Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One Week? Establish Food Boundaries

Everything and nothing was on my mind yesterday. You know how you can be discontented for no apparent reason? Yesterday was one of those days that in the past I’d have mindlessly eaten whatever – and lots of it – just because I was bored/stressed/fill-in-the-blank. Instead, I got a haircut and a pedicure (my feet look like a Florida Christmas tree!).

A few hours at the salon shook off the food demons and I felt like a new woman by dinner. I made the spinach salad I’d planned and all was right in my food world. (BTW, you can get a haircut and pedicure in my little Podunkville for $60. My friends in a very large city that I won’t name here but is located in the midwest and on a lake could pay for roundtrip airfare to Pittsburgh and still get their hair cut and a pedi cheaper than their salon downtown big city. //word)

Anyway…defeating the food demons made me think about an article I read on CNN a few weeks ago: “One week to a slimmer you: Focus on the little things.” It recommends small strategies you can use to lose weight like yogic breathing during cravings, eating more colorful foods and foods with vitamin C, and taking a photo of your meal before you eat. But it wasn’t the strategies part that made me remember the article. It was the headline, specifically the “One week to a slimmer you” part.

One week.

What’s one week? When I was 300 pounds, one week of dieting didn’t make a visible difference, even when I lost 5 pounds. But it was that first week that laid the groundwork for success this millionth time down the scale.

In 2005, I didn’t know about yogic breathing or eating a rainbow, but I did know that in order to do it right this time – to make it my last time losing a large amount of weight – I had to have a much clearer goal and the mental tenacity to overcome those moments when I’d otherwise cave in to the cookie/crackers/ice cream/chicken nuggets…and the list goes on.

One week.

For me, the first week was the most important and the most dangerous. I call it the honeymoon phase. It’s the week you feel really good about your decision and think nothing can stop you because you’re so gosh darn enthusiastic. This is the last time! This is it! I can do this! Then real life sets in and you begin to wonder and wander. The new pedicurist at the salon reminded me of this yesterday when she told me how she’s lost and gained a lot of weight because she was so enthusiastic the first week and then old thought patterns slipped in again. “Just one cookie won’t hurt. I worked out all week…” You know the story.

So I started thinking, “What was different for me this last time? What was different that first week of my ‘diet?’” And I realized (and this shouldn’t surprise me, but identifying it and giving it words did) that I established “food boundaries,” which is WAY different than demonizing certain foods. I didn’t rule anything out. I didn’t say, “I can’t have _________! I’m on a diet!” I simply established boundaries. I’d tell myself: “I can eat ______ in a reasonable amount if it’s what I really want to eat.” Just saying this opened up the space for me to think about my relationship to food, something I’d never done before. In the past I would set up a list of things I “could” eat and disregard the rest. That is, until I made my “goal,” and then every food was game again. Thus the cycle.

Beginning with that first week in 2005, I remain living week to week, planning what I’ll eat and eating what I plan (for the most part – life does throw us curve balls now and again, does it not?). I still “crave” chicken nuggets, but I know they’d make me sick so I don’t eat them. I still love my mother’s chocolate cake and so I eat a small portion and am satisfied because it’s special. I adore mashed potatoes. But I also love roasted cauliflower and parsnips and carrots and broccoli; and they give me as much “comfort” as my old standard.

One week. If anyone asks me what made it “different” for me this time, I’ll tell them it’s food boundaries.

Amazing what you can learn while getting a haircut and pedicure, isn’t it?