Day by day…taking each day one at a time…new day, new start.
These are all phrases I hear or say when weight loss becomes a life style. As you age, metabolism shifts, and weight comes off slowly. I’m in for the long haul. When I hear (young) people say they are going on a diet to lose weight and then they’ll be done, I almost laugh inside. Yo-Yo is the term used to describe those big losses, followed in a few years by big gains, only to begin the big loss again. For some of us, that is our life. So, I’ve taken on the attitude that I’m in for the long haul.
Today, I will watch, track and monitor what I eat, the choices I make, get exercise and increase the amount of water I drink. When it comes down to it, that is all I really can control — today. What about tomorrow? Those who binge eat, or decide to have that pizza or ice cream, often regret doing so. It tasted good, but what was the cost? Loss of momentum, weight gain, even depression for some. Many dieting sites talk about making a total life change. Decide to never have certain foods again. Never? That sounds harsh.
I think when my attitude is on the long haul to a healthy weight and healthy body, where I day by day simply make good choices, an occasional blip won’t derail my momentum. I did have a piece of chocolate cake on my birthday. I will have an occasional latte. I will buy one vegan chocolate chip cookie. My current attitude is that I don’t see a major change in my eating habits EVER. Because of choices I have made for years to have foods I want when I want them, I now have to watch my weight and food habits the rest of my life. I created this, by my own choices over the years.
Too much of our social and work interactions involve food. Calories. Fat. Salt. Go to a work meeting and there will be a large pile of doughnuts. Go out for lunch with a friend and a menu of bad choices faces you. So is it all about discipline alone? Self discipline to say NO to food, when everyone around you is stuffing their face? I think it has to be more than that. Saying NO forever is, well, impossible. We will all have moments of weakness. We give in to peer pressure. We will want a doughnut because it’s all we can see while listening to boring work discussions. We let others choose the restaurant out of courtesy.
Long haul means changing things in your life so that each day, you can make the best choices. It doesn’t mean perfection. With a Lap-Band, I took care of some choices. No bread. No pasta. No rice. No 10 course meals. Ever. That helps, gives me some boundaries. It makes it easy to say, “without bread please.” But I have already learned the hard way that the Lap-Band is not the total cure. I gained weight with a Lap-Band because of the choices I made. 300+ calories for a simple latte, 7 times a week, is a lot of extra calories! And candy does not get controlled by the Lap-Band.
The long haul does mean I need to track my food in a food diary. I use the pro version of MyNetDiary on my iPad. I know about how many calories I ate yesterday and the macronutrients. I am very honest in my food diary. I’ve learned the hard way that eating and not recording only hurts me. I don’t tend toward perfection of weighing and measuring everything I eat. I am just honest about portion size and snacks. Because I’m being honest with myself. Because it’s just me, myself and I that read my food diary. I sort of treat it like a blood pressure reading. It’s numbers, facts, that in total, describe my choices. The long haul also means that I can accept days where I go over my calorie target, and days that I go under. The long haul says that I don’t reward myself with more food if I come in under my calorie target. It’s a target. Not an absolute.
I’m not saying this is easy. It isn’t. But by having a long haul attitude, I can accept the days when I mess up, make a bad choice, lose my self discipline for a moment. Because tomorrow is a new day, new choices. So how can we help ourselves on this journey? For me. I don’t buy foods I shouldn’t eat and have them sitting in the house. No chips. No candy. No ice cream. If it’s not in the house, I can’t use some rationalization that I can eat it. If something is in the house, my subconscious knows, remembers and even obsesses about it until I give in and eat it. So, not in the house. Instead, I do buy good snacks, or packaged portions of snacks. (Yes. In my weakness, I can rationalize that three bags is what I should have.) My second way to manage for the long haul is to exert some control over restaurant choices. “Where should we stop for lunch?” I offer suggestions where I know I will have choices that are more healthy. Or I limit frequency, like “it seems we just ate there.” I have to use self control when looking over the menu. It has really helped to have some restaurants now listing nutritional data on the menu or website. So I look for that. Or I ask for modifications like no gravy, or steamed veggies instead of French fries. The long haul is all about choices. I no longer work and have those work meetings with piles of doughnuts, but what I did at the time was ask the secretary if she could order a tray of fresh fruits as well as a tray of doughnuts. Then I could choose fruit. Or I brought my own snacks to the meeting.
Peer pressure – “a little dessert won’t hurt” or “ here, have a taste” or “come on, what’s your problem” or my favorite, “it will make the cook sad if you don’t take some.” We’ve all heard the phrases. We all have had people think it is their job to make you indulge. I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe their own guilt at indulging, like misery loves company? Maybe they’ve never been obese and they don’t understand why you choose not to indulge. Maybe it’s a form of hospitality, making sure everyone has what they want. For whatever reason, peer pressure is the hardest for me. I don’t want others unhappy with me. I don’t want to make a scene.So I try to have a list of responses ready, like “I just ate, maybe later” or “I’m sorry but that upsets my stomach” or “I think I have a touch of the flu” — anything to dissuade them from pushing food into my mouth. But I never say “I’m on a diet” because that is an invitation to many, a challenge to test my self control. Mostly, I do things to avoid peer pressure. I invite friends along who know my battle, who know I’m in for the long haul. I also talk to a counselor, who can remind me of ways I can make good choices or handle certain situations better.
One of my main defense with others, with peer pressure, is the fact that I can tolerate NO dairy products. Physically, I am in pain and spend far too much time in the bathroom if I have any dairy. I’m not making this up, or lying, when I say I can’t have dairy. I miss dairy products. It’s not something I would want another to deal with. But it does make it very easy to say, “hold the cheese” or “are they made with butter?” No cook wants to make you sick. But also, left to my own devices, the thought of indulging in a scoop of ice cream never enters my mind. But there are more and more non-dairy choices today. Some are healthy. Many are not. So don’t think I have an easy out. The long haul still has to be my goal, my desire, that influences my choices every day.
I actually think I have a better attitude now than before I decided that watching my food intake is never going to end. There is no, “I’ve made my goal weight now I can eat what I want” point in my future. And I accept it is because of bad choices I’ve made throughout my life. Does it get tiring? Yes. There are days when I just want to go back and eat whatever I want. So, how can I keep this motivation pure? How can I stay with a focus on the long haul? Good questions! I’m learning and I don’t have all the answers, but I have hints. Like my annual physical, when the doctor says my blood tests are great and he’s happy my cholesterol is so low, and “look at that a1c!” That felt good. Another is all these Zoom meetings where I have to look at myself as if having a mirror always with me. I see the weight, or the loss of weight constantly. Right now, I’m liking how I look on Zoom. Who would have thought COVID-19 would have this benefit? I’m constantly seeing myself in a mirror. And you know that those of us who deal with weight don’t spend a lot of time in front of mirrors! I also have many friends to whom I’ve been honest about my struggles. They can be my advocates in social situations, or someone to talk to when I’m struggling. So I can’t do the long haul by myself. I talk honestly with my counselor about my struggles. I also have my faith, so a common prayer I send up is “help me, Lord!” And he does! I now know that I have used food as a substitute for dealing with my emotions, as a way to hide from peer pressure, as a reward, as a right, as a need. I don’t ever “need” a second helping or dessert. I don’t need to use food as my reward for not getting mad and losing it with my boss. I don’t need to rationalize that food is the only way to deal with a problem. I do need a healthy relationship with food. I do need to know what my body does need in protein, carbs and fat. I do need to know substitutes that are healthy choices. And I do need my goal for weight to be focused on the long haul, like forever. I’m in for the long haul!