There’s No “Wrong Way”…Except…

I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me how frustrated she was feeling about her weight loss efforts. I asked why because I could definitely tell she was having success and I knew she was taking lots of really great steps—making healthier food choices and moving her body.

Her response? “I feel like I’m on a diet.”

Rut roh.

Boy do I know that feeling…and it sucks. And as long as you FEEL like you are on a diet, it really doesn’t matter what you are doing. If you are making healthy choices you will ultimately make some less-than-healthy ones. Out of spite. Out of revenge. Out of desperation.

That is bad enough…but want to know what is even worse? The unconscious rebellion that often occurs when we feel deprived.

While we feel like we are dieting, the little kid in us will find ways to sneak foods into our eating or keep us from taking the walk that we had planned for the day. And we won’t even be aware that it is going on! Not only does this NOT take away from the feeling of dieting, it will slow our results leading to feelings of worthlessness and futility. AND it can actually result in our gaining weight even though we would swear in a court of law that we are “not guilty” of cheating on our diet.

So what’s the solution?

The first step is to be aware of the feeling. Success, she did that!

The next step is to dig a little deeper to determine what the basis of the feeling is—so we can fix it.

Some people will feel like they are on a diet if they can’t stuff themselves full every day of their lives. Other people feel like they are on a diet because they are missing a certain taste. Other times the feeling stems from an awareness that “something” is different or missing, without knowing exactly what it is. For others it may be that a habit or ritual has been taken away.

What do these all have in common? Deprivation.

So we look at what we are feeling deprived about and see if we can resolve it. In my friend’s case she enjoyed having popcorn and beer. She knew she had slipped into a habit of having it pretty much every night and so now she was swearing off it altogether. This is what I call creating a “forbidden foods” list…something I have done many times, never with weight loss success as the end result.

After discussing it, we agreed that she that instead of eliminating popcorn and beer from her life entirely, she would try having it only once or twice a week as a special treat. The sense of relief on her face was readily apparent.

For some people, this solution doesn’t work…at least not for now. I know when I was first starting out on this weight loss journey I was terrified that if I had a little ice cream (my drug of choice) that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. But even more terrifying than that was the idea that I would NEVER be able to have ice cream again in my life. That felt like a diet…and a death sentence!

So instead of saying that right off the bat I could have a small dish of ice cream once a week I said that I could have ice cream WHENEVER I WANTED. What? Not the answer you were expecting I’ll bet. Yep, I gave myself permission to have ice cream—as long as that was what I really wanted. It had to be a conscious decision. And I would start with a small serving, with the permission to go back for more, again—if it was what I truly wanted. For me, having the permission was all I needed. I’m not sure how long it was before I decided that I really wanted ice cream, but when I did I enjoyed it in a way that I never had before in my life.

Chocolate is a huge category all by itself. It has so many emotional and hormonal connections for women. It is something that most women crave periodically (no pun intended) and we tend to believe we are powerless to its pull. Chocolate is not inherently bad for you…but all the sugar and fat that we add to it makes it less healthy—and delicious!

If you like the really dark chocolate then even health advocates will tell you can have an ounce every day. It has lots of antioxidants. The problem is, most of us like the milk chocolate and even if we do like the dark chocolate we have trouble limiting it to 1 ounce.

I have a couple solutions for this: first, when you buy chocolate, buy the absolute best you can afford. Do not settle. Go to a chocolate shop (I know you know where they are) and buy one piece and really savor it. Don’t stock up on inexpensive chocolate and have it in the house on the false premise that it is cheaper. When you end up eating the entire bag you will have spent more in cash and way more in calories and sugar… “Splurging” on a really good piece of chocolate is really a saver for the wallet and waistline.

The second solution is to have one of the protein bars that are chocolate. Now, this isn’t the best chocolate, but it does allow for some chocolate in your day without spiking the blood sugar. But if you go this route buy bars that have a ratio of 1 part protein (or more) to 3 parts carbohydrate, and preferably sugar is not in the first 3 ingredients. More carbs than that and your sugar will spike and you will set yourself up for cravings…if you are going to do that then you might as well have “real” chocolate. I have found a few brands that work: Zone (I avoid the caramel flavor because they have more sugar even though the ratio is still good), Think Thin, and Kind are the ones I have found with the best ratio. There may be others. Read the labels though…just because they are “protein bars” or sold in the health food store does not mean they will fit these criteria.

Once you are further on your journey you may find that you can have your “temptation” foods in the house…but in the beginning, make an event out of getting whatever food you want—whether it is pizza or pie, ice cream or chips. Take the time to go and buy it and enjoy it. And once you stop enjoying it—stop eating it. You don’t even have to throw the rest away. Put it somewhere that is not right in your line of sight like a back shelf and know that if/when you really want the flavor of your favorite food that you can have it.

I’ve been amazed that I actually have had ice cream in my house for months without my even thinking about it. This is something I truly thought was an impossibility a few years ago.

Losing weight permanently is not about hard and fast rules. It is about making small changes that you can live with. This takes a shift in our thinking…the idea of dieting and deprivation have been drilled into our heads so we tend to think only way we can lose weight—and the only way we DESERVE to—is by becoming a food martyr. Truly the mindset for weight loss requires the opposite. We must learn to love and embrace ourselves—and food. Food is what fuels our bodies and our brains. We need food. We enjoy food. Food is part of our social life, our celebrations.

Are you, like my friend, in your efforts to drop pounds feeling like you are on a diet? What food are you limiting that makes you feel like you are on a diet? Take some time to figure out what you are really feeling deprived about. You may find merely giving yourself permission to eat it is enough. Or you may determine a way to take control of the food and work a healthy amount of that treat into your life so that you feed that inner child and stop the rebellion.

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