Tag Archives: Self Control

All Talk

All Talk

A conversation last night with a friend led me to think about something that has been vaguely on my mind the past several weeks, which led her to send me an article which helped me understand what I have been feeling.

The article from Nerd Fitness is about taking action on your goals, not just talking about them and expecting results. Read it!

I am so much like the underpants gnomes he references from South Park. I collect underpants (knowledge) and I even make underpants (I write this blog), but I so often forget about Phase 2 and I eagerly jump to expect Phase 3, “profit” to happen automatically. Confused about what I’m talking about? I told you to read the article!!

I have spent years reading health blogs, books, watching documentaries and TED talks, and in every other way absolutely inundating my brain with knowledge about health and fitness. I should get an honorary fitness and nutritionist certification with all the research I’ve done. So you’d think, you know… I would have reached my goals by now. But the reality is, I’ve looked and felt mostly the same pretty much my entire life. I’ve had little moments of brilliance, where I really stepped it up and lost weight and felt amazing, but I quickly fall back into my old habits and my changes fail to stick.

I talk a lot and think a lot about health, but I’ve been feeling lately like I don’t actually DO anything about it. I mean, I’ve made changes that I shouldn’t ignore, like my slow progression to a mostly vegan diet which has been a great accomplishment for me so far, but if I’ve lost weight, it has been maybe a pound or two. Nothing noticeable. And while I do feel a lot better eating a clean, plant-based diet, I’m feeling impatient and I’m feeling disappointed that my progress has been so slow and mostly invisible. I don’t want to just talk about making changes… I want to actually make them!

My question is, how do I make these changes really stick this time? I’ve done this before. I’ve been right here many times, and I’ve temporarily succeeded. I’ve lost 10-15 pounds several times (gained them back, of course) and I’ve felt accomplished and proud, but why do I struggle with sticking to my lifestyle changes? I’m determined to get to the root of the problem, in one way or another.

Perhaps the key for me (and anyone else struggling with this feeling) is to make a list of tangible, quantifiable, achievable, realistic goals (or assignments/homework), write them down, and stick them on your wall so you remember them every day. Maybe if I try to think of this as a game, or as an assignment for work, maybe I’ll feel the same sense of urgency or desire to accomplish them. I don’t know. Just a thought. I’m a lists-person. I feel great when I can check things off of my list, and often I can’t accomplish much without one because I’ll just simply forget, so maybe I can work with my goals and see them as “errands” that I can check off today, and perhaps that will help me just get it done, and thus slowly start building patterns and habits, maybe without all the emotional baggage that I tend to tie into “changing my life.” That feels too heavy. Do I have to think so hard about it? Can’t I just… do it?

Anyway, my point is… I feel like I talk too much and don’t take enough action. I still give in to my snacking cravings every time they come and I still eat the same sized portions as I normally do and I still stay up late and miss my morning workouts and I still eat crap if its in front of me and I still overdose on my addictive favorites like granola and almond butter. I suppose, as I mentioned, my biggest accomplishment is sticking to a mostly vegan diet, with exceptions whenever I don’t have a choice (like occasional dinners with my host family or social gatherings, etc).

I can’t tackle all of these at the same time, but I can start by what I can control today.

– I will try really hard to eat at the designated eating times, the way French people do. In following the Tone It Up  lifestyle suggestions (as well as the suggestions by most other nutrition experts out there), I will eat 5 small meals today, and if I get hungry in between, I will drink water or green tea and remind myself that my next meal is not too far off. I need to learn patience and I need to learn not to be afraid of hunger. Now DO NOT misinterpret that, please. All I mean is… I live in this perpetual fear of hunger and at the slightest grumble in my stomach, I immediately feel the need to binge on something to avoid starvation. It’s irrational, and I end up not even being that hungry when I actually do eat a meal. I just want to not feel so controlled by the hungry animal impulse, and usually drinking a glass of water does the trick for a while. So without further ado, here is my plan for the day:

Meal 1: 8am, breakfast quinoa – DONE

Meal 2: 11am, soy yogurt with banana – DONE

Meal 3: 1pm, lentils + sautéed veggies + apple – planned

Meal 4:  5pm, half sweet potato + spinach + almonds – planned 

Meal 5: 9pm, something healthy-ish at the restaurant + red wine – planned

– Even though its Wednesday (long day as an au pair), I will try to find time to squeeze in 50 squats and 20 pushups. Like, maybe right after posting this.

– I will take a moment to reflect on my accomplishments thus far, and I will try to be proud of myself for them.

Those are my small goals for today. I will let you know how it goes. I have plans to meet a friend for dinner and drinks tonight, but I will try to order something healthy and I will stick to a glass or two of red wine. No day is perfect, but I can still be strong.

Enough with collecting underpants. I want to be ready for Phase 2.

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I Confess

I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors by not admitting to this. And it wouldn’t be fair to you if I just kept this to myself… I ATTACKED THE COOKIES. Okay? Shoot me. Just as yesterday was promsing to turn out into a shitty day of no self control, the little animal in me said, “fuck it”, and I ate a bunch of cookies I brought home from Belgium. And another granola bar at 2am because I stayed up that late dealing with unnecessary family drama and I found myself hungry before bed.

After catching myself in the midst of a successful cookie attack, I decided, okay, just one more bite and I’ll take the cookies upstairs and offer them to my host family. At least that way they would be out of my room and out of sight. No one has eaten them yet, but I’m hoping they will, otherwise I don’t know… I should just throw them away. (And then I think, “But they’re from Belgium. They’re special!”… I know I should just get over that.)

WHY do I do this? Surely I’m not alone here. Why do we do things that hurt us? What do we gain from it, psychologically? Biologically? And what does it take to eradicate that destructive behavior?

Ugh.

 

But, today is a new day and I will try to do my best today. I have a 10k race tomorrow morning and I want to be well-fed and well rested for that.

Must be stronger than yesterday. Must!

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Welp, There I Go Again…

So I guess this is how things work out for me… I have one fabulous day (yesterday) and, as if to maintain the natural order of things, I find myself today way too full and way too unhappy about it. Snack time consisted of a some nuts and an all-natural granola bar… not bad, right? Then I thought, “Hmm, maybe my body needs fiber…” so I ate a bunch of prunes, because “my body might need it.” Then, since I thought I was still hungry (I probably was just thirsty) or because I thought I hadn’t had enough vitamins for the day, I ate an orange. Still, healthy choices at least. And then, as I seem to do quite often, I started worrying that dinner tonight with my host family would not have enough protein or whatever other nutrients I thought I might need (this is all just my own rationalization to reduce my guilt about eating more more more before dinner) so I convinced myself that a yogurt, apricot preserves, and some granola would be just the thing. So I ate that too.

Now, I realize that all my choices have been fine as far as quality goes (oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa, veggies and avocado for lunch, fruits all day long, etc), but its the quantity that has me feeling full and embarrassed. To be honest, I wasn’t even hungry any more after the granola bar, but something inside of me just kept rationalizing more snacks, and “since they’re healthy, its okay to overeat, right?” I don’t know why I always find little excuses to do what I always do, but these habits need to stop. These little snack binges, no matter how healthy they are, ultimately are getting in the way of me seeing actual changes in my body. Like, for example, my pants not being tight. Why is it so easy to slip up from one day to the next? Did I (without realizing) exhaust all my willpower yesterday and am I in a deficit today? Is it because I lazied my way out of exercising this morning that I caved in a moment of weakness in the afternoon?

I need to figure out how to break these habits. I’m thankful that I have learned to at least eat mostly pretty healthy, even when I am “binging”, but its not just what I eat – its the lack of self control that really affects how I feel about myself. Or, perhaps, is it how I feel about myself that prompts these far-too-frequent snack binges?

TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

At the end of the day, losing weight is a numbers game. Calories in, calories out. Surely it’s not so simple – 500 calories of spinach is not the same thing as 500 calories of chips. And in that regard, I’d rather be binging on fruits and nuts than on chips and cookies (don’t worry, I do that too), but in the end, I need to learn self-control, so that food does not consume or define me. I want to remember days like yesterday, when food liberated me and I felt strong. And I want to minimize days like today, when I forget everything I have ever learned and lose myself along the way.

BUT HOW?

Does anyone out there have any CONCRETE tips or experiences to share? Encouragement is great. I love hearing “You got this!” “You’re strong and beautiful!” “Oh man, I know, I’ve been there. But every day is a new day!”… All of that is lovely. But days like today, all I want is practical advice. Like “don’t buy granola” (I wouldn’t if I had that freedom but I live in a kitchen that is not my own and the temptations of French indulgent eating are around me at all times) or “brush your teeth after eating” (I’ve tried this, with mixed results. If the binge is coming, the flavor of mint in my mouth won’t stop it).

So, I ask, in mild desperation… what can I do to gain more self control??

If you have the magic answer, please don’t be shy to share. I need it.

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Back to Reality

Well, in case my last post didn’t quite tell you enough, I’m back. I arrived yesterday back to my house after 2 amazing weeks (traveling through France, Belgium, and Spain with my mom, and then with a friend) and the contrast between sunny Barcelona and dreary Paris was overwhelming. I came home, hungry, tired, sad, and lonely, and was welcomed by the awful smell of weird rotten cheese (or who knows what) in the kitchen [hence my bitter last post]. Needless to say, it was a shitty way to come back to reality.

I signed up for a 10k race in Paris in 2 weeks and I am entirely out of shape because of the past few weeks of no real exercise other than lots of walking. I also can see and feel the effects of 2 weeks of vacation-eating on my body, and even though I’m trying to not feel shitty about it, in all honesty, yeah, I feel shitty.  As I recently posted, vacation is often such a difficult time for me (and I’m guessing for everyone) because who wants to travel to France, Belgium, or Spain and eat healthy. Even if healthy options exist (which they don’t), eating is such a seemingly important part of seeing a new culture that it feels wrong, dare I say disrespectful or wasteful to not eat your heart out. You can’t go to Belgium and not eat a Belgian waffle covered in speculoos spread or a basket of the famous twice-fried Belgian fries. You can’t go to Paris and not eat pastries or cheese. You can’t go to Spain and not eat tapas.

So the question for me becomes… How can I travel (which is one of my greatest passions and joys in life) without the guilt and the weight gain, not to mention the unseen effects on my health? How can I still practice self control and strength when I’m faced with days or weeks outside of my normal routine, where indulgence is expected and applauded (by myself and by others)?

It’s easier said than done, but perhaps it starts with portion control. This coming weekend I will be going to Brussels with some friends, and one friend and I have decided that maybe the best way to not lose ourselves amongst the Belgian waffles and fries and stews is to just share them. Maybe vacation doesn’t have to mean missing out on food entirely – often times all you want is just a taste anyway. I want to reach a point in my self control where I don’t feel so compelled to eat the whole thing, but instead allow myself to just enjoy the few bites that I am actually craving.

My mom once said when I was growing up that the things that are most restricted are the ones that are most desired (saying it in Spanish sounds a lot nicer), and though she was referring to a style of parenting, this mentality can apply to food as well. Telling myself that I’m not allowed to enjoy the delicious treats on vacation is just a recipe for disaster. Not only will I inevitably break my own rules, but I’ll be feeling guilty about it for days to come. Telling myself that I can eat anything I want, just in honest, reasonable moderation will [hopefully] help me feel satisfied and in control, when I come home from vacation knowing that I was strong and maintained discipline while still enjoying the trip to the fullest extent.

I have to make an effort to incorporate these types of thoughts into my daily life too, not just while on vacation, and that is where the struggle begins. I’m used to being all-or-nothing and that generally does not work out well in the end, so working to find a middle ground should be my focus for now. Baby steps. This is all part of the process of “creating a new normal” for myself.

Everything in moderation, right?

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Vacation Struggles

This trip I have essentially thrown all self control out the window, as I do on every vacation. My thoughts are usually along the lines of, “I’m on vacation! I want to experience this place through the mouth and calories don’t count on vacation, right??” In Paris, my mom and I ate at some amazing restaurants where all types of exquisite French cuisine was consumed daily, for every meal. Currently, I am in Belgium, and I just ate the most delicious Flemish rabbit stew with Belgian fries… worth every bite, except this overwhelming fullness now is taking over my guilt, hardcore.

I’m realizing that I struggle between two very opposing forces – wanting to enjoy food and eating as I do so much, and wanting to be extremely healthy, fit, and in control. I never seem to be able to find a balance between the two, and my life fluctuates between intense periods of each emotion. Usually after indulging as I have been lately (and will continue to do as I travel to Barcelona in the next few days and beyond), I come home to a sobering realization that I’ve completely let myself go and I question if any of it was even worth it. When the motivation strikes, I cut all my bad habits out, cold turkey, and dedicate myself entirely and supremely rigidly to my health and fitness. Until, of course, that lifestyle becomes unsustainable and I crash and begin a new cycle of indulgence and comfort-eating, leading to another bout of extreme healthiness, and so on…

How do I break out of this cycle? What does it take to find self control, and keep it, for good? What do I need to do to to find willpower and develop a normal, healthy routine, regardless of circumstances (stress, vacation, social life, etc)?

These are questions I just need to keep pondering to myself, but if anyone has similar experiences, I’d love to hear about it. How have you struggled (and/or overcome) with staying healthy in different life circumstances and how have you worked towards avoiding a repetitive cycle like the one I’ve always lived in?

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