One of my readers (hello, Ms Monica!) has asked me to share how I’m handling things foodwise and I promised to share that info here on the blog. So tonight I will explain the plan of attack I have used on my food demons for the last 4 months.
When I first started this “magical adventure of change” last December, I was a very different person than the savvy, has-it-all-together, laugh-in-the-face-of-Twinkies girl you see today…smirk. I was a Hot Mess. Back then, deciding to eat healthy meant flinging myself head first into extremes and setting myself up for failure with what I call “boot camp mentality”. A healthy change meant denying myself all enjoyment in food and forcing broccoli down my throat in large quantities. This, of course, sent me into withdrawals from Little Debbie cream filling (picture me sobbing “Why, God…why???” in a scalding hot shower…sort of reminiscent of Silkwood).
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic – but it was bad. BAD.
The first thing I did when I got serious was to buy one of those huge books that gives you the breakdown of every food imaginable. This is the one I used:
I’m a Kindle girl, but I bought a hard copy of this sucker so I could hunker down on the couch with my highlighter and go to town. I highlighted every food (healthy and not-so-healthy) that I truly enjoy. Key word: ENJOY. If you know me at all, you know that the words pickle, lettuce, and bean were NOT highlighted. Blah!
With that accomplished, I set about making three lists:
· Foods I can eat (healthy foods or foods that I knew I could reasonably moderate)
· Foods that were naughty but I knew I couldn’t live without
· Foods that were so naughty that I would be giving them up… for 3 months
(I wanted time to really make healthy a habit before even trying to let these foods back in my menu plan)
Every single highlighted food was put on one of those 3 lists. Examples? You want examples? I’ve got examples!!
Chicken. I actually enjoy chicken very much. That went on the “Foods I can eat” list.
Buffalo wings. Naughty. VERY naughty. But I knew that I could not give them up…at least not cold turkey, so they went on the “Can’t Live Without” list.
Ice cream. Sweet Creamy Frozen Milk of Satan. I can’t have it. I can’t be trusted with it. If it’s in the house, I can’t stop thinking about it until I’ve eaten every last drop of it. So, as I wept softly to myself, I put ice cream on the “Give Up for 3 Months” list. Sweet mother of all things holy…I started to realize that I was serious.
I mulled over the “Give Up for 3 Months” list. I considered each food listed. I thought about the taste of it, the enjoyment of it, and the impact of eating it while trying to eat healthy and “behave”. If there was anything that I knew I wouldn’t be able to moderate (like ice cream), it went on that list. That was about as “tough love” as I got with myself.
After I made my lists, I sat myself down for some good old fashioned mathematical fun. I figured out how many calories I would be able to eat a day and still lose weight. For me, that magical number was 1,400 calories per day. With that information in hand, I went back to my lists.
** For those of you who zoned out when I said I did the math myself, let me just say that I spent 20+ years following this diet or that, eating this or that, because every time I thought about going through the trouble of figuring it out for myself…I got intimidated. Google was my friend…and it’s yours too. Think twice before you let the diet industry tell you what’s best for you – that’s all I’m saying.
Back to my plan of attack…
I already knew I was a Hot Mess. Every time I tried to get healthy before, I allowed myself too many choices. I had always done what the diet & fitness industry said I should do and I didn’t pay attention to what I needed to do. I took a good look at all my failed attempts in the past and realized that I tried to run before I could walk…so I put myself on dietary training wheels.
Using the list of foods I could eat, I created a menu consisting of 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, and 2 snacks. The entire day’s menu was within my 1400 calorie limit. I made sure the menu was balanced and contained only food choices that I was 100% happy with. There were no compromises here – no lettuce, no broccoli, no gnawing on raw carrots all day. I chose foods that I really enjoy: Special K Vanilla Almond cereal…grilled, super spicy chicken…cocoa roasted almonds…Laughing Cow garlic cheese wedges…Granny Smith apples…grapefruit…watermelon. These are all low calorie foods, sure…but they’re all foods I love. (Just FYI, those cocoa roasted almonds really killed my chocolate cravings.)
Here’s where you’re probably going to roll your eyes at me: I ate that same menu every day for about the first 2 months. Why? Because I didn’t want choices. That’s where I always failed myself. When I’m up at 5 am and trying to start my day AND new healthy habits, I don’t need to face off with a bunch of choices. This may come as a shocker, but I’m not exactly the perkiest bitch in the morning. I knew if I let myself have the power of choice, I’d sit on the couch in a half-snooze until it was time to grab my keys and head out the door…then I’d drive through Starbucks for a venti artery clogger and a maple oat scone. Not a good start for Dianne – and it would just get worse from there. I used that one menu like a suit of reinforced titanium armor, peeps…and I headed into battle with the food demons.
Eating the same thing every day was not and is not the final solution for me, but it did make things so much easier in the beginning. Sure, there were days when it got a little boring and there were times when I was really tempted to eat some kind of crap – but I just kept reminding myself how unhappy I would be if I broke my promise. I reminded myself how I would feel if I gave up…again. Overall, I found a real sense of security in eating the same meals every day. I clung to it like a life raft.
After about 2 months, I branched out a little and let myself make substitutions here and there. Now, 4 months later, I have about 3 different breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I choose from. I plan to keep adding more choices until I can eat like a normal human being. I know that whatever combination of meals I choose, I’ll end my day somewhere between 1200 and 1400 calories. I don’t log my food anymore. Once in a while, I get buffalo wings…or pizza…or something naughty. I compensate by eating lighter the rest of the day. I haven’t had
ice cream sweet creamy frozen milk of Satan since I started living healthy…because there’s some shit you just don’t mess with. Why poke a tiger with a sharp stick?
If I sound like an addict in a 12 step program, well…you’re not far from the truth. You don’t get to weigh 381 pounds because you just like cookies. But I’ll tell you what: alcoholics & drug addicts don’t have to drink or do drugs in order to stay alive. Not true for us food addicts. I’m not trying to make light of anyone’s struggles in any way, but facing the devil is somewhat unique if food is your drug of choice. Whatever the addiction, though, there are always underlying issues and this happens to be the way through it for me. Baby steps and training wheels…and it’s working.
Proof? Look at my weight loss ticker up there on the right. 36 pounds are gone now. I’ve lost 2 more pounds in the last couple days. The fat’s coming off whether it wants to or not…because I finally stopped following other people’s plans and doing what other people said would work. I haven’t done anything crazy like ignore my doctor or go on the “eat pork rinds all day diet”. I’ve been responsible with my health – and you should too. I slowed down and started paying attention to what was working…and what was not working – which is truly an accomplishment for someone who lives for instant gratification. It’s really hard to make a change & stick with it long enough to see if it works or not – especially when all you want to do is take a miracle fat sucking pill and sit your ass on the couch.
This patience shit can be frustrating! Now I’m fully on board because I see that this baby steps thing really works for me. A little setback doesn’t derail my progress for a whole day…or week. There was a time when one little screw up would be just the excuse I needed to give up and grab a pint of mint chip because I didn’t have a perfect day. Now all I care about is keeping myself on the road and moving forward – even if I’m not going as fast as everyone else thinks I should be. And that’s how I’m doing this…each and every day. It brings to mind a quote that I have hanging over my treadmill.
A year from now, I plan to be at least 100 pounds lighter.
Where will you be? Let’s go.