Every diet I've ever tried, I've failed at miserably. I start off great - pumped, prepared, and eager to lose. But it doesn't take long for me to derail from the plan and begin cheating. Are you like me? Chances are you've experienced this at some point in your life.
I used to get so angry with myself for not following through; I couldn't understand why my great intentions always ended with defeat. Many experts say that people stuff their feelings with food. But I didn't realize what that feeling was until just recently when I watched my son struggle the same way. It's amazing how clearly we can identify other people's issues (rather than our own). But if I learned something - who cares?
My Biggest Obstacle
What was that feeling that I was stuffing? Be honest - tell me if this describes your attempts to lose weight, or change a habit, or follow a difficult plan. I felt sorry for myself! Yup, it's true. Looking back over my life, my 20/20 after-the-fact vision clearly reveals that I succumb to a pity party every time I have to control my eating.
I'd find myself arguing with, well, myself while I was out shopping:
Strong Self: "Don't buy that treat!"
Weak Self: "Why can't I just have this one?"
Strong Self: "Don't do it!"
Weak Self: "I promise. It'll just be this one." [Note: It's never just the one. That one instigates so much trouble - a downward spiral.]
Strong Self: "What is wrong with you? You do this every time."
Weak Self: "Everyone else gets to eat what they want. Why can't I?" [Really?]
Strong Self: "First, EVERYONE else isn't eating what they want. Second, grow up!"
Weak Self: "My life is so hard right now. I lost my job. I'm discouraged. I just want this treat - there's nothing wrong with that!"
And so it goes.
I got to thinking about why having that one treat became so important. My best guess (and many therapists would probably agree), that I felt so comforted by my mom when I was little and I don't have that now. For some reason pampering myself with treats seems to give me that invisible hug that I crave so much.
Being able to indulge myself takes the sting out of being a grown-up. That other self? That whiny voice sneaks up when I least expect it? The best way to deal with that voice is to PLAN for that voice. Here are some strategies that work for me:
Keep a record: Most people have a smart phone, and if you don't, you probably still have access to paper. I keep a running tally in my smart phone's notepad every time I start to have that annoying conversation with myself. If I give in, I jot it down. Inevitably, whatever I craved so badly and couldn't live without gives me acid reflux, a stomachache, or some other negative side effect. I note that as well. What I've just done is loaded up with ammunition for the next time I whine at myself. I can remind myself how this "treat" impacted the way I feel.
Have a backup: I keep a high-protein bar in my purse and one in my car. I can have that instead - or if I'm still in the store, I can promise myself a compromise if I leave empty handed. This has gotten me out of many close calls.
Dodge and weave: What? I trick myself sometimes - hey, we get desperate! I tell myself that I can rethink this decision after I've completed my shopping. If I'm tempted while driving, I tell myself I can rethink that treat at the next exit - then the next exit, etc.
Distract yourself: I have many ways to distract myself. I phone or text a friend (not while driving), check my social media, I also carry my e-reader everywhere. I no longer worry about standing in line next to the candy display; I'm usually reading my Kindle in the check out. I get so engrossed in what I'm reading that I forget about that craving (until the next time). If I'm driving, I listen to music or instructional mp3s.
And if none of these strategies works, I try one last ditch effort to stop myself:
Face it head on: This is brutal, but necessary to succeed. I ask myself why I am voluntarily, willfully trying to sabotage my own efforts. I remind myself of my goal, of why I want to achieve that goal, and ask myself if that treat is worth giving up on that goal.
And finally, there is always that time that none of this works and I give in to my whining. When this happens, the best thing to do is to love yourself and recommit to your goal. Start fresh the next day.