislike, just because the going is rough. I've persevered through tougher obstacles than this. It's time to go tackle just 30 minutes of cardio. I can and will do this.

P.S. I would like to offer a sincere apology to the person that landed here by Google searching "FSU Babes." You poor, unfortunate soul. I hope that you have adequately Cloroxed your eyes!


Fat Doctor said...

Artemis had a very nice post on the whole weight issue today. Check it out at The Thoughts of Artemis.

I do think that my internal locus is influenced by external locus. I can be very committed to my diet, but only if my horoscope has four stars that day.

Anonymous said...

You've got to love google searches...

I am very much a proponent of personal accountability. I am an only child, so I can't speak for differences among siblings, but I do think that my work ethic is very similar to that of my parents. I did not complete college; I went for a couple different stints and never finished. During the second stint, I ended up at my current job, which I have been at for over ten years and have no plans of leaving. I personally don't tie all personal success to a college education. I have seen plenty of people with college educations who have no direction or accountability.

What surprises me is the people who simply don't even WANT to be accountable. Adults who are perfectly content to ask their parents when they need new clothes or tires for their car. There was a time in my life when I had some financially challenging goals. I did not ask my parents - I took on a second job until I was able to meet those goals.

Sara said...

Heh someone said once, "Losing weight and getting in shape may not be easy, but it is simple..."

Anonymous said...

Oh, I totally do the same thing (says the girl who ate a double cheeseburger & large fries at mcdonald's yesterday afternoon after the traumatic colposcopy experience). It blows. I wish I had words of wisdom for you!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I just found your blog, what I've read so far is fascinating. I am a pre-med student, planning to become an Ob/Gyn. As far as the weight loss issue, it's all about finding a strong motivation. Two years ago I lost about 40 lbs, it was not easy, but as I literally dried out running in the treadmill, I thought about that nice medium-size t-shirt I bought in purpose, or the attention I would get from that pretty girl, etc. And I totally identify myself with you when you say that perfectionism leads to do all or nothing, I have to work on that. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

dr. whoo? said...

FD~ Thanks for the recommendation, I will check it out. Tonight the stars were not aligned correctly, and I had spaghetti for dinner. Bleah.

3carnations~ I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that you had to have a college education to be motivated and productive! I agree that there are lots of people with no direction and a college (even professional) degree. My parents are both professionals, and work really hard, so I'm sure that I got that same work ethic from them. My brothers are just alien spawn. :) While I was in school, I did not have a job, so I relied upon my parents for some financial assistance ( I also had scholarships to shoulder some of the costs). I hope to make it up to them someday!

msilf~ I know, it is simple, but it is so frigging hard for me to do. I'd just like to have super hyperthyroidism, just until I lose about 50 pounds. Is that too much to ask? :)

GG~ You just reminded me of something I haven't thought about for ages! Weren't you the person that once upon a time told me that McD's was the largest consumer of cow eyeballs? I didn't eat McD's for YEARS after that! Mr. Whoo and I would sing as we passed the restaurants, "We love to see you eat cow eyeballs" in lieu of "We love to see you smile." I am over it now, their french fries are just too good. LOL!

Hi arturo and welcome! So you've read my blog and you still wanna be an Ob/Gyn? ;) Awesome. Congrats on losing the 40 lbs, that is fantastic! When I am on the elliptical, I try to think of all of the sweat pouring off of my body as fat melting away. It is a powerful visualization. Thanks for reading!

justbeingreal~ I fall into that "content" category, too. I have so much happiness in my life, my weight tends to be the only thing keeping things from being perfect. As a physician, I need to practice what I preach, even if I am not leading the same typical work life as my patients. (There I go with the excuses again, argh.)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Whoo, if you find spending time on your elliptical as tedious as I used to, go to
and download one of Sean's mp3's to shepherd you through. Sean (via the mp3's) has made it possible for me to exercise daily for almost a whole year now, greatly enhancing my life (and strength!) as an ob/gyn.

medstudentitis said...

I have to say I'm a definite internal locus person. The downside is that being an internal locus person and being an overachiever can lead to extreme stress and feelings of guilt when something doesn't come out exactly as planned. Sometimes I am extremely jealous of those who can just blame failure on jupiter crossing the path of venus and let it go instead of dwelling on every failure and living in a constant stress state. Although stress does make me skinnier, it also makes me want to eat donuts that I then feel guilty about :)

dr. whoo? said...

Thanks, anon! I will check it out! Any motivation would help, trust me.

"stress makes me skinnier"

Lucky! No fair :) I have a friend that is super religious and believes that every single thing that happens is "god's will" and therefore feels little to no personal accountability. He just shrugs and stats that if it happens, then it was meant to happen. Must be nice to be able to let things go like that. Makes me jealous, too.

Anonymous said...

OMG, Dr. Whoo. I totally forgot about that. I'm going to make that my mantra next time I can't resist the $1 double cheeseburger. Thank you!

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

I, too, am an internal locus person, but I also love to see what fate drops on my doorstep.

As for the weight thing, it always amazes me that I had the stick-to-it-ness to make it through med school, residency, pull all those 36 hour shifts, but still can't get myself to stay on a diet for more than 2 weeks at a time or get myself up an hour earlier to go to the gym, even when I know for a fact I will feel great all day after I work out. What the heck is it that keeps me from changing this one thing about myself that I want so badly to change. Think of the inspiration I would be to my patients, the role model I would be to my daughters, and most importantly, how good I would feel about myself. It's so puzzling to me, and so frustrating...


dr. whoo? said...

GG~ No problem! Mmmmm(mooo?), cow eyeballs. ;)

TBTAM~ Get out of my head! Ditto what you just posted to the ninetieth degree. I think it has something to do with taking care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves. Actually, I think that has a lot to do with it.

Anonymous said...

"There's nothing to it, but to do it."

That's been my mantra as well for six decades. Works good. I finally licked the up-down weight issues by thinking a lot about self-discipline and the nice sense of control it brings! :))

Maddy said...

Your mention of internal and external locus of control caught my attention.

I'm a 37 year old mom (2 boys), and a military wife, and a former elementary school teacher. I too have that internal locus of control.

I worked hard (to earn money) to get through college, earn my grad degree, have good credit, save for infertility treatments (or possibly adoption...we just wanted to be parents one way or another), make a safe, stable home for my 1st son while my husband was stationed in South Korea for a year alone, etc... I've always known and been able to set a plan, work hard, meet the goal. It's how I roll.

Then in Oct of 2007, I was diagnosed (finally) with pulmonary hypertension. For the first time in my life, there is no formula to follow and no matter how hard I work, or follow directions, or do "what you're supposed to do," I won't have a day where the doc says "oh great, you're cured!"

This internal locus of control sucks. I didn't "do" or "not do" anything to deserve PH. And I can't fix it...and it's the first time in my life to feel this way.

I am a few months out from the initial shock of diagnosis and so I (and my family) have sort of settled into this new normal. I don't want PH to define me. But there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about how much I wish there was something I could do, or earn, or work hard at, and make this all a bad dream.

I know this entry is ancient but I came across your blog and have been reading the archives. I envy you your profession and love getting a glimpse of it. This particular entry put into words (internal locus of control) soemthing I've been feeling for a few months now.

I hope you and yours are well and happy. :)