Yesterday was a 7-star day: I maintained the integrity of my calorie budget, I remained refined sugar-free, I exceeded my daily water goal, I had a good elliptical workout, and I stayed well connected with exceptional support.
Question from a reader: "I'm just starting. What should I eat? How did you develop your food plan?"
I can't tell you what to eat. I believe we must create that list based on our own list of personal trigger foods, food substances that bring about a "must have more" reaction and I believe it must also be based on our individual preferences.
I have a very long list of trigger foods. I don't eat refined sugar because when I do, the addictive part of my brain lights up like a pinball machine. Still, I eat what I like as long as it isn't on my trigger list and doesn't contain refined sugar, and nothing I don't. And the choices I'm making are made because it's where I am, now.
Key, in my opinion--is finding what works for you. Discovering what you can do, what you like and how you like it, is imperative. Finding complete self-honesty about trigger foods is most important.
But to start...
I don't like labeling anything "right or wrong/good or bad." Food is food. Eat what you like, but set a budget and consistently stay within the budget. If you're having difficulty maintaining the integrity of your budget, don't kick yourself--instead, look at the support structure for your plan. Have you created a list of support contacts? Creating accountability and support measures is key. Do you have a personal spiritual routine of prayer, meditation, visualizations, and positive affirmations? Giving your daily food plan practice an important place in that routine can make a dramatic difference. If you have this structure, or "pillars" or "rails of support," as I like to call them, established, and you're still finding it difficult to honor your plan boundaries each day, maybe there's some food in there that needs to be on your personal trigger list. Also, trust that your choices will evolve over time.
If you've ever been handed a pre-set food plan and told to follow it to the letter--and you didn't like everything on the list, but you choked it down anyway--that's a means to an end.
The experts creating the perfect food plans are not wrong, necessarily, they're just not taking into account the human element, in my humble opinion.
If whatever we're doing isn't something we can do forever--if it isn't sustainable, then it's temporary. We can white knuckle it and adhere to a food plan in the name of "I can do anything for a short time," and we'll see those results, but as soon as it's over--it's back to what we prefer, and that's why, in my opinion--we should just start with what we prefer in the first place, allowing our plan to evolve as we maneuver our budget and boundaries.
If you've been a regular reader of this blog for the last ten years-plus, you might remember the early days when an occasional Snickers Bar, Ice cream, cake, fast food cheeseburgers and Taco Bell all made their way into my budget. I don't look back on that time and think, wow--I didn't eat very well. I look back and think, that's where I was at that time. I'm not saying it's a good idea to rush out and stock up on these things. I'm just saying... and this is important:
Having been 500 pounds for so long, I instinctively knew that I wasn't going to change a lifetime of habits overnight. And I felt like if I tried, it would end up another failed attempt. In my opinion, the "nothing is off limits" philosophy is still valid and important, because it allows us to be where we are, be ourselves--growing and developing in a natural, organic way. If we maintain the integrity of the boundaries we're setting, the food plan will evolve in a positive direction. If we casually, frequently, and intentionally violate the boundaries of our food plan, the evolution stops and we run the risk of falling into a pattern of intense struggle where we feel completely stuck.
We learn about ourselves along the way. I've learned that I can't do refined sugar. My almost five years of abstinence so far has made a profound difference in many different areas of my life. It's by far the single most important recovery decision I've made along the way. It took a 164-pound relapse/regain to arrive at that conclusion, once and for all, then replacing my denial with acceptance. Some things, for me, are harder to learn. And that's ok.
Had I not crashed and burned over and over, maybe I wouldn't have found a place of acceptance for my condition.
But not everybody is a food addict and compulsive overeater like me; addicted to refined sugar with four decades of experience in stuffing emotions and stress with food. Abstaining from certain food substances may not be what's right for you.
The main reason why I've always been a proponent of simplicity when it comes to food is that this road is about so much more than food and exercise. The mental/emotional/spiritual elements in play are all bigger and more challenging than "what should I eat?" How do we feel about ourselves? Do we constantly play a tape of negative head chatter about ourselves? Changing the inner dialogue is a daily practice. In my experience, it doesn't just happen--and like magic, it's fixed. It takes daily awareness and intentionally breaking those thought patterns--challenging the old by creating the new. It's really hard to hit the eject button on those old tapes. It's something I must work at each and every day.
In my opinion, if the greater focus is placed on the food and exercise instead of the mental/emotional/spiritual dynamics--then we end up facing the biggest elements unprepared. It becomes "diet mentality."
A focus on a simplistic food plan backed up with solid accountability and support has a really good chance of working well for the long haul. Recovery programs and support groups are great ideas. We don't do this alone.
There are no right or wrong foods. Eat what you like and allow yourself a natural evolution of good choices along the way. As mentioned above, the practice of maintaining the integrity of a calorie budget can have a powerful impact on this evolution because we're trying to get the most value for our calories. The evolution only occurs with a sacred level of self-honesty and a willingness to reach out for support when we recognize a breach coming on, otherwise, there isn't a reason to navigate the calorie budget for the best calorie values if we're constantly violating the budget. If we enable the food behaviors that have brought us to where we are, they will keep us here.
And please, never compare what you're eating to someone else's food. Remember, we're all different. Comparing ourselves to others is common, right? But...
Sometimes, the biggest mental hurdles come when we compare what we're eating to our own expectations or what we perceive to be what we should be eating or what we've heard is best or the healthier choice. Take what fits you and leave the rest. Don't harshly judge your well-fitting food plan.
My best advice is to let it go. Just be you and give yourself room to grow and develop. You be you.
Ultimately, we're wanting a measure of peace and stability and as a "side effect," to arrive at our healthiest weight--and if we arrive at a healthy weight range for our body--and along the way our health improves dramatically--and we do it in a way that fits us, individually--then we've successfully shifted the focus away from the old diet mentality--we've accepted and embraced the plan we've created specifically for us--and now, how does it all compare to the pre-planned diets of old?? The ones that were nutritionally sound but lacked a human consideration--the ones difficult to sustain--the ones challenging our addictions, compulsive food behaviors, and ultimately, our ability to remain consistent?? Please remember:
Simplicity encourages consistency and consistency beats intensity, every single time.
I'm not a nutritionist or a dietician. I'm not an expert. I just have my experience and opinion.
I will say this-- our food plans don't mean a thing if we're not willing to do the deeper work. It doesn't matter how many years I've been at this, I humbly admit-- I don't "got it." It takes a daily practice and a willingness to be open to recovery based perspectives in order to break the diet mentality.
I've got a long way to go with my recovery. But I'm going. I assure you, I'm going one day at a time.
I'm about to hit the door, headed out for a location broadcast from a grocery store. I love these broadcasts because I can work and shop at the same time. Actually, I'll be doing live breaks on two different stations, so that might be challenging during the broadcast--but certainly I'll pick up a few things after it's over.
I'm looking forward to another trip to the RecPlex for a workout late this afternoon, a couple of one on one mentoring sessions later, and Kristin is making her way over later for dinner! It'll be a good Saturday. I hope yours is fantastic, too!
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Developing a food plan I can embrace and truly enjoy each day is paramount to long-term sustainability. If I were to develop a food plan I didn't enjoy, I'd dread it every day and it wouldn't take long to ditch it... and for me, that would mean very bad things. A #recovery perspective instead of a diet perspective is key for me. The physical transformation isn't the biggest part and it's not all about the food and exercise. Nope. The biggest and most important transformations, IMO, are the mental/emotional/spiritual ones. I'm grateful for an open mind ready to learn and evolve along the way. I don't "got this" and I never will. But I can do my best to practice this. One day at a time! #dailypractice #whatilike This dinner is a fav for me. A big BIG 8.45oz "petite" sirloin, grilled medium, 240g stuffed baby portobello mushrooms, and a large portion (208g) of green beans. 615 calories and loaded with protein! Very filling and satisfying!
Thank you for reading and your continued support,
Practice, peace, and calm,
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