It’s an old adage that 80% of weight loss is done in the kitchen, that you can’t outrun a bad diet, and in my experience that’s true. I can be working out regularly but if I’m eating over my calorie goal it will catch up with me quickly. Sadly this willpower is where I’m weakest.
From a young age I’ve used food as a crutch. Had a bad day? Drown your miseries in some junk food. Had a great day? Celebrate with some junk food! It’s Friday? Junk food! Your dinner didn’t taste great, leaving you a bit unsatisfied? Junk food! It’s 2 hours after dinner and you’re watching TV and a little bored? Junk food!
You get the idea. And it’s gotten worse as I’ve aged. Food is almost like an addiction to me. A few hours after dinner (or really after any meal) I’ll start getting cravings. Hell I’ll start getting cravings any time I walk by some chocolate in the house. My wife keeps some chocolate by her bed side and every time I see it I get tempted to take just a tiny bit. And then a bit more. And a bit more.
I’ve been trying to reframe this in the same way I’ve reframed exercise, realistically. When those cravings come, when those moments happen where I want to eat unnecessarily (let’s be clear, I’m talking times outside of when I’ve had a healthy, nutritious and calorically appropriate meal) I try to revel in those moments, the same way I might revel in the way my legs burned this morning on the last rep of my fifth set of squats. I’ve been repeating to myself variations on “this is where the growth happens.” It’s like mental weight lifting, for me. I almost look forward to those opportunities now to flex my mental muscles, to work at resisting.
Like physical weight lifting though I’ve found it takes its toll on me. If I’ve had a day where I’ve had to do that a lot, like say we went out for lunch with the office, or we had a bunch of delicious donuts hanging around, or something like that, by the end of the day I’m irritable. Worn down. If at the end of that day my wife asks me to decide, say, which of our leftovers to have for dinner, I might tell her I need her to make that decision, because it’s too much of a mental weight for me to lift and worry about. I might be snippy. I might be extra emotional.
Take yesterday for example. We went out for a snack and ended up eating a fair bit of tasty but calorie filled foods. Not a “proper” dinner necessarily but enough food to make up a proper dinner (which to my mind involves meat and a side dish or something like that - this was a bunch of small side dishes). My body was saying to me of course I need a proper dinner, because I didn’t have one. I knew I didn’t need one - it’s not like I hadn’t had plenty of nutrition that day, nor plenty of calories. Really this was a case of my body lying to me (believe me, it does this - I have a whole other post planned on that). So I had a little bit of fruit just to get something in me (since we’d eaten earlier than normal) and lay down in bed with my tablet. I opened up Facebook and scrolled through and, as so often happens, I started comparing myself to my peers - their fancy clothes, their fancy jobs, all that. Normally I’m better at rationalizing this kind of thing away. I love my life just as it is right now, and though there are some things I’d change, I’m very happy overall. But I was mentally exhausted from resisting eating, and I started getting sad, angry, irritable. Normally I’d be smart enough to close Facebook as soon as that came up, but nope, kept hate-scrolling through.
Eventually I stopped myself and opened up a book. But it took longer than it should have.
I share this not as some complaint, but in case someone else gets these same issues, and to share that it’s not all roses and protein shakes. A lot of times the real work in weight loss is NOT doing something, is a kind of mental weight lifting. And that can be just as hard, as gruelling, and exhausting as physical weight lifting. But it’s absolutely important work. I’ve seen this strength, this discipline, bleed over into other areas of my life. I get more done on the weekends, I’m more productive at work, I read more. But I don’t want anyone to ever think it’s easy for me, or that it’s all been pleasant. It definitely hasn’t been.
But worth it? Yeah.