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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Taking responsibility

My previous post talked about choices and priorities. Let's now add responsibility to the mix.

As a grown up we face daily dilemmas that, in the long run, have a huge impact on our lives. According to Dr  Phil: "You choose the behavior, you choose the consequence". So true! Yet so hard to apply!

Take food, for example. As my friend K puts it wisely, with food, each bite can (and should) be a conscious choice. As far as we might wander away from good habits, deep down inside, we all want to be healthy. Incidentally, we all want to be thin. (And ripped. And attractive. And sexy. It's just one of those things!) Do you know what three words women love to hear the most? Try to guess. What are those three words? No, it's not "I love you." The three words that are sure to make a woman's day are... "You lost weight".

Other words that work pretty well are "You're tiny" (mostly when addressed to women, obviously) and "I love your hair". My personal favourite, that was said to me by a lovely person I had just met at the gym, was "You must be a runner, 'cause you look like one".

Yet we all find it so tremendously hard to stay on track. There are so many temptations! Imagine if we lived in a world where the only foods that existed were, let's say... lentils, brown rice, and broccoli. Would we even eat half as much as we do? Hardly. Easy access to a whole variety of foods is wonderful in a way, but it kills us (sometimes literally) in another way. Plus all the colorful packaging. Plus the huge portions offered in restaurants. Our bodies get used to eating too much sugar, to much salt, too much fat, and just too much in general. We can't even trust our signals of satiety anymore. Our system is just completely broken-down, and we have to relearn it all.

Which is what I've been trying to do for a few months now, with the help of my trainer A and this helpful, free website. I did not have a lot of weight to lose, but I was tired of "eating my emotions" and losing control over sweet treats. It was an obstacle on my path to fitness, it made my mood and energy levels fluctuate, and it gave me headaches.

An important part of relearning how to eat is to become fully aware of what we actually consume. Keeping a food journal is the best way to do this. Writing it all down (myfitnesspal calculates all the numbers for you) is sure to bring about some big surprises! It's hard to blame our excess fat on glands and metabolism when the numbers are right there in our face! (About denial and finding excuses - and for a good laugh - take a look at that video, recommended by A. Apparently, stress is not an excuse either!)

There's all kinds of excuses out there. No later than last week, while at the gym, I overheard a woman saying to her trainer "But I can't go to the restaurant and order a SALAD! Come on!" (To which the trainer calmly replied: "Yes you can.") Speaking of restaurants... I went to "junk food country" (namely the US) last month, and was pleasantly surprised when I opened a menu that contained calorie information for every single dish and drink. This is not about taking pleasure out of eating. It's about gaining knowledge and making informed choices. Indulging is certainly permitted... but to a certain point. As I'm saying this, there is a wonderful smell of homemade chocolate cookies in the house... and I've already eaten two. We are not to turn into "food extremists", like my friend M (a nutritionist) would say.

My personal excuse for bad eating has always been "other people". What are other people going to think if I insist on getting a smaller portion? If I stop after one glass of wine? If I refuse dessert? Especially if said dessert was made with me in mind! Gawd, that is tough. Truth is, however... nobody ever force-feeds you. (And if they did, you'd be warranted to sue them!) I and only I am in charge of what gets into my mouth.

Other people are also my excuse when it comes to social eating (which is ubiquitous in this society). So much of our social life revolves around food that it's really hard to stay reasonable. I tested it. After eating really well for a full day, I went to a friend's place for an evening of chatting and munchies. There was 5 or 6 of us there, and we all brought something to eat. I really tried to keep portions (including alcohol) in control. But when I typed it all into myfitnesspal afterwards, I had busted my daily goal (which is very reasonable and realistic) by close to 1000 calories. Ouch! How did that even happen, I wondered. But the numbers don't lie.

Any special occasion will also be a pretext for indulging, and like I said, this is fine occasionally. I cannot go to Quebec and not have a poutine. I cannot go to my mom's house and not have a piece of her yummy strawberry-rhubarb pie. It's all about moderation, really. Last time I went to the beach, instead of my usual cheesies and candy (for some reason the fresh air from the ocean makes me crave junk!) I brought a pear and 10 almonds (plus a bottle of water). I felt great, and I refocused my pleasure on non-food elements (my toes in the sand, the warmth of the sun, chatting with D, watching the kids catch some waves). It was as much fun. Really.

Re-learning to eat well can be hard at times, especially when you've developed an "addiction" to sugar, salt, and/or fat. But as for smokers, it's just a matter of time. When a craving comes, try and hold it for two minutes. By the time two minutes have elapsed, the craving is usually gone. If your stomach doesn't growl, it wasn't hunger anyways. And after just a few days of implementing better choices, avoiding your weakness becomes surprisingly easier. I had no idea I could survive (and thrive!) on so little sugar. Then if you do succumb, do as another nutritionist friend of mine recommends, and eat whatever you fell for SLOWLY, fully enjoying each bite or spoonful. Don't eat it quickly on the corner of your desk. You need your body and brain to register what's going on!

Perfection will NOT be attained, for we are not perfect (I personally just cannot have any chocolate ice cream in the house, at any time), but we can be the master of our own belly, and not let said belly control us. We will feel so much better for it. Trust me on that.

1 comment:

  1. dat was lyk going wid d coolest stuff ever... many a times I made up dat 'my fitnesspal' 2 keep myself fit & flamboyant. bt nvr kept up. aftr going thru this post, I decided very strongly 2 keep tabs on wat I eat n do 2 keep myself fit. thanq