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.

http://indiependent.co.uk/song-week-30th-jan-jagged-gorgeous-winter-main-drag/ visit the site 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.

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 Sticking to your Diet isn’t a “Good” Thing

“Ohmigosh, I was SOO bad this weekend. Better make it up with a workout and clean eating today!”

I’ve heard this sentiment SO many times. I’ve also heard the opposite, with my clients telling me that they’re going to a social event but promise to “be good” when they are there.

The food choices you make do NOT determine the value of your character.

Do you think one of these guys is eating refined sugar?? Gasp!!

Do you think one of these guys is eating refined sugar?? Gasp!!

When we say we are “bad” for eating something off plan, this implies that we are failures, we are weak, and that we need to do penance to get back on track.

Penance usually comes in the form of extreme diets or excessive cardio, both of which only fuel your hunger and a negative, self-loathing mindset. Rarely are lasting (positive) results achieved out of punishment and force.

On the other hand, I don’t want you to view yourself as “good” even if you are making all the right food choices for your goals. What happens if you DO have a slip up, even a minor one? What happens when the circumstances of your life suddenly change? What other facets of your life are being sacrificed in order for you to stay “good”? Are you “good” if you eat every meal alone, chained to your Tupperware and avoiding your friends, family, and any potential temptation in order to maintain your “goodness”?

As an alternative: could you unconditionally love (or at least like) yourself regardless of the way you eat?

I’m not just calling for more self-love because I want you to feel happier in your own skin at ANY size (though I do). I also want you to be a healthy and vibrant and active person!

I want you to stay away from moral judgments like “good” and “bad” because that type of thinking can directly sabotage your results and progress.

Research has shown that when you are reminded of your own prior moral achievements, you are actually less likely to then act in line with those values. For example, in one study, people who were told exactly how much they donated to charity in the previous year and then asked to contribute more money gave significantly less those who weren’t reminded of their previous generosity.

This is crazy, right? Once we’re shown that we have already been “good” enough, we think we’re immediately off the hook and can do whatever we want! Hah!

Unfortunately, dietary changes are only really transformative and successful when they are repeated. A LOT. Consistency is king. You can eat the absolute most healthy, most fat-loss-perfect meals (or even eat nothing at all!) for a single day, but in the long run you won’t even notice the impact of that anomaly on your scale or on your waistline.

(The nice alternative to this, though, is that one day of over-the-top, totally excessive caloric consumption won’t make or break your overall success….But just ONE.)

If you are bringing your own healthy food to Thanksgiving…you might be missing the big picture, AND setting yourself up to fall face first into leftover pie!

If you are bringing your own healthy food to Thanksgiving…you might be missing the big picture, AND setting yourself up to fall face first into leftover pie!

photo credit: jypsygen via photopin cc

So if we continue to use language like “I’ve been so good today!” in reference to our eating habits, we are SETTING OURSELVES UP for poor decisions in the future.

Do you ever find it harder to make healthy choices on weekends and late nights? J

We usually reflect and judge at the end of the day, or at the end of the week. If we’ve been good all day or all week, then it must be time to kick back and eat what we want, right?

I want you to practice catching yourself using words like “good” and “bad” in reference to your diet or food choices, and see if you can rephrase. There are no “good” foods and “bad” foods, and you are neither “good” nor “bad” because of the foods that you eat. There are simply foods and actions that bring you closer to your goals and foods that don’t.  As long as you make most of your choices from the former category most of the time, you will finally see lasting progress and change in the right direction.

Always here to help,

Jamie

 

PS – Let me know in the comments below if this something that you do! Do you find that your negative language promotes more negative self-talk? I’d love to know!