Sadly (or maybe not so sadly if your kids are back in school), summer is over. “Back to school” season has passed, your usual schedule has resumed, and now it’s time for the “summer weight” damage control. Summertime usually entails BBQ’s, bonfires, camping (with s’mores of course!), and any high calorie food on a stick you could dream of at the state fair. It seems we’re doing damage control every six months, first during the holidays, now after summer. We seem to decide to start taking back control on Monday, and if that doesn’t pan out, we’ll just start again the following Monday. It can be an endless and stress-inducing cycle.
I have rediscovered this month that there is never a great time to start a “weight loss” plan. I put that in quotations, because I don’t truly see it as a diet or weight loss plan, but a decision to start developing healthier eating habits. It is a life long change, not a course that you complete and BAM, you’re done (although it would be wonderful). It is a conscious decision that you have to make every time you bring a morsel to your mouth. I am not a person that was blessed with the ability to eat whatever they desire and stay thin, but even those thin bodies we may envy are not necessarily healthy on the inside. Deciding to eat a healthful and nutritious diet is a choice that will catapult your health and ability to stave of preventable diseases; a healthy weight is just a positive byproduct.
Food is tied to emotion for many of us, so it can sometimes be hard to make a logical dietary choices. We are faced with so many stressors and hardships in daily life that it would be nice to feel that we have control over the enjoyment we get from eating what we want. Because we don’t see the immediate consequences from those choices, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that the food we are eating today will barely affect us tomorrow. Unfortunately, science has shown us time and time again that we are what we eat, in essence. If you eat a plethora of trans and saturated fats, you are more likely to have a build up of plaque within your arteries, leading to blockage and eventually heart disease. If you eat an abundance of calories (no matter what the source), you will find those extra calories slowly accumulating as fat around your midsection (and other just as inconvenient places). Redefining your relationship with food can help reduce the frequency of the damage control moments.
If you are an emotional eater or know your triggers, then there are ways that you can start to repair your relationship with food:
- Practice mindfully eating.
This will require that you provide your body with sustenance throughout the day to eliminate the desire to binge at the first opportunity due to elevated hunger. Try to eliminate doing other things while you are eating. In a world where multi-tasking is highly prized, this may be challenging. Shutting off the technology while you eat will help you to become more aware of how much you are eating and my guess is that you will find yourself feeling satisfied sooner.
2. If you don’t know your “triggers”- discover them.
Any recovering addict will tell you they have to eliminate a “trigger” from their lives to continue sobriety. It may seem extreme to use this analogy, but food can be addicting for people and most of the addicting foods can degrade health over time. I am personally very fond of sugar, in pretty much any form. I know that I am incapable of eating sweets in moderation, so I either don’t keep them in the house or I buy them in very small quantities to avoid bingeing on sugary goodness. Find your triggers and develop a game plan that will help you to overcome their control over your choices.
- Make one day count.
You don’t have to wait until a Monday to start making healthier food choices, exercising, or any other positive routine you want to begin. Most of the time setting a “start date” is just setting yourself up for reckless behavior up until the final hours and minutes of your planned date. Implement your decision as soon as possible and make that day count. Begin to develop your routine and continue to improve and add to it as you accomplish the goals that you had. As you make that one day count, and then the next and the next, it will become easier to make consistently healthy decisions. For some people, the step towards health may start with increasing their level of activity like parking further away from the office building or taking a walk after dinner. It can start any way that works for you, it doesn’t have to be following a strict and rigorous 7-day a week work out plan or it can, if you crave the structure and the “all in” approach. Whatever you choose, just start by making one day count.
Nutritional health is not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor should it be. You may be the person that needs to “go all out” and begin all of your changes at once. If this method speaks to you, I applaud you. I caution only to not set your expectations so high that one minor flaw in the plan leads you to give up entirely. You may be someone who needs to implement their path towards positive and healthy choices in small increments and for that, I also applaud you. Knowing your boundaries and having realistic expectations for your goals will set yourself up for long term success. I caution you only to not grow complacent to make sure that you continue to add healthy changes to the ones you have already put in place. Once you have become accustomed to the healthy changes you’ve made, you may find this round of holidays a little less stressful and worrisome in regards to the food decisions you’ll be faced with.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” -William Arthur Ward