It’s interesting why, when we know we should exercise or eat more healthy food, why we don’t do it, can’t seem to do it. That we simply can’t stop putting certain foods in our mouth. Each thing we eat is a conscious decision to do so. Also interesting that one day the penny drops for some, we have a light bulb moment which can bring about a life changing experience. I’m not a researcher, or expert on this topic but I find it interesting because I am one of many who do this. I have my own battle with keeping my peri-menopausal body from gaining weight. I had to consciously address my weight gain if I was to remain in or close to a healthy weight range and a weight that I felt comfortable with.
I was listening to an interview with Andrew Taylor who lost 50kg by eating only potatoes.https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=711028488&i=1000428032482 He can be found on instagram @spudfit. Andrew said some thought provoking comments. He’s an educated man who had done plenty of physical activity in his life, so wasn’t afraid of exercise yet, still he had a food addiction.
He always struggled with his weight, even in his competitive sporting days. He highlighted a very good point regarding abstinence. Other addictions for treatment work on an abstinence model, being that you don’t have the substance you have an addiction to at all. For example, if it’s alcohol you stop having any. You can avoid social situations that put temptation in the way. It’s not a case of I will have beer and wine but not spirits, it’s a case of you have no alcohol at all. You can’t do this with food. You can’t abstain or avoid situation where food is. We need to eat. You are always exposed to temptation even if it’s in the form of overeating and not necessarily poor choices. Andrew researched a food that he could live on for 12 months eradicating everything else in his diet as this was as close the the abstinence model he could achieve. This of course isn’t something I think I could do or feel nutritionists would recommend but it was interesting listening to what came out of that process for him other than a 50 kg weight loss.
One of Andrews drivers for losing weight was from years of teaching he noticed in general kids turn out like their parents. Obese parents set their kids up to be obese children through poor diet and lifestyle choices, which in general carry’s on over to obesity in adulthood as a result of learnt behaviours. He was obese and depressed and didn’t want that to be his sons life growing up. He didn’t want his child to be an obese depressed self loathing man like himself. He relays how he was sitting on the couch one day and had a moment of clarity and decided to change.
The moment we make a conscious choice to change is another interesting aspect. We can self loathe but not do anything to change our situation. We have the absolute power to do so but don’t. We choose in some morbid way to continue to dislike ourselves and live with that horrible feeling, no matter how mentally strong and competent we can be in other aspects of our lives.
Why do we do this when it’s something we have control over. One portion of our brains thinking over rides a desire to change. I only changed because I chose to ‘temporarily ‘ change for my sons wedding. The thought of sustained change was beyond what I believed I could do because I had failed every time to sustain any weight loss I had. My short-term goal was based on pure vanity. Wanting to look nice in a family photo. But let’s go a layer deeper, it was wanting to look nice in a family photo, plus, feel good about myself on the day so I could enjoy my sons wedding day to its fullest. To not feel restricted by my uncomfortable feelings about myself in my gown and to have memories of a day that I didn’t want photos taken because of my insecurities about my appearance. I wanted proudly stand next to Ted, next to Rupert and smile with a genuine smile of happiness and that’s what I did.
But like Andrew Taylor whilst working to this goal I found that if I was prepared to make changes and undo habits I had formed I would organically create new habits. Habits that created a better way to live.
There’s a moment in the interview where he and Osher Gunsberg discuss the ‘fuck it’ moment. We’ve all been there and can relate to some extent I’m sure. Andrew Taylor discusses how he’d eat one piece of pizza and say one piece will be ok, then 2 pieces justifying he will workout harder and eventually he would have eaten the whole pizza. At this point he was at the fuck it moment. He’d then reach for the ice cream whilst also consuming a stack of calories in a 1.5L of coke. The next day waking with full intentions to start fresh but by lunchtime being faced with temptation and undoing it all again and again and again. He’d go to work with a salad but find himself buying lunch that he enjoyed in the moment.
We know it’s a choice we are going to regret. We go through the justification stage reaching the fuck it stage, I’ve had so much, I’m just a loser, got no self-control and completely feeling bad about ourselves. Why can’t we just not eat what we know we will regret.
Angela Duckworth in her book Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance, talks about pessimistic talk and optimistic talk. She gives examples of how pessimistic talk gives no hope but optimistic talk gives the opposite and how optimistic thought brings hope which brings about change and success.
An example would be if you said fuck it I’m a loser because I just ate the whole pizza, then ice cream and a bottle of coke, then yes, failure will persist. You have confirmed in your mind you are a loser, end of story. But if you said fuck it, I messed up this time but had I bought the small size pizza and ate all of that rather than the family size it wouldn’t have been so bad. The next time you order the small and even if you ate the whole pizza you’ve made progress. Next time perhaps you may only eat 2 slices or not order at all and in time order a healthier choice. There’s hope. There is room for continual growth, change and improvement. That’s where the all in or all out mindset will fail you every time. People get caught up with if I’m fucking up everyday or several times a day then what’s the point of going to the effort of making a healthy tea or healthy breakfast. The thing is, every little thing you do to create and support change eventually add up to a group of a lot of things. The more you choose a new way, a better way the more it becomes habit and slowly but surely over sometime, and there’s not necessarily an end point or deadline, it becomes habit. And when something is a habit it now becomes who you are. It becomes part of your lifestyle. Try it. Try committing to some small changes and even if you stumble, don’t give up. Eventually it will become habit. Trust me!
Since committing to my new healthier lifestyle I have made behavioural changes. Sugar is my heroin. If I go out to dinner I would always automatically order a dessert. Now I am slowly but surely getting better. I have started to consciously decide are these calories, is this sugar worth it. I recognise I have a sugar addiction and once I have it introduced to often back into my lifestyle I know from experience over the past 2.5 years I can easily slip back into old habits. I remember my why, why did I initially start my 28 program!
I use that to decide. I know how hard it is to withdraw from sugar once it’s a regular in my life. So I need to keep sugar treats in balance. My sugar treats need to be kept at a minimum to avoid going back to sugar cravings. There are times now I look and if there isn’t a dessert I think I’d really enjoy, I ask myself will the regret be worth it for something I’m not going to really love eating. Am I eating the dessert out of habit. I then have declined dessert because the regret won’t be worth it. But if I think I’m really going to savour every mouthful I allow myself dessert when out. Sometimes I now find myself saying I feel really full and if there’s a better snack choice at home I don’t have the dessert there I wait and enjoy my 20 grams of home-made chocolate and that gives me positive feelings. I feel good that I didn’t eat the dessert just for the sake of it, just because it’s habit. I’m still a work in progress but I believe I’m showing optimistic behaviour rather than pessimistic. I believe with small changes I can change habits rather than I can never change my ways.
You can’t change as a person, I have a sweet tooth but I believe I can change behaviours. Behavioural change has to be a conscious effort and needs a level of commitment. Commitment is different to all in or all out. It’s a desire to try to keep trying. And if one way isn’t working being open to changing the approach. The main issue is don’t stop trying because then change won’t happen, that’s for sure! In 6 months, 12 months you will still be self loathing and feeling uncomfortable in your clothes.
Saturday night I went out and I know I indulged in way to many chocolate bullets! Instead of saying to myself I just blew my whole week of exercise and better eating, which was my initial thought, I put more of a positive spin on it and thought, it’s good that I had done so well during the week exercising, it wasn’t great that I ate so many bullets but today is a new day and I know, because I have been eating well for 2.5 years now that today will be a better day with food and put eating those bullets in the past and refocus on today. I can’t change what’s done but I can have power over what happens today. Next time I’m in that situation ask for the bullets to be moved away from my arm length or sight.
I believe having an all in or all out attitude sets you up for failure. Adopting a progress not perfection attitude is what is needed for success.
I know at times like Saturday night I will stumble. And I may some days stumble more than once. But I know if I gave up, the weight I lost, would definitely, and more, be re-gained. By doing what I can each day, not being to hard on myself and staying optimistic with my self talk I can continue to make positive progress. I definitely wouldn’t have lost weight if I weren’t prepared to have changed any of my habits. Those being such things carbs at each meal, portion sizes, snack selection, pre made sauces and desserts after every evening meal. I ate cereal every morning. I loved it. When I started 28, I thought I only have to go without cereal for 3 months until Ruperts Wedding then I’m back to cereal. I honestly couldn’t imaging not eating my Kellogg’s everyday. I can categorically say I haven’t had cereal From a packet since September 2016. And I don’t miss it one bit! I have smoothies, homemade muesli, homemade birchers and the occasion toast with fruit and peanut butter toppers, or fresh healthy pancakes. It’s not that I don’t eat Carbs, I do but have dropped back a lot!
It was because I decided to push through, be prepared to make changes and NOT give up and to let go of an all in all out attitude that has got me where I am now.
As Andrew Taylor relayed organic changes happen, change starts to occur even in a subconscious level. I now don’t buy certain foods and keep them in the house or in my car or at work because I know they are a weakness’ and I substitute by making home-made chocolates which are much healthier and limit myself to 20 grams a day. And through habit forming, I now do this quite easily most days, providing, I don’t tempt myself by keeping other confectionery in the house.
Initially not buying confectionary or treats I liked wasn’t easy. I need sweetness or I crave it. So I found a way to do that but in a more healthy way. I did this by making my own treats. And that became a non negotiable that I made these so I wasn’t tempted buy commercial sugar loaded treats.
I have spoken about joining a healthy lifestyle group in this blog Going from no exercise at all to a 3 month diet for a wedding, to a complete lifestyle change and climbing a mountain.
If nothing changes then nothing changes.
It’s as the saying says, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. I had been trying to lose weight for 10 years. And what I was doing clearly hadn’t worked. I had to be prepared to make a conscious choice to do something different or else I wouldn’t lose weight and be able to maintain that.
I had to be prepared to try foods I hadn’t, and be prepared to eat less sugar and carbohydrates. I had to be prepared to exercise and get out of my comfort zone to an extent. For me that meant going into a room, shutting the door and following the video exercises on my @28bysamwood program. It meant feeling awkward and stupid, feeling hot and sweaty and puffy which are all things I disliked. But the more I did these exercises the stronger I got and better I got at them. In time I was doing them proficiently and gaining confidence in my ability. This was a major hurdle for me to overcome. Being able to do this all in the privacy of my own home and even in the privacy of a room away from my family was how I built up the willingness to try and keep trying.
I changed my diet dramatically. I used to think I ate well. I didn’t eat a lot of takeaway but what I realised I wasn’t eating real food. I was eating food Pre packaged and processed with hidden salts. sugars, glutens, preservatives and who knows what else. One of the significant changes I made was adopting the Just Eat Real Food philosophy ( JERF). This made a dramatic difference. As was not eating carbohydrates with each meal sometimes or very few if I did. I had to completely change my mindset on this and create new habits. It was initially hard to eat a stir fry without rice accompanying it, or a stew casserole without potatoes. But I got used to it.
Andrew Taylor said potatoes were a boring food. He relays his reliance on food was for emotional support. He said, you have a bad day at work and you don’t want to deal with it by going for a run you deal with it by eating some junk and that would make you feel better. You have a couple of Tim Tams and in the moment you think this is great but it’s a fleeting moment, in the end it makes everything worse. He used food to avoid emotion.
Andrew explains that we as humans have evolved to seek energy dense foods such as carbohydrates or high caloric foods. In cavemen times, whichever humans were able to seek the most energy dense foods were the most likely to survive. We have systems built in that encourage us to go and find more calories. If you eat something higher in calories like a donut you get a bigger dopamine ( feel good hormone) hit in your brain and that then encourages you to go and find more calories because you like how you feel when eating it.
He ate to get dopamine boosts from high dense calorie rich foods he enjoyed. When he was on his abstinence diet of potato’s he found he wasn’t getting dopamine boosts he’d previously got from eating so he was forced organically to seek new ways of getting emotional regulation from other things than food. It wasn’t a conscious decision at the time but he wasn’t getting the feel good rush from food. He started looking for other ways to get comfort, enjoyment and emotional support from other areas of life other than food. He started to find other ways to regulate his emotions. This was intriguing to me. Over time there was a shift from the association with pleasure from food to pleasure from other activities. And that broke the cycle of food addiction. He was addicted to the feeling food gave him.
By committing to change, you are effectively committing to breaking pattern in behaviour.
I asked myself, where did I seek comfort, enjoyment and emotional support when I was breaking my patterns of behaviour. And this is what I came up with.
. Family supported me and encouraged my efforts
. As I got better at exercises I felt a new sense of achievement and became proud of my efforts
. As my weight decreased I gain encouragement
. I got enjoyment by my clothes fitting better . Dresses and skirts dropping over my hips nicer, jeans not so tight in the thighs and waist.
. I felt good that I was decreasing preservatives and chemical from my food intake.
. I felt proud of my effort to stay committed to change to trying something different
. I was proud to feel healthier and know I was living a healthier life.
. Ted encouraged me to try something I had never thought I could do. And as Andrew described these things came organically. I didn’t make the change in lifestyle thinking this is what I’d do. It naturally took me there as I felt more confident in my abilities.
. I got pleasure from personal achievement
. My new choices gave me something to focus on. I was willing to try new experiences and it gave me a new confidence and helped me believe in myself. Therefore I wasn’t seeking food for comfort.
Food had now become, about health rather than the neurohormone dopamine rush and no longer relied upon for emotional regulation as much. I was being rewarded in other ways.
I believe having insight into your behaviours and what drives them is a start to understanding and adapting where need be.
How I went about change to lose weight and maintain the loss:
1. Think about changing and really meaning it.
2. Know your why. Why do you want to change.
3.Have a short-term goal to start and not just the end goal.
4. Be prepared to do things differently to how you have always done.
5. Be prepared to stumble, but have an optimistic attitude and optimistic self talk.
Example: I ate that dessert last night but that’s ok as long as it’s a sometimes thing and most of the time I don’t eat desserts.
6. Don’t do it because you have to but because you want to.
Example: I have to do my exercise. Try saying, I want to exercise because I want to lose weight and be healthier. It’s a different mindset approach as pointed out by Susan David who wrote Emotional Agility. ‘Have to’ builds resentment, ‘wanting to’ because you have a reason to, a desire helps make it less a chore.
7. Don’t buy foods and have them at home, in the car or at work if you know they are your weakness. Don’t deliberately put temptation in your way and self sabotage your potential success.
8. Substitute food you like for healthier choice foods that you like. Don’t completely eliminate and deprive yourself. That won’t help sustainability long-term.
Example: instead of a block of commercial chocolate make your own. I use a recipe from https://instagram.com/nutritionist_stephwearne?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=199rvgpu674m4
9. Educate yourself. Learn about the gut microbiome and understand it’s effects, learn about how decreasing sugar and eating fats improve metabolism and fat burning ability. Learn about label reading, flavours, other sources of iron and nutrients to the mainstream foods.
10. Seek out ways that will help give you the tools to help you achieve your goals .
I joined https://28bysamwood.com this program not only gave me guidance but education via videos and live chat session and offered interactive learning. It’s worked for me. Find a program that suits your needs.
11. Gain inspiration from others. I listen to podcasts of people changing their lives, or how they became successful. Osher Gunberg’s podcast interviews with fascinating and inspiring people and Craig Harper also has a great podcast. There are many great podcasts, try a few.
I read or listen to books via the Audible app, on inspirational people, researchers and by professionals with expertise on this topic.
12. Organisation & Preparation. Plan food shopping ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute, when you will be tempted to say fuck it I’m to tired, I can’t be bothered going to the shops, I’m to hungry I’m just going to buy take out or make toast or munch on a packet of potato chips.
Plan exercise into your day, your week. Think about when is the best time to exercise tomorrow and what you have on for the week that may prevent you exercising at the usual time you prefer. Set the alarm if you need to and get up 45 minutes earlier.
Example: Each few days I do grocery shopping online to ensure I have the ingredients for meals in the cupboard and fridge ready to go. Saturday mornings I have a regular appointment so I always set my alarm to ensure I wake up early enough to do my workout before showering and getting dressed for the day. That has now become my grocery shopping habit and one of my exercise routine habits.
What was your moment was that made you change your habits, your lifestyle or behaviours, or when and what will it be that jolts you to change what currently is keeping you on the merry-go-round that’s no so merry of your current situation, your current Groundhog Day?
Perhaps consciously starting with some optimistic self talk is the first step. You are NOT a loser.
Love Lucy x