We have all been there, if not once or twice, a handful of times. A dozen times, even. Yet, each time we start a new restrictive eating plan, we slip on our rose colored glasses and believe that this time is different. Last time, we were going through a stressful event, or pregnant, or dealing with a sick parent, or child who needed extra help at school, or our nagging knee injury kept us from the gym...and on and on it goes. This time, this is really it.
Ah, stop the madness.
One of the number one reasons I hear from women about why they do not stick to their healthy habits is because they have self-sabotaged their efforts. They know this, yet they keep doing it. They believe that because they slipped to an 8 on the scale of diet perfection (10 being perfect) that they should just bail completely. Two reasons this happens are laziness and lack of self-trust. See, it's much more difficult to manage our willpower after eating a little less than perfect, it's far easier to give up completely and drown our shame in some Oreos and milk, holding out that this perfect execution of a diet is somewhere in our future. We fear sliding up and down the scale because we don't believe we have the ability to self-regulate.
Tool #1: Empower yourself to indulge every single day.
Eating dry chicken and broccoli is no way to go through life. I can remember sitting in my office at work eating lunch, choking down a salad with only lemon juice for flavor. Ending the meal thinking, "that's it?". No thank you, not anymore.
I now use Empowered Indulgences so that I actually enjoy my each meal (because when we enjoy something, we're likely to repeat it, right?). I empower myself to consistently indulge, even if just a little bit, throughout each day which means eating many of those foods that remained untouched on the 'unapproved shelf' during my past diets. Cheese, chips, marinades, sauces, sugar in my coffee and yes, even some other sweets.
In Busy But Burnin', my 6 week fitness and fat loss coaching program for busy women (NOW OPEN for enrollment), my clients are encouraged to schedule empowered indulgences into every single day. When we don't feel deprived, we are far more likely to make it a lifestyle rather than a short term fix.
Each week at the grocery store, I load up on marinated goodies from the olive bar. Yup, they're soaked in oil - probably one I don't use at home and nope, I don't care. I top my salads with this stuff along with my homemade salad dressing and a handful of chips and I'm in salad heaven. I eat salads more regularly when they're delicious. Good enough is always better than perfect.
Tool #2: Let nothing be off limits.
Admittedly, this is scary. Especially if we are conditioned to follow black and white diets that tell us when we're being good or bad. Deep down in our hearts, we're rule followers. We love to do what we're told and our get good marks and when we do, we get the positive reinforcement to continue. When we don't, doubt trickles in and we get a bit uncomfortable with the gray area.
I often hear from women I'm about to begin coaching with questions like "Hey Jess, what am I allowed to add to my coffee?". I'll always respond with, "Whatever you do now!". When nothing is off-limits we feel less inclined to need to binge. Why? Because nothing is against the rules.
I often fixated on what I couldn't eat on whatever diet I was following. I once followed a vegan diet and I probably would have butchered a pig if I knew how, all I could think of was bacon. For all of the Moms out there...have you ever told your child not to do something and they do exactly that? :) I have and so I use a form of reverse psychology, making whatever behavior I want to limit okay. Not surprisingly, my boys move on because it's not as interesting anymore.
Tool #3: Study your triggers.
On a Saturday recently, we were out of eggs and I had made my kids some gluten-free pancakes. I'll typically have some homemade protein pancakes in the freezer but I was all out. So, I ate the boys pancakes topped with butter and a delicious pure maple syrup with a cup of berries on the side. Forty-five minutes later I was ravenously hungry and my energy had crashed. The high starch to fiber ratio did very little to satiate and control my hunger...honestly, I could have had 4 or 5 of those pancakes. Grabbing some bacon or some leftover chicken would have been key for me. Sugar is a definite trigger for me
Junk food is a big trigger food for all of us. I'm sure many people have the wherewithal to actually portion out a serving of Cheetos or serve themselves ice cream in anything other than the gallon jug it came in! On top of that, when we sit down to enjoy junk food (high sugar and fat), feel good endorphins are released which cause us to continue looking for that feeling (hungry for more!). Even if we tell ourselves not to have another bite, we're working at a deficit because as we eat sugary foods, ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger and cravings becomes elevated. This double-whammy is a heavy hit against our willpower to put the bag or carton away.
Understanding the physiological affects of the foods we consume help us to make smarter choices about how and when we decide to enjoy certain foods.
Tool #4: Exercise your power in the next choice. <---where the magic happens
When we say good-bye to perfection and begin navigating life in the middle of hard core eating clean and binging like crazy, we are bound to have moments where we've made a not so stellar decision, even if done in the name of moderation. Rather than throwing our hands in the air and giving into what Kelly McGonigal calls the "What the Hell Effect", we can exercise our power in our next choice.
I like to think of my life in moderation on a 1-10 scale where 1 is bingeing and 10 is eating perfectly clean. There are periods where I'm happily living between a 5 and 8 and things are going smoothly but there are times when I've moved closer to a 2 or 3, maybe after one extra slice of pizza or an extra handful of candy.
The thing is, I'm never too far gone. I'm always one decision away to sliding back to a 4, then a 5, then a 6.
Eating perfectly, or trying to, keeps us stuck and chained in rules and requires a controlled environment that life doesn't always afford us . By practicing these mindset tools, we can begin to self-regulate, throw out the rule books and begin to have faith in our ability to enjoy food and life, all the while maintaining our health and balance.
Busy But Burnin', the fitness and fat loss coaching group for busy women, is open for enrollment and we start Monday! 6 weeks of at home metabolic workouts, simple and straight forward meal planning, with recipes, and a vibrant community of like-minded women for support and encouragement. We get confident and competent, see body change and stop fad dieting for good. You in? Grab your spot here.