Happy New Year!
How I love the clean slate of a fresh new year, the feeling of lightness and hope it brings…at least for the first few hours, until I succumb to the temptation to set ridiculously ambitious goals that are doomed for failure the moment they are inked into the pages of my journal.
Like many, I have set the “Eat Healthier” and “Lose Weight” goals year after year, and with far less success than I care to admit. Sometimes the problem is that I’m too vague on how exactly I will achieve my eat healthier/lose weight goals (Just Do It! I tell myself…) and at other times, I simply expect too much of myself – “NO SUGAR. EVER AGAIN. NOT A SINGLE DROP OF THAT DEMON SWEETNESS!”
When it comes to the no-sugar goal, I’m lucky if I make it to the intersection of seven days. And when I get there, too often, I talk myself into a “quick” detour with just one wee-tiny-bite of something sweet, and then, before I know it, I have plunged into a deep, dark valley rich in nutty milk-chocolate fudginess, where I become sugar-drunk and terribly defeated.
THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT. This year, I will do it! Isn’t that what we always tell ourselves? Yes, it is, but what if this year really can be different? What if this is the year that you and I can nourish our bodies in a way that allows us to lose weight permanently and thrive more than ever before?
Soon after I dreamed up this blog and began contemplating the possibilities for how I might go forward with it, I realized that my best shot at success (and possibly yours) begins with taking stock of what hasn’t worked in the past and thinking about what might actually work in the future. My lists are far from complete and there is some overlap, but I think I’m off to a good start.
WHAT HASN’T WORKED (AND PROBABLY NEVER WILL):
1) Diving straight into a super strict eating regimen. I have tried any number of times to make a sudden switch in my eating lifestyle – going from eating pretty much anything and everything in unrestricted quantities to suddenly eating far fewer things in much smaller amounts, and while there is an adrenaline rush that comes from making such a sudden change (“Just think how fast I’ll lose the weight”), the rush quickly gives way to grumpy-woman cravings and a hyper-focus on all the things I cannot have. And no surprise, failure’s not far up the road.
2) Counting calories. I’m an accountant by background, so you’d think I could get into counting calories and for a few days I can, but then I begin to feel overwhelmed as I try to account for every little calorie that passes between my lips and how many calories may or may not be in a given food item. For me, counting calories is a joy-killer!
3) Demonizing certain foods. The moment I put a food on the banned-foods list, say vanilla ice cream with warm caramel sauce, it becomes the food I want more than anything else. And then, I have a hard time focusing on all the things that are good for me, and finding pleasure in them. In other words, I become the ultimate good-girl-wants-bad-food dieter, and I can’t help but go after the bad food in a big way, even if it’s to my detriment.4) Viewing weight loss as the end. I am definitely one of those people who could benefit from losing weight, so I’m all for it, but when I focus so much on the losing weight part, I forget to eat as nutritiously as I could and miss the opportunity to find any real satisfaction in the food I eat. Food and calories become the enemy and, as a result, I am less energetic, and sometimes, just plain crabby when I focus on the sole destination of losing all that weight.
5) The All-or-Nothing mentality. Too often, I behave as if that detour into the deep dark valley of chocolate-fueled abandon means that I am doomed to complete failure in the foreseeable future. Even so, I feel a growing sense that maybe when I find myself on a detour, I just need to get back in the car and drive, aiming in the next few hours for that delicious tomato and cucumber salad, drizzled with a little olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, rather than dwelling in the valley of chocolate and self-disdain.
With the start of the New Year, I’m ready to say goodbye to what doesn’t work and hello to what just might.
WHAT I BELIEVE WILL WORK IN THE FUTURE:
1) Eating fruits and vegetables plentifully. I have nothing against fruits and vegetables. In fact, I rather than like them, but I am easily distracted by other less-nutritious foods, and sometimes don’t consume nearly enough fruits or vegetables. I know from experience that if I eat more of these colorful food groups, I experience fewer and less intense cravings for unhealthy food and feel more satisfied and energized than I otherwise would. I cannot tell you how many fruits and vegetables you should eat each day, but as a cancer survivor, I have been advised to eat 9-11 servings a day because of the cancer-fighting phytochemicals they provide. My goal this next week is to come closer to those 9-11 servings each day.
2) Treating Food as an Enjoyable Meditation. By this, I mean slowing down when I eat and savoring my food for the enjoyment it can be. I eat too fast and because I eat too fast, I eat more than I otherwise would. Note to self: Eating does not have to be a race. It’s time to enjoy less food more.
3) Viewing healthy eating as a necessary pleasure instead of a necessary evil. I shouldn’t be miserable eating healthier food. There is so much delicious healthy food to eat that I do not need to waste my time eating foods I do not enjoy, for example, celery sticks without any sort of dip. My goal is to seek out and enjoy a greater variety of delicious, nutritious foods. The name of my blog - Lush Mango – was created as a reminder of what a pleasure healthy food can be.
4) Stocking the Pantry with no-prep, low-prep nourishing foods. Part of the reason I sometimes reach for something less healthy is because it requires little or no preparation. I could ban all non-nutritious food from my house, but I’m not ready to go there…not with five other people in my home who should have a say in what foods are in our home. Even so, I can and will do a better job of keeping my fridge and pantry stocked with delicious, nutritious food options.
5) Tapping into the Small & Simple Means Strategy for Success. The “small and simple means” strategy comes from sacred teachings in my religious tradition and can be applied to about any area of life. Deep down, I believe that if I will make small and simple changes to my eating lifestyle, a little at a time, I stand a chance of greater success over time. So, instead of attempting to make a massive overhaul of how I eat today, tomorrow, or this week, I am committed to making fewer changes at a time that are more likely to last.
6) Celebrating Success: While I will not always measure my success by weight-loss, I will weigh in on Mondays and celebrate whatever weight I lose, even if it is a fraction of a pound. More than weight loss though, I will make note of and celebrate the benefits that come from eating more nutritiously, namely greater energy, stamina and greater emotional equilibrium. And I like to think that those celebrations will often involve something that is self-indulgent and good for me – whether a delicious tri-berry smoothie or a long soak in the tub.
So those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours. What hasn’t worked for you? And what do you think will work in the future?
Between you and me, I believe this can be the year. In fact, I’m sure of it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on building a mutually supportive community at www.lushmango.com for people who want to eat to nourish, energize, and thrive (and lose weight if desired). Stop in again soon. We can do this together.
Sneak-Peek at Tomorrow’s Post: 10 Reasons I Want to Eat Healthier and Lose Weight. What are Yours?