5 Lessons From “Falling Off My Diet”

Friday marked the end of the second week of my coaching program with Dr. Jade Teta. Already I’ve learned a LOT about my body and needs, but it hasn’t come easily.

In fact, I even “fell off” my plan for a couple of days and came face to face with some old habits and demons that hadn’t come out in quite some time. (Though I hate the term “off” in relation to diet; a better term would be “overtly noncompliant.” 🙂 )

Getting off track is almost something I look forward to these days, though, because it allows me to learn something new about myself and make myself better. And now that I’ve got this blog, I can share my lessons with all of you so that you may spend some time doing the same type of introspection!

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) I am still battling my own tendencies toward perfectionism and seeking control.

My goal in completing this 12 week program is to balance my hormones FIRST AND FOREMOST, with a secondary goal of losing body fat to achieve a healthier body composition.  I didn’t realize how easily I would get sucked back in to old disordered thought patterns within days of beginning the program. I underestimated my ability to manage the voice of my “inner dieter,” with its impatience to see results and its desire to use as much willpower as necessary to “be good at dieting.”

Basically, I forgot how much part of me loves being on a diet.

It sounds crazy, I know, but the perfectionist in me still revels in the use of focused willpower to control my eating habits. Part of me loves the satisfaction of following a protocol or a plan to a “T,” and playing the part of a “good student” for my coach. I love comparing my shopping cart to other people’s in the grocery store, and feeling a bit smug and superior when mine has more vegetables and other “healthy food.”  I love seeing and feeling the first few pounds of water weight drop (even though these pounds don’t correspond to lasting fat loss or body change). I love estimating my projected linear fat loss (which of course, is never truly linear nor predictable…) if I can “just keep this up”.

I let my old love of dieting, restriction and seeking perfection creep back in, when my focus really should have been on managing my hunger, energy, and cravings* (aka HEC), and figuring out how I needed to tweak my diet program to make it something I could do to achieve this balance for the long term.

recommended you read THE POINT: Tread carefully when navigating through long standing preferences and tendencies. Be honest about your goals, and keep them at the forefront of your attention.

beautiful never perfect

2) Too much restriction and my HEC being out of check will inevitably come back to bite me in the ass.

After about two full weeks of using willpower in the program, I hit my wall. I sought a break from the diet, from the constant mental counting and awareness and assessment of what I was eating (or not eating).

My escape?  Mindless eating. I didn’t have a full out, raid-the-cupboards-until-every-last-treat-is-gone kind of binge like I may have done a few years ago, but I’ve been working hard to eradicate mindless eating habits…particularly the habit of reading and eating on repeat with no regard to my body’s indicators of fullness.

It’s become more and more obvious to me over time that I use mindless eating habits in response to a period of obsessive or restrictive dieting.

20 mcg Misoprostol THE POINT: Restriction and feelings of deprivation will ALWAYS lead to an equally strong behavioral compensation.

3) I’ve come a long way in my overeating habits, as well as in my ability to recover after a binge.

When I use the word “binge,” many interpretations of the word may come to mind. Did I eat an entire pizza by myself while hiding alone in my bedroom? Nope. Did I secretly drive to 7-11 to buy dozens of candy bars, eat them in the car, and then hide the evidence? Not so much.

Over the course of three nights, I ate several bowls of popcorn with some chocolate chips tossed in, some homemade peanut butter Reese’s cups (made with coconut oil, cocoa powder, and stevia), had one alcoholic beverage, one or two PB&J’s (on a whole wheat wrap), and some dried figs as well.

Could it have been better? Absolutely. My mindless overeating occurred three nights in a row, and I ate to the point of physical discomfort.

But could it have been worse? Absolutely.

I could've fallen into a box of pastries like this poor little guy...but I didn't. Win!

I could’ve fallen into a box of pastries like this poor little guy…but I didn’t. Win!

http://imgur.com/gallery/vM1wT

Aside from the evenings, the rest of my diet on those three days was pretty much on point, and by the fourth day everything had run its course and I was ready and eager to get back to my normal habits.

Unlike my former binge eating experiences, I didn’t eat a whole box of Cocoa Puffs. I didn’t polish off a pint of ice cream. I avoided 7-11’s and pizzerias both (although I have never actually eaten an entire pizza by myself…).

Most importantly, aside from feeling uncomfortably full the next morning, I didn’t wake up full of regret, shame, and disappointment. I woke up feeling a little foolish, almost wearing a goofy grin that said “Oops!!”

This was the biggest difference from my prior experiences overeating, and it felt like a HUGE accomplishment to be able to accept the situation for what it was, and then LET. IT. GO.

THE POINT: It’s important to notice and appreciate progress and the little wins wherever you can.

4) Relaxation is good, but fun is essential. Even for an introvert like me! 🙂

More often than not, I enjoy being a homebody. I love being with my husband and my dog, enjoying my couch, a good book and other quiet, relaxing activities. Sometimes, however, I’m a homebody out of sheer laziness. The day I “fell off” my diet was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and after almost a full day of work at the gym I was feeling lazy and beat.  (This is a regular Saturday tradition…after all, in my house Saturday is also known as “Nap-turday.”) My husband and I had several options for fun things to do that night, but in the end, I didn’t want to put in the effort to get myself moving and get out of the house. Plus I’d have to put in the effort of figuring out when and what I should be eating for dinner, did we want to go into Boston or somewhere closer to home, etc. (Excuses, excuses!)

So, we ended up doing NOTHING at all. Later that evening, I ultimately found easy, effortless entertainment in food. Oops! I definitely would’ve been better served to put in the tiniest bit of effort to get myself moving and had an enjoyable evening out with my husband.

THE POINT: Downtime and restorative activities are great for lowering stress, but not always “fun.” Blow off some steam and take the focus off of food once in a while!

5) There is no “on” or “off” a diet – only challenges and lessons to help me grow.

I know that in the long run, a few nights off plan didn’t set me back that far. Ultimately, it was worth it for me to have the experience in order to note the circumstances and triggers so I can adjust in the future. For one thing, I have significantly increased the amount of food I’m eating in order to achieve the desired “HEC in check,” specifically with more healthy fat at both breakfast and lunch to help support my energy levels throughout the day. In a way, I’m grateful for the opportunity to face some deep-seated obstacles early on in the program, because now I feel like I’ve cleared them out of the way and can continue to grow and move forward!

THE POINT: If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.

I’d love to hear from you on the Facebook page: What can your most recent mistake or slip up teach you for the future??

Always here to help,

Jamie

 *The term “HEC” and the idea of trying to get my “HEC in check” is a concept from Metabolic Effect. You can learn more about it in this article.

Why I Registered for a 12 Week Fat Loss Program

In this blog over the last few months, I have mused and introspected and theorized and outlined different ways to improve your relationship with food and your body. I have shared anecdotes both personal and professional, to serve as illustrative lessons. I’ve provided tricks and hints to help you keep you sane while you to overcome issues relating to emotional or stress related eating. In a way, I’ve been your coach.

And now it’s time to for share why I’ve just hired mine.

If it’s not evident from my posts, I still struggle with emotional eating at times. My “demons,” if you will, lay on the backburner, far more under my control than they once were, and yet still just bidding their time until their next attack.

I’ve come to learn that the trigger to my emotional eating is almost always a combination of stress with under-eating and/or over-exercising. For me, this combination invokes a learned response from years of periods of restrictive dieting and generally causes some level of overeating in response. I’ve learned to avoid the cycle for the most part: limiting the extremes behaviors from both ends of the spectrum, minimizing the damage and guilt, and being kind and compassionate towards myself despite my eating habits….

And yet my desire to improve the balance surrounding my health, habits, and physique remains a daily presence in my psyche.

So, after much thought, I’ve gone and signed up for Dr. Jade Teta’s 12 week Feed the Lean Contest.

 

Say whaaaaaat?

Didn’t this girl just write an article about short term diets?!

The program is run by Dr. Jade Teta of Metabolic Effect, a naturopathic doctor who I consider a tremendous resource on optimal health via hormone balance and fat loss. I have been following his work (and the work of his wife, mentor, Jill Coleman), for a few years now, and I have rarely been anything less than impressed with  the information those two share with the world.

Still, when I received the initial email announcing the contest and the opportunity to work with Jade directly, my initial reaction to the program was, “Sounds fun! But I don’t want to enter a 12 week fat loss contest. My goal is to obsess LESS about food, not MORE.”

But with more thought, I came to the conclusion to sign up for a few reasons:

1)      Being my own food coach is HARD, if not impossible. I overthink things, talk myself out of my commitments, make excuses, and ultimately am accountable to no one. Accountability is everything. My clients show me that every day, and I’ve seen that accountability has been a positive tool for me many times over in the past. So, world, now you know my plans and I can’t back down! 🙂

2)      Finding an effortless maintenance place is not effortless. For me, there is no “just stop thinking about food.” Everything relating to food, diet, exercise and behavior change is my profession and my passion, and I’m not likely to escape it anytime soon. Rather than trying to reduce the amount of thought and energy spent on my fitness and physique, I can actually relieve my burden by leaving the planning and protocols to a coach. My job is to focus on staying the course, staying positive and kind to myself, and playing the detective under someone else’s guidance.

3)      The right coach is key. As a fitness professional myself, I am very picky about who I want to advise me, especially within this field. I want someone who is equally passionate and obsessed with nutrition and health as me, and someone from whom I can learn a lot (about optimizing metabolism and fat loss, in addition to some coaching and business skills).  It wasn’t that I was seeking a fat loss contest; Dr. Teta is someone who can help me grow as an individual.

4)      I’ve been looking for a naturopathic doctor recently anyway, as I’ve been disappointed with the majority of my health care team in recent months. I was thisclose to setting a consultation with Dr. Teta anyway, and I love that I’ll be gaining access to him and his big beautiful brain throughout the 12 weeks.

5)      I have a vacation to Mexico planned in August, the week following the conclusion of the program, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to look good on the beach. 🙂 (Don’t we all just want to look good naked? Haha!)

your best is good enough

My stipulations:

1) My contest is with myself, not with anyone else in the “Feed the Lean” group. My goal for the next 12 weeks is to balance my hormones and metabolism, and find the diet protocol that serves me best for the rest of my life. My goal is NOT to lose as much weight as I can to 12 weeks….only to have it last for a week until I “reward” myself in brownie sundaes and daiquiris on the beach until the weight is regained.

2) As I wrote about last week, there is a way to correctly use a short term program as a jumping off point for the rest of your life. I plan on using this coaching program as exactly that: a beginning. One of the things I love best about Dr. Teta’s approach is the focus on self-assessment based on feedback from your body to fine tune your individual needs. In some respects, 12 weeks is “short term,” but it is also enough time to figure out what works and establish some really positive habits and routines to maintain that balance.

3) Comply or die DOES NOT APPLY. I trust Dr. Teta, and want to work hard to heed his advice to the best of my ability, but even more so I will need to work hard to remember that I am human. Achieving only 90-95% compliance with his program would not make me “bad” because I couldn’t follow it perfectly; it makes me human. This is a huge mindset shift away from any “diet” I have previously set out on. I’m giving myself permission to make mistakes and be okay with them, knowing that sometimes life is messy and things happen.

4) As part of my day job, I am coaching a fantastic group of people through several Spartan Races this summer. I plan to continue to do that to the best of my ability and within the context of this program. I will not lose sight of the commitments I made to my team in completing the races I promised to do (none of which are in the next 12 weeks, however).

SO:

For the next 12 weeks starting next Wednesday, expect to hear some updates on the blog and on Facebook on how this coaching program goes!

I’ll still be posting regular blogs each week with insights and advice, but I can’t help but draw inspiration from my life for content…I can’t wait to share my experience with you all!

I’m always here to help you guys….and I hope you know how much your support and following helps me too!

Sincerely,

Jamie

Change is HARD…But That’s Okay

Recently, I had a member of the gym come to me for advice about his fat loss progress….or lack thereof. By his account, he was working out regularly, pushing himself in the gym, and eating reasonably well. Since I see him working hard in the gym all the time, I inquired about an average day of eating. His diet generally consisted of a protein smoothie with a couple of cups of berries or other fruit for breakfast, maybe a salad or sandwich for lunch, and mostly protein and veggies with the occasional starch for dinner.

“But after dinner is when I always have a hard time. Sometimes I have ice cream, but most nights I just eat pistachios. They’re healthy right? I love them, but I buy them in bulk, sit on my couch with the bag, and eat them while I watch TV at night. I probably eat at least 2 or 3 cups a night, and that’s probably too many, right?”

Right indeed, my friend! From an outsider’s perspective, it seems pretty apparent that 2 or 3 cups daily of a calorically dense food like pistachios could offset the rest of his good eating and exercise habits. The gentleman was even able to identify that this was probably the reason behind his stalled results.

I recommended that he should try to address the pistachio issue by sticking to a single serving (only a handful!) after dinner, and seeing if that improved his results. I could immediately tell by his reaction that this wasn’t what he wanted to hear, though deep down he knew that I was probably right.

Just a few days later, we crossed paths again and I asked how things were going. He danced around my questions about his progress in limiting his pistachio intake, but instead offered his new “solution.”

“Hey, what do you think is the best type of fruit for my shake in the morning? I think I’m going to try strawberries instead….I heard that bananas aren’t good for you.”

Polar bear facepalm. Go U Bears!

It’s not about the fruit…

Oh boy. I’ve seen this scenario play out so many times and with so many people. It comes down to the fact that this person from the gym didn’t want to make the changes necessary to see results. He wanted to make only the changes that were EASY, the ones that didn’t require any sacrifice or effort, and have that be enough. He felt it was easier to swap fruits in his smoothie than to try to change his nighttime habits (even though his pistachio routine was costing him 690 calories PER CUP).

I’m sorry, but just because it’s what you WANT to do to achieve fat loss, doesn’t mean it’s going to cut it. Sometimes you need to accept that the changes you have to make for the results you want to see will be HARD.

We just hate to be uncomfortable, don’t we? We look for the easiest, quickest, most thoughtless diet we can find to try to do the work of fat loss and body transformation FOR us.

“I love to have a few glasses of wine every night to unwind…but I really need to lose at least 40 lbs!”

“Show me the one ab exercise that is FINALLY going to turn my mushy belly into washboard abs, once and for all!”

“If I don’t eat any carbs all day long, I can offset the damage from my nightly bingefest from after dinner until bedtime, right?”

We will do everything in our power try to avoid the real issues, our real emotional hang-ups and behaviors that prevent us from seeing lasting change….even when we know exactly what those issues are!

But in the long term, you can’t cheat your way through it. You can’t half ass it. You have to make a change and be uncomfortable in your new habits for a bit. Like every other new skill or practice, it WILL get easier over time. You can’t expect that this process will be effortless! It should kind of suck to make these changes. EMBRACE THE SUCK! Stay focused on your goals, that far off destination of where your changes will ultimately take you, and start slogging through, one day at a time. Eventually, the process will become automatic (i.e., a habit!) and just something that you do. Ta da! You’ve successfully overcome the suck and achieved real and lasting change!

Take a real, honest look at what may be holding you back from your goals right now. If you really don’t know what it is, get a coach. Otherwise, it’s time to dig in and get to work.

For example, if you struggle with overeating, especially at night after dinner, YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO NOT OVEREAT AT NIGHT. Look at the rest of your day and make sure you’re eating enough of the right foods (especially protein), and work to establish new nighttime routines.

Mindless snacking all day long? Keep a journal, and be accountable to yourself or to a coach.

Social drinking taking over your life? Learn to say no, drink club soda, and start working to change the focus of your social engagements away from alcohol.

That’s it. Identify the behavior that is holding you back from you goals, and CHANGE IT.

I know, I know; I’m a huge party pooper.

But guess what? If the changes you’re trying to make feel hard and yucky and uncomfortable at first….they’re working. People don’t change by performing the same behaviors over and over again.

If you want to look, feel and perform drastically differently from where you are today, you ultimately will have to make drastically different choices on a regular basis.

Big changes come from making big changes. (Not that you have to make ALL the changes ALL at once, of course…)

Do NOT fear tackling a change because it will be hard. The “hard” is what makes the journey to success so rewarding.

I hope you guys get the tough love here. Yes, I want you to make small manageable changes that will STICK over time, because if your behavioral changes don’t stick then you’ll loop right back to where you started.

Many of you know exactly what your biggest struggle is with food…I get your emails! So let me know, in the comments or on Facebook, what is ONE way you can start to tackle those struggles head on?

Always here to help,

Jamie