The tales we tell ourselves
A big part of an unhealthy lifestyle is unhealthy thinking. There are these little tales we like to tell ourselves that keep us blindly dependant on food.
Tale #1: “I’ll eat the last few cookies in this package today so I won’t be tempted to eat them tomorrow when I start my diet.”
Do you ever find yourself ready to start a diet “tomorrow” but instead of throwing out all your junk food, you decide to eat some of that night so you won’t be tempted to eat it while you are “on the diet?”
Calories are calories and it doesn’t matter whether you eat them today or tomorrow…you are still eating them! By throwing out the secret stash of cookies behind the food processor you are carrying out a much better and more empowering act. Throwing out food signals to your brain that you are getting serious about your health and well being.
Don’t just limit your home to this cleansing process, remove access to all foods. What’s in your glove compartment? What about the desk drawers of your office? Replace these secret stashes with non-perishable healthy snacks such as protein bars.
Tale #2 “But if I pay for it, I have to eat it…”
This tale is best told in restaurants where we are served three to four times the recommended serving size. Too many times we partake in the soup, salad, bread and appetizer and we are full before our dinner arrives; but we make a valiant attempt to eat as much of our dinner as we can hold. Why? Because we’ve paid for it!!
Do you feel as though you don’t get your money’s worth from a restaurant unless you’ve cleaned your plate? How many leftovers have you diligently packed up and brought home from a restaurant only to throw them out two weeks later? It is seemingly unacceptable to leave food on the table for the wait staff to throw out, but it IS acceptable to use a non-biodegradable Styrofoam container and store this food in our refrigerator until the “It’s Okay to Throw it Out” stamp can be placed on the food. Perhaps we feel that if the food rots in our own refrigerator, we don’t have to feel guilty because we’ve at least given ourselves the opportunity to eat the food and we’ve surrounded the food with loved ones during its final days.
If you apply this, “I have to eat it because I’ve paid for it,” logic to restaurants, you must also apply it to the many science experiments gone awry in your crisper. How many fruits and vegetables have you purchased with the best intentions only to throw them out weeks later after they’ve begun to take on a life of their own? You paid for those vegetables, but we have no problem letting them rot in our refrigerators. The logic doesn’t make much sense now, does it?
Tale #3: “Five minutes of exercise won’t do me any good, so why should I bother?”
I’ve spent years reading books and magazine articles on fitness and nutrition. I’m fascinated by the various fads and trends that come and go. Every year there is a new diet or exercise trend; some hold value and some are simply ridiculous, but occasionally I hear something that perturbs me. There seem to be two different exercise camps, those who believe that 6-8 minutes a day can bridge the gap to health and those who tell you not to bother working out if you are only going to work out for five minutes.
I believe that five minutes can make all the difference in your exercise routine and I’m living proof. I can recall countless exercise sessions where I bartered with myself, “Just exercise for five minutes and then you can quit.” Time and time again I found that once I got off the couch, put on my workout clothes and climbed on the treadmill, I did not stop after five minutes, but continued for the full workout. Sometimes all the motivation we need to exercise can be found in simply beginning to exercise. There were also days that I quit after only five minutes, but I did so with no regret.
Our heart is the most important muscle in our entire body and it needs exercise just like the rest of us. Instead of complaining about how much you don’t want to exercise, try being grateful that your body will still move in the ways you need it to! When I weighed over 300 pounds I could not walk around the block…(and it was a small block!) I could only muster five minutes of energy at one time before I was completely out of breath and sweating. I did what I could and I built upon my successes. Five minutes can make all the difference in a workout!
Tale #4: “I should eat this because there are starving children…somewhere”
By average, we are the most wasteful country in the free world. According to recent studies, the United States is the most wasteful country on the planet creating 210 million tons of municipal waste every year. I doubt a half eaten hamburger and two bites of cheesecake are going to change this.
If you feel truly feel guilt over the starving children, adopt one. There are many, reputable organizations where you can send a few dollars a month and help someone less fortunate. Closer to home you can volunteer at a local food bank or donate canned goods to a local shelter. Turn this tale into a helping hand for someone whose problems are much larger than yours.
Tale #5: “Fried okra counts as a vegetable.”
Okay…technically, okra is a vegetable. But according to All About Okra, if you heat okra, especially if you deep fried it, okra loses most of its nutrients and self-digesting enzymes. They recommend cooking okra as little as possible e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Too often we fool ourselves into believing that we are eating healthy, especially here in the South. We eat collard greens and green beans, but they are slow cooked with ham hocks. We eat corn on the cob slathered in salt and butter. We smile and tell ourselves, “I’m eating my vegetables.”
You can debunk the old adage, “How do you spell flavor? F-A-T.” by purchasing a steamer and experimenting with some of your old favorites. We’ve forgotten how wonderful foods taste when they are fresh and lightly cooked to let the natural flavors shine through. If foods were meant to be fried, they wouldn’t grow that way?
Tale #6: “You don’t have to be hungry to eat ice cream.”
Theoretically, this is also true, but not just with ice cream. According to medical research, our stomach is about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide at its widest point. The stomach of an average adult has the capacity to hold approximately one quart. One quart equals four cups or 32 ounces of food and drink. Compare that to the fact to the fact that a “biggie” coke by itself at Wendy’s is 32 ounces.
So, when you get that full feeling, that “unbutton-your-pants-Thanksgiving-dinner-full feeling,” think about the sheer volume of food that is packed in your stomach. You’ve stuffed over a quart of food into yourself. Do you feel as gross as I do?
Our stomachs hold, on average four cups of food; but we do not need to fill our stomachs to capacity in order to feel full. There is a difference between being full and being satisfied. In addition to the hundreds of health benefits of water, the simple fact that it fills up part of the capacity of your stomach is reason alone to drink it.
Eating only when we are hungry, stopping when we are satisfied as opposed to waiting until we feel full and removing the emotional aspects associated with eating will help us move toward a healthier lifestyle.
Tale #7: “I’ll eliminate “x” from my diet and I’ll lose weight”
The Susan Powter, “Fat-makes-you-fat, so-if-it’s-fat-free, eat-all-you-want” logic went out the window years ago, but many of us still hold on to that hope. We want to eliminate one part of our diet for a short period of time and watch the miracles happen!
Diets that restrict your intake of a particular food will work in the short-term, but hold no weight (no pun intended) in the long run. Restricting carbs, or sugar, or protein, or fat…all of these restrictions will enable you to lose weight, but when you reintroduce these elements into your diet, whether you go on maintenance or quit the diet, you will gain weight. You must permanently change the way you eat and your lifestyle in order to have permanent success with weight loss.
Concentrate on why you turn to food for comfort, or the reasons you overeat — once you tackle the emotional battle, with a little bit of education on fitness and nutrition, you can make long lasting, positive and easy to live with changes that don’t exclude ANY foods.
Tale #8: “If it’s all natural, it’s good for me.”
Even though products are labeled as “organic” that doesn’t mean they are low in fat or calories. Become a label reader. Know what you are eating. When I purchase fruits and vegetables, I use a fruit and vegetable wash on them when I return home to remove any pesticides used in growing and harvesting these items.
And with regard to supplements, remember that the FDA does not regulate these items and there is no guarantee that the label will keep its promises or the ingredients are tested and safe for you.
Myth #9: “Eating cures all.”
Eating is designed to give our bodies the fuel it needs to carry us throughout the day. We’ve buried this logic under layers and layers of chocolate cake and cookie dough ice cream. Food has become our cure all for emotional problems; and occasionally physical ones as well. After a bicycle accident as a child, my mother eased my tears with chocolate chip cookies. After my tonsils removed, it was ice cream that soothed my aching throat.
And now? after a long hard day, most of us would rather sit in a nice restaurant and be served rather than fight traffic to make it home only to slave over the stove, or even put a frozen dinner in the microwave.
The only problem food cures is hunger. Period. Food can temporarily relieve symptoms of other problems, but it’s not a cure. Stop treating the symptoms and treat the problems. Uncover the unhealthy associations you’ve made with food and tackle those issues. If you fix your life, you won’t mind fixing healthy food.
Tale #10: “I have to lose weight before I can love my body.”
This may be the single saddest tale we tell ourselves. It is only when you begin to love your body that you give it the attention it deserves. Give the only body you’ll ever have the most precious gift of all, self-care.
Our cars come with owners manuals that tell us when to change the oil, have the engine services and even when to rotate the tires. Develop an owner’s manual for your body. Prescribe how often it should be moved and stretched and what kind of food provides maximum performance.
Take a moment now that you’ve read all these tales and email me your thoughts. Are their tales you tell yourself that you’d like to share? Email me at: Linda@facethefat.com.