My goal in this post is to encourage you, to educate you, and to encourage you some more. If you will persist without exception, you can reach your health and fitness goals. For the most part, you are where you are in life in terms of your health because of choices and decisions that you’ve made. If you don’t like where you are, simply start making new choices today, and all your tomorrows can be different.
The buck really stops with you. Be willing to accept complete responsibility for your life including everything that happens to you. Life will always throw curve balls and occasionally fast balls and they can hurt. This will never change however you always have a choice in how you respond. Once you let go of responsibility and place the blame for your circumstances on some outside force, you give away your power to effect positive change in your life. Life is not always fair but you can always rise above and beyond your struggles.
Have you ever heard someone say they are going on a diet after a certain event or period of time? Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family vacations are among the most commonly named. And yet, do you know what these people are really saying? Their underlying intention is to eat everything in sight because they know lack and deprivation are soon to follow.
Unfortunately, this is how most people view dieting, and the truth is that it simply doesn’t have to be this way. Most diets are based on deprivation and a strict list of do’s and don’ts. They don’t offer the flexibility required for long-term sustainability and leave their followers with a high likelihood of relapse.
What if I said there is a better way to stay on track for the long term? Would you be interested? Well, there is and it’s not really a diet at all. In fact, I have purposefully stopped saying diet unless absolutely necessary and prefer to use the word nutrition. The word diet naturally has an err of restriction associated with it, and that can create struggle for people from the very start.
As I said in the opening paragraph, you’re where you are today in terms of your health because of choices you’ve made regarding food and exercise. If you’re not happy with where you are, all it takes is making different choices. You’re not a slave to your past. Outside of possible medical limitations, your past has little to no bearing on the present and or your future.
Belief test. When I meet with a new client, we always discuss their goals and I ask on a scale of 1-10 where they are in terms of confidence in reaching their goals. Few say 10 as there is typically a gap created by some past negative experience causing a lack of belief in the present. How about you? What’s your belief with regard to reaching your goals?
I wrote about this in detail here, however in brief, let’s consider that I’ve given you a brand-new shiny axe with the following instructions. Go home and with the biggest tree in your yard, take 5 swings a day. This is just a mental exercise so please just pretend if you don’t have any trees in your yard. Now, I’m not asking you to go chop wood for hours at a time. Just take 5 swings a day…every day…rain or shine…hot or cold…every day…no matter what. If you do this consistently and don’t miss a day, will the tree fall?
If you’re like virtually everyone I’ve ever asked that question to, you said some version of “yes”…eventually. Right? It’s very logical. And that’s how I want it to be with your goals. If you will persist without exception, you will reach your goals just as logically as our imaginary tree will fall.
So, what do you think is the number one challenge my clients share with regard to their nutrition? Answer: “I don’t know what to eat”
Do we go with the coffee and doughnuts or the heart healthy omelet and fruit?
Do we go with the double meat cheeseburger with onions rings, two special sauces, and bacon or the grilled chicken and steamed veggies?
Do we go with the deep dish pizza or the grilled salmon and steamed veggies?
Now logically we all know what the three healthy choices are, and yet the last time I checked, the doughnut, burger, pizza, and overall fast food industry is doing pretty good. So, for all the practical knowledge we have about what constitutes a healthy meal, why do we still eat “crap”? It’s because logic plays a small role in what we eat compared to emotion which plays a massive role.
Remember this little scenario: Fatigue plus a lack of preparation equals the path of least resistance. And that convenience is a slippery slope. If you don’t have a daily plan for having healthy food available when you get hungry, you’re going to eat something and we tend to do a poor job with our nutrition when we’re starving and flying by the seat of our pants. The answer by the way is integrating meal prepping into your life. It is one of the master skills to adopt in your quest for optimal health.
Got willpower? Yes? That’s great, however I will let you in on a little secret. It will fail you. You see, your willpower is like a battery that starts each day at 100%. Then as you resist temptations throughout the day, your battery drains. That’s why after a full day of resisting all the temptations we’re literally bombarded with; you can literally walk into your home on flat “0”. That’s also why most of our “bad” eating and drinking habits seem to manifest in the evenings because we’ve got nothing left.
So, what do you do? The secret is not to resist but to remove the temptations as much as possible in the first place. You have to create systems and habits that protect yourself from yourself eliminating the need for discipline and willpower in the first place. You may not be able to do much about your office environment or the make up your city if you’re out and about on daily appointments, but you can be prepared each day with your own healthy food options.
There is one environment that you do control and that’s your home. That’s why it’s so important to exhibit discipline at the grocery store. When you’re staring at the tub of Ben & Jerry’s in your freezer after a long hard day with no willpower left, Ben & Jerry’s is going to win time and time again. Hint: What you bring home from the store, you will eventually eat. That’s why it’s so important to make good choices at the store. You’re literally setting yourself up for success or failure once you get back home.
So how many of you have ever been on a diet? See if this little scenario resonates with you. You start a new diet and you’re all fired up thinking this time, you’re going to make it. Next, you meet two of your friends for lunch and they are “not” on your diet. In fact, they are eating and drinking and having a big time and you’re literally white knuckling the table cloth in an effort to keep from giving in to their fun.
And so, you do great in avoiding the appetizers, you order a healthy entree, and now it’s time for dessert. You’ve already determined that there’s no dessert for you and yet your friends both order cheesecake…and cheesecake is your kryptonite! Now as you’re literally holding your breath, one of them offers you a bite and you give in. It’s so amazing that you now rationalize ordering a piece for yourself.
Wow! You’re thinking that was the best cheesecake you’ve ever had in your life and you’re also thinking that cheesecake is NOT on your diet…the diet you’ve now blown at least for the day. So now what do you do? You’re committed to getting back on track the next day but for now, you’re thinking that if you’ve blown it, you might as well blow it good and you proceed to order 2 more pieces of cheesecake.
Where does this all or nothing thinking come from? If you were to have a flat tire on your way home from work today would you:
- Fix the tire yourself?
- Call for roadside assistance?
- Or slash the other three tires?
Now hopefully you wouldn’t pick the third option and yet why do we essentially slash the other three tires in the restaurant scenario? I learned this many years ago from my long-time friend and mentor, Nutritionist Keith Klein, in Houston, TX. It’s called the psychology of deprivation. If you deprive yourself long enough from whatever your favorite thing or things are, you will eventually crash. You will give in and eat and most likely eat to excess.
Following this “crash” will come feelings of guilt, remorse, and disappointment. In many cases you will resolve all the more to strengthen your discipline and to not give in the next time around. Unfortunately, going head to head with deprivation is a losing battle where you will eventually be crushed.
Remember, there’s no such thing at good or bad food. In the image above, the apple is not “good” and the cake is not “bad”. The apple is arguably more nutritious than the cake however both can have their place in a balanced and healthy nutrition plan. You can have your proverbial “cake” and eat it too? Interested?
No Cheat Meals Required
Last year when working with a potential new client, she asked me if she would be able to have “cheat” meals as a part of her weekly nutrition plan. I quickly told her no and her face immediately dropped. Then I said however, you can have several “treat” meals each week. Her face brightened somewhat but she was clearly puzzled. She asked, “What’s a treat meal?”
My response was that there’s no way that you can spin the word cheat as a positive. To label an experience as a cheat meal is to essentially label yourself as a cheater. A treat on the other hand is something someone gives you which is cool. Or, it’s something you earn because of positive performance. I learned this little strategy years ago and it’s called 90/10 compliance.
Let’s say that you eat on average 4 meals a day…breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an afternoon snack. 4 meals a day times 7 days a week is 28 meals. If you will be compliant with your healthy nutrition plan 90% of the time, you can have a 10% flex factor to eat whatever you want. 10% of 28 is 2.8 or let’s round up to 3 free or treat meals per week.
I do have two little caveats. Please don’t decide to have a treat meal after an especially long day at work where your willpower is shot and you’ve not prepped anything in advance for dinner. Calling Pappa John’s under the circumstances and calling it one of your treat meals is probably not going to end well because you’re not thinking straight.
Instead, plan to meet friends for dinner on a Saturday night at your favorite restaurant. Enjoy whatever you like however stick to normal portion sizes. Don’t go to Olive Garden and polish off one of their Tour of Italy or wherever plates by yourself. That’s enough food for two people easily.
And then most importantly, walk away from the table with no guilty or remorseful feelings. You didn’t blow anything so there’s no reason to go off the rails. We are social beings and you simply enjoyed a good meal with friends. Even if it was less nutritious than your typical 90% fair, you didn’t do any damage. Ultimately, allowing yourself a few weekly treats will keep you sane, emotionally healthy, and on track for the long-term.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
I’m sharing the info in this post in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
God of All Comfort
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Most people struggle emotionally with food at least at some level and I’ve certainly had my battles over the years. My biggest problem initially was adopting the false idea that eating “perfectly” was the only way and that eventually caused me to develop some rather unhealthy behaviors.
If you struggle with food, consider what I’ve shared however if your struggles are severe, please don’t feel like you have to go at it alone. Negative habits can become like steel cables wrapped around you, and the only way to break them is with outside help. My prayer is that you will be willing to reach out for help as needed.
Best of luck in your journey.