Okey dokey, lets get real. This is mid February. How’s that “resolution” going? Not great? I’m not too surprised. The whole notion of making resolutions is truly kind of silly. If you’re going to make resolutions, you should make one every day. Why?
The whole notion of change is actually well studied and involves a daily committment. Every day is truly the first and only day that matters. What you commit to and do today will inform and create your tomorrow. The people who say “I’ll have this today, and tomorrow I’ll ______,” I’ve watched those people and they never meet their goals, and hearing that comment is a pet peeve. Weight change is a life change. Life changes happen one day at a time. Changes have to be something you can live with every day. So if you really want to commit to giving up sugar, bread, potatoes, gluten or whatever, and you know yourself well enough to do that – you’re not even reading this.
The change needs to be one you know you can actually commit to every day. So “diets” don’t work at all. What works is committing to making a change you can live with and staying on task. How do I know? First of all, studies prove this. Second of all, I have finally lived it.
I’ve struggled most of my life fighting my urges to eat, and I know that doesn’t work. It’s hard enough for addicts to give up alcohol and heroin and other drugs. At least they can live without those things, but we can’t give up the urge the eat. It’s born into us and is required for survival. So it’s our relationship with food that has to change, from being one that’s adversarial to one we can live with.
When I read the book in my early 20s that was so revolutionary it changed my life “Feeling Good” by David Burns, it was my first introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Fascinating, this book introduced the fact that what you think creates how you feel, and that you can actually change your thoughts to feel better. I knew at that time I had an addictive relationship with sugar. So I used exposure therapy on myself (early psychology stuff during undergraduate years) . I lived about 2 blocks from a “31 Flavors”, what is now known as Baskin Robbins. Every day I would go to that store and get a quart of Jamoca Almond Fudge and 3 other flavors. When I finished one I would replace it. It was the same 4 flavors every time, and I repeatedly told myself “when this is gone, you will buy more”. For the first few weeks, I probably ate two quarts of ice cream most days. But I knew that the magic it had over me would dissolve if I came to believe it was there and I could have it whenever I wanted. It did finally happen after about a month. My brain finally believed me and I could have it around and no longer gorge. I then did the same experiment with my next two favorite sugars, Oreos and M @Ms. Same result. After some period of time, I could have these foods around and not gorge. So you might know I now keep sugary foods around all the time. I hear people come into my office and say “don’t you eat these having them here?” and the honest answer is that no, I don’t. I’ve removed their power over me, because I’ve given myself permission to have them.
That didn’t help me lose weight though. That helping me stop bingeing. What helped me lose weight was adding “My Fitness Pal” to my phone. All you need to do is add whatever you put in your mouth and your estimated calories. Then it’s all in black and white. My daily calories when I started was probably 2600. My average now is probably closer to 1500. My weight loss happened so slow that people close to me never noticed it, but I have had to buy smaller clothes and I refuse to wear anything that makes me look fatter than I am, because I worked hard for this. I’m not slender but I’m not obese anymore. I didn’t do it by giving anything up. I did it by becoming much more aware of what I was putting into my mouth. When you actually take that step of recording it, you can’t ignore what you’re doing anymore. Gradually you begin eating more Mindfully. You know how many calories you have left for the day. So, gee, it’s 2pm and that amazing piece of pie is there? I gotta have some. Know what? The part I like best is the filling. I’ll skip most of the crust, and the calories are less and I can figure out, ok, later I’ll have such and such. And I can get pretty close. As far as “My Fitness Pal” standards? I go over my allotted calories every single day, at least 350 days out 365 I “fail” according to their standards. But did I fail according to mine? Absolutely not. This Ap is part of my life now, and keeps me mindful. I still eat what I want but more Mindfully, because the process of recording what you actually eat changes your awareness and knowledge is power. You can write it down on paper or wherever or however. But you already know “diets” involving deprivation you can’t live with don’t work.
Any life change producing any productive outcome involves setting your own goals for each day and doing your best to stay focused on achieving them, that day. You gradually change from someone who is telling yourself lies every day to someone who is in balance with yourself every day. It’s a much healthier way to live with yourself, and over time, you grow gradually closer to being the person you want to be. Make a small change every day to do anything more Mindfully, whether it’s a job you hate, a favor you wish you didn’t have to do for someone, whatever it is. Just staying present during that activity instead of wishing you were with anyone or anywhere else is the beginning of practicing Mindfulness, which changes your life. Your brain gets quieter and healthier and your whole life gets healthier. You can go on YouTube and practice listening to Mindfulness Videos. You can read books from Jon Kabat-Zinn (probably the most famous person you’ve never heard of because you’ve heard of Mindfulness before, haven’t you?) . You can go to the site and take the free course “The Science of Happiness” on EDX. You can apply these techniques to any part of your life you wish to change, and each day you live this way can be a happier one. See you on that journey!