Hi- it's Julie again. You've been getting a lot of me, but I promise, I haven't shoved Emily in a closet or anything. You will be hearing more from her soon!
I've been thinking about how our brains play into our fitness a lot latley.
Mostly I've been thinking about the idea of the 'last hurrah'. You know what that is-- the 'I ate really poorly this yesterday/today/this week so I might as well call this my 'last hurrah' and eat junk until __________ when I start over for real,' reaction to eating poorly. Or, even on a smaller level, 'I already ate the _________ today, I might as well eat the ___________." (If you are me, both those blanks are probably filled with the world 'cake').
The first time I was ever put on a diet I was ten years old, and in the almost two decades since then, I still can't figure out exactly why our brains work in this self destructive way. For most of us, we know that what we are eating at the time is not good for us, and, for most of us, we know the consequences. And yet, I have the 'last hurrah' dialogue in my head at least once every two months.
I wish I had a some magic answer to put here right now regarding how to avoid this, but the truth is, I don't. But, I have learned a few things over the years that help.
- Avoid people who want to sabotage you, especially during the first month of your healthy eating. I find that if I can get a good month of good eating under my belt, I'm less likely to go on a junk food binge. Partly, this is because I'm doing well and don't want to mess it up, and partly because once I've put good food in my body for a month, junk food just makes me feel gross and sluggish and I don't really want it. Avoiding our saboteurs is sometimes easier than others. For me, my saboteurs are mostly a few of my close friends who have never had to diet and are magically thin without really trying. They find people who count calories or who have to choose their foods/beverages carefully irritating because they don't understand how one glass of wine or one scoop of ice-cream can really make a difference between success and stagnation for someone struggling with weight. They are the chief advocates of, "Come on, enjoy it now, start tomorrow...." Trying to have a heart-to-heart with them about how and why you choose the foods you do can sometimes help, but sometimes, I have to chose to not see them. This is more difficult if your saboteur is a spouse or significant other. Maybe I'll do a whole post about diet sabotage soon and we can all discuss this together.
- DO hang around people who support your eating! Friends and family who know you are trying and very quietly, without being nosy jerks, support you are the greatest asset in avoiding junk food binges. Like, the friend who will make a healthy dinner the night you come over, or the co-worker who makes sure the cookie plate is not in front of your desk. Last week, my coworkers were amazing in this respect-- there are constantly cookies/treats on the end of my desk for people to munch on when they enter our suite. They know I try not to eat them, and last week there was a strawberry on the cookie platter. One of my co-workers dabbed the strawberry on every cookie so I couldn't eat them. (I did warn others, don't worry. I didn't let any other possible allergics fall victim to the strawberry venom.) :-)
- Don't let your diet kill your social life. This is hard, especially considering I just said that part of my method of avoiding mass junk consumption is to avoid certain people at certain times. And, honestly, I usually do have to go a little under the radar socially for the first month or so of my diet to get things started. Once I'm doing well, I'm far less likely to make poor food choices. Also, make sure you are on a plan that lets you be social. Even if you lose weight a little slower than with a really strict plan, you have to be able to function in all areas of your life or else you will not be able to maintain the weight loss. I've dropped a lot of weight fast on a few occasions, but as soon as I resumed my life, it all came back
- Food is Medicine, Not Fun. This sounds lame, and it's only partly true, as, especially us Americans, love to use food as recreation. BUT-- it is a mindset that can lead to better food choices while being social. If you can look at a menu in a restaurant and choose with that mantra in your head, you are less likely to be tempted by the delicious mac-n-cheese or other diet-destroying dish. Also, it is a phrase I throw out at some of my saboteurs. They know when I say it, they are starting to push the line between being nice and being a jerk. They may not understand how they are being jerks, but they know enough to change the subject once I say it. Thinking of food as medicine also helps me focus on letting the situation be fun and not the food itself. As great as great food can be, the fun part of going out or being with friends should be the friends part.
- If you are going to hurrah, hurrah on something that is worth it. Sometimes, we all need the day or meal where we eat what we want, even it if sets us back a little. Make sure you pack that day or meal with things you really love so that you feel satisfied, not just whatever junk is around. Even better is if you can plan for it-- like, a two weeks ago I had a birthday dinner for a friend. I ordered a delicious, DELICIOUS cake from one of my favorite bakeries for this event, and I did not want refrain for having some. Knowing that, I planned to eat really well the day before and after to make room for some of my caloric transgressions at the celebration. I also pregamed for the event by reading the online menu for the restaurant and noted a few of the less-horrible for me options so that I was not sucked in by the cheeseburger, but still ate something delicious. Something else I've learned to do when I know I'm going to eat poorly for a day/meal is to go grocery shopping the day before so that the next day, my fridge is full of healthy things and I won't be tempted to make one night of bad eating into a week of bad eating.