We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all be faced with a meal or a food – something indulgent, something we know isn’t in-line with the dietary and fitness goals we’ve set for ourselves – and we’ve had to decide. To partake or not. Maybe it was a birthday party with a decadent chocolate cake smothered in sugary buttercream. Perhaps was a steak dinner with the boss, a holiday meal with the family, a romantic dinner-for-two with your main squeeze. Most of us actually face these decisions on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Donuts in the break room, cookies in the cookie jar. Did you indulge or did you resist? I’ve done both and I’m proud to say that I resist about 90% of the temptations that come my way. But that other 10%… well, that’s a story unto itself. In fact, this blog is that story.
Every week I have an opportunity to overeat when my sweetheart and I have “Date Night.” Those nights I have a chance to make choices that help me achieve my goals or choices that hinder me. So why would I do the former? After doing exactly that for a few consecutive weeks and suffering the consequences (missed weight loss goals, nausea, lethargy, feelings of shame, guilt and despondence) I started asking myself a lot of questions, diving deep to discover my motivations and understand how I can be stronger and make more productive decisions in the future.
What I do can be tiresome. Pre-planning meals, counting calories and macronutrients, logging every ounce of water and every gram of food to pass my lips can be tedious. I start working on next week’s meal plan when I’m halfway through the week at-hand. I spend more time thinking about food now that I ever did when I was 290 pounds (and I thought about food a lot back then). Meanwhile, the people around me aren’t thinking about what they’ll have for lunch until a half hour before they eat. Because of that, this lifestyle doesn’t just feel demanding – it feels abnormal.
“Normal” is tricky. Participating in behavior viewed as normal can give a sense of inclusion, of belonging. Refusal to partake can trigger feelings of exclusion and deprivation. But “normal” is subjective and, furthermore, normal isn’t necessarily healthy. In short, “normal” is bullshit. In decades past, smoking was “normal.” Look where that got us.
For the last few weeks, I have sacrificed my goals and my healthy emotional state for the sake of feeling “normal” in a restaurant full of people mindlessly shoving forkfuls of food into their mouths. Sure, it felt good to not be thinking about calories or carbs or protein. But was it worth it? When I was sprawled on the couch with my jeans unbuttoned, complaining about my bellyache and internally lamenting my decision, was it worth it? When I think back and see, in my mind’s eye, myself mindlessly shoveling forkfuls of food into my mouth, is it worth it? That would be a hard “no.”
After a week of reflection, of asking myself questions and answering them, of owning my thoughts and emotions, I feel like I am understanding myself better. What’s more, I feel like I am discovering ways to deal with temptation in the future in healthful and productive ways. Here are my rules for coping with temptation, indulgence and over-indulgence:
Be Accountable. Come clean to someone, anyone. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one. Blog it. Write it in a diary or journal. Share it on social media. You have nothing to hide. Everyone indulges from time to time but hiding it away like a dirty secret, lying to yourself or anyone else about it has the potential of becoming more than a small treat and growing into a bad habit. Being accountable will purge yourself of the shameful feelings that come with keeping a secret. And you might be surprised and comforted to learn how many others share your thoughts and feelings.
Empower Yourself. Reframe your feelings of being deprived to feelings of being strong, determined and vigilant. Embrace this lifestyle, however different it may seem. Maybe this isn’t what other people consider “normal” but it’s awesome and commendable. Normal is often gluttonous and detrimental to good health. When someone offers you a treat, don’t think “oh poor me, I can’t have a treat.” Think, “oh poor you, you can’t resist temptation.” Own the lifestyle and let it lift you up.
MYOB.Seriously, MYOB! Normality is subjective, defying definition, so quit worrying about how other people eat, cook, shop, exercise or live. It is none of your business. Whether your slim coworker can wash down a double cheeseburger with a caramel frapp and stay slim has no bearing on your or your body. She isn’t better, luckier, or any more blessed than you. Mind your own business and mind it well.
Understand Moderation. Moderation isn’t once-per-day. Moderation isn’t even once-per-week. Moderation is once in a while. Moderation is a serving of something, not an multiple servings or an entire container. Moderation doesn’t leave you feeling overly full and miserable. Yes, you can lose weight and enjoy treats in moderation. For that to work; however, you have to get real about the definition of moderation and you have to get real about things you might not be able eat in moderation (i.e., me and roasted, salted peanuts – those little devils). If you can’t eat something without overeating it, stop eating it.