Write Down the Plan, Learn What Full Is, And Do What You Enjoy
Recently, a friend told me that willpower was the most difficult part of eating healthy.
And I can totally relate with it. Two weeks ago, my family and I went on an overnight trip to a nice little safari place called Bushman Rock. First of all, it was amazing that it’s so close to Harare, only forty minutes away. Yet it is also set in nature and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here are some of the pictures from the trip.
During this family trip, as with many other family trips, sticking to our eating regime was hard. My husband’s on a 100 Days of No Carbs and I must admit, he is doing great on it. I, on the other hand, am not able to sustain anything low carb for long periods of time. So I was still eating my carbs, though I opt for the healthier tubers and whole grains. I aim for my family to also eat gluten-free in general. But we were away from home. Breakfast was mainly wheat-based and dessert was a chocolate brownie with ice-cream. So I was like “pass me the brownie please”. Thankfully, I also subscribe to the idea of having a cheat day or two every so often. One day every week is the most that’s recommended. In fact, it can help you lose more weight. So I did have that cake. Yummy!
When we got home though, and we had carried a slice to share with the kids’ ‘big sister’. This is our Aupair, Lunar, who watches our kids and has become a great big sister to them. It was then that I realized just why I don’t like to have cakes, or cookies, or crisps in my house. When the kids had gone to bed, I thought, “I’m still on my cheat day (in this case weekend). So I can still have a small piece of the cake slice we brought home, right?” Which, as you’ve probably guessed, led me to my polishing off the entire slice! Along with having some chocolate pieces I had lying in my drawer too. And they were not the nice kind of chocolate that I usually have that is at least 70% cocoa, preferably 90% if I can find it. (Now you know what you can bring me if you ever come to my house for dinner). These were the regular, sugary sweet kind.
So much for willpower.
That led me to thinking, why is it so hard to just do what we want to do when it comes to what we eat? The answer must be we need more willpower, right?
Wrong. Willpower is, in fact, overrated.
The American Psychological Association calls willpower “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” Yes, we all know that having that piece of cake will be extra satisfying to our sweet tooth. And we also know that we may also be saying bye bye to any long-term gains we may have made in our health in the process. Truth be told, the anatomy of temptation doesn’t allow us to process all that in such an in-depth way. Those internal angel-and-demon movie scenes that happen in the movies? Yeah, they only happen in the movies. When you are in the moment, it’s 100% temptation and no good conscience
That’s why you need to AVOID getting to these moment like the plague! Or the devil. Or both. It’s akin to getting to a toll gate and the teller reaches out for the toll money. And only then do you furiously rummage through your purse to find the coins. Or, getting to the ATM without your card in hand and your code in memory. Or at the supermarket, when the cashier finishes ringing up your groceries, and there you are happily staring at her, no cash or card in hand (that may have been me). Get it together love!
Looking back on the weekend, I realized that some things happened that made me fall off the bandwagon. And that really, my willpower is the last thing that I want to rely on in situations like that.
1. I Let Myself Get Way Too Hungry
You know the feeling. You get home dead tired, and often that means you are hungry as a lion. So you reach for a portion that would satisfy a lion. Only thing is you’re NOT a lion and neither lion-food, nor a lion’s share can be too good for you right now. I only just realised that’s why the phrase lion’s share came from, clever!
That was me over the weekend. Rather than reach for whole, nutrient-dense and filling foods, my body wanted a sugar rush. In it’s mind that’s the only thing that could satiate me after all the sugar I had been eating in form of simple carbs. I watched a video by Alex Heynes where he talks about willpower and explained why we make the worst decisions when we are hungry. It was a total eye-opener for me and wanted to share why with you. He explains that to avoid getting to a place where you’re helpless to control your actions, you need to avoid getting hungry. When you get hungry, your willpower goes down, among other things. Your willpower is directly proportional to your blood sugar level, amazing isn’t it? So make sure you eat whole foods that sustain you for a longer time. Or snack on healthy fats or proteins to keep from getting hungry when you can’t have a meal. This is so true of me, I get hungry really fast and find that if I don’t have something available to snack on I get very cranky.
2. I Binged On Too Many Carbohydrates
This one is related to point 1 above. Carbohydrates spike our blood sugar level, so when the sugar high ends, we are left in a sugar slump. And the only thing that we feel will get us back to where we are is another sugar high. That’s why junkies shoot up until they overdose, sorry for the morbid reference. To break the sugar cycle, ‘cheat’ by combining your favourite high fat/protein with you high carbohydrate comfort foods. That way, you add some ‘meat’ to your meal that keeps you feeling full for longer and limits the sugar rush . Think of it as a “How to Cheat Like a Pro 101”.
Here are some tips from Dr. Brandy Segura of bodybuilding.com. She says that instead of overindulging in the wrong type of foods, eat a cheat meal that is still well-balanced. It can be higher in both calories and carbohydrates than your normal meal. She gives examples of cheat meals that she typically incorporates: a cheeseburger with the bun (lo and behold, the bun-which-we-don’t-eat-when-on-low-carb); two slices of pizza; a pasta dish with a protein source; chicken or shrimp fajitas with two tortillas; chicken stir fry with rice or noodles; or a filet mignon with baked potato and vegetables. From that you can see that it’s still a pretty balanced meal that hits all the nutrient requirements for your body, but is still sinful enough to be a cheat. Did I hear a yeah!?
3. Willpower Is Overrated
This article on how how one woman lost nearly 50 kilos by making weight loss fun has some useful insights.
As the video I shared above shows, relying on willpower will leave you with broken intentions. Which just serve to make you feel worse. So how can we get rid of these? Some tips she provide are:
- Write down the plan. “Willpower doesn’t happen in the moment. Always make food decisions—like what you’ll eat for lunch—ahead of time so you’re not tempted in the moment.”
- Learn what full is. “As I started to focus on eating more slowly, I began to naturally notice when I felt like stopping.”
- Do what you enjoy. “If your workout feels like suffering, try something else.”
With these simple strategies you will be able to avoid getting to the point of temptation, and you will watch the kilos come off, or on, depending on your goal.
4. I Stocked the ‘Forbidden Fruit’
I have now proven, effectively, that having a slice of cake in your fridge means that you will eat it. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t have it in your fridge, it will lead you down a one-way street to a place you do not want to go. It could be a packet of potato crisps, or a bar of regular chocolate. Whichever unhealthy food it is, don’t stock it. In fact, for your cheat meals, try to eat out or order take out as much as possible. That way you don’t have to stock any of the ingredients, which could lead you to indulging in them when you don’t want to. Our Saturday Pizza night with a movie is perfect for getting that bread craving in my kids dealt with. It makes having something other than bread for breakfast the whole week much easier. Sure I’ll make some wheat waffles during the week too when they have friends over. It help them feel like normal children that can eat waffles and I like to be flexible that way. But one thing I realized, normal is relative. I have a delicious wheat-free gram flour banana bread that they cannot tell has no wheat in it. It has hardly any added sugar and is my go-to for healthy lunch boxes. I’ll share that recipe soon as I can post it up for your guys.
So reduce temptation and clear out all the foods you don’t want to eat from your house and your pantry. Tip: Give them to an orphanage to avoid throwing them away.
Does this sound hard to do? Or perhaps are you already doing it. I created a questionnaire to help you assess where you are where your kitchen is concerned. It will help you determine if you need a makeover to get your kitchen in shape. For example, what snacks are you stocking in your pantry? How often do you shop for groceries? Go here to get your free assessment or click on the image.
Plus, I have some great news for you! If you’re like me, having clear actions help alot to keep focussed on the goal. It’s our actions and not our willpower that matter the most. To help us focus on realistic actions this month, I’m running the Breakfast Edition: 30 Day Low ‘n Slow Carb Challenge. You can sign up here if you haven’t already. if you signed up for the previous challenge, you don’t need to sign up again.