So, You're Making a Healthy 'Lifestyle Change'.
You've likely followed a few healthy Instagram pages, purchased a dieting cookbook and felt pride when the lady at the checkout comments on your healthy groceries. You'll prep all of your meals for the week ahead and tell yourself "NO CHEATING!". Here's a look at the week that then follows:
- Monday is PERFECT ("No cheats, F-ya!").
- Tuesday you had a half of a scone at the office meeting ("Just a little bit of guilt. Need to smarten up").
- Wednesday you forgot your apple and almonds so you needed to reach for a muffin at Starbucks ("Ugh, guilt is now piling up. I'll get an extra workout in").
- Thursday you slept in, missed your workout and couldn't say 'no' to your co-worker's offer to get drinks and appetizers after work ("This week is now a write off…").
- Friday and Saturday become a total wash when you think of the potential for 'perfection' next week ("Way too many cheats this week. I'll start fresh on Monday").
How is this a 'lifestyle change'? When did we start gauging our success with a meal plan or diet as whether or not we've cheated? When did a slip-up start meaning total failure?
Some of the problems:
1. "All or nothing" mentality
- It's either all A+ eating or a big fat F-. This can lead to an ugly world of binge eating. One little mistake can open up a whole new level of goring on food (you've already screwed up so why stop now?). You need to learn that mistakes do not mean that you have failed. One mistake does not undo all of your work.
2. Negative self-talk --> "Dear stomach, you're bored. Not hungry. So shut up."
- I found this quote and many versions of it shared on many 'dieting' Pinterest boards and blogs. If that doesn't lead you down a path of self-loathing I don't know what will. We would never talk to a friend that way...so why are we talking to ourselves like that? PLUS, how can we expect to see positive results with that type of self-talk going on.
3. Using exercise to 'erase' your cheat.
- Exercise is not a punishment. I repeat...EXERCISE IS NOT A PUNISHMENT. Exercise is a celebration of the amazing things your body is capable of. Exercise is rewarding your body with speed, agility, strength and power. Do not turn it into a punishment tactic.
- Now, there are a few who can safely follow intuitive eating where they either increase or decrease their food and exercise depending on the week ahead of them. Power to 'em, but if you are someone who eats a couple of cookies or eats more than planned and thinks "I'll go for a run tomorrow to make up for this"...WATCH OUT. This type of thinking is a slippery slope. You'll be even more likely to throw in the towel when you then don't go for that promised run.
4. Cheat Meals
- There is a time and a place for cheat meals. They are for people who are seriously dieting down (often seen with bodybuilders). Cheat meals are found in most meal plans, but if you find yourself:
- fantasizing about your next cheat meal
- panicking over whether you had a 'perfect' cheat meal
- feeling stress over having 'messed up' during the week and not having 'earned' your weekend cheat meal then...
CHEAT MEALS ARE NOT FOR YOU. Just because it works for someone else doesn't mean it'll work for you.
Remember: In the pursuit of physical health, do not give up your mental health. That is a difficult thing to overcome.
The Bigger Picture
When deciding to make a lifestyle change...regardless if it's to eat paleo, clean, wheat-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, raw...the list goes on...do not expect it to go perfectly. Know that between now and the end of your life that you will 'cheat' 100x. I can guarantee it. You need to accept it and move on. Get over it before it derails you from your lifestyle change. What will make the difference between realizing your goals and never getting anywhere is WHAT YOU DO THE OTHER THOUSANDS OF DAYS.
Here's Your Game Plan
1. Have a plan --> Prep your food. Cut your veggies. Be ready for the week ahead. Not sure what to eat? Find a trainer or dietitian.
2. Track it --> Find a system that works for you whether it's tracking your food, a rating system (stars, smiley faces etc) or simply following the plan made by your trainer. This will come in handy when those 'oops' moments happen and you suddenly feel like quitting. Take a look at the A+ days before and allow your previous successes to motivate you to overcome this minor slip-up.
2. Mentality --> Food is fuel for your workout and nutrition for your body. Choose quality, wholesome foods not simply because you're watching your caloric intake, but because you don't want to provide your body with anything short of the best.
3. Take a look at your social media --> Follow people who are out there kicking ass and are choosing foods that help them do so. Follow the girl who is training to make the team, follow the guy who is working out to be able to play with his kids, follow your friend who decided running was better than sitting on the couch. What you follow will trickle into how you workout, how you eat and how you talk to yourself.
4. Tough love --> Change isn't easy. There are going to be days where you'd rather face plant a chocolate cake rather than eat your carrots. Eat your damn carrots!
5. Self-love--> Life is too short for anything else. Have a slice of that chocolate cake and MOVE ON (go back up and read 'The Bigger Picture' part if you're still struggling with this).
Thank you for reading!
As always, feel free to give your feedback or share you story.