I recently wrote a blog post called “Q&A: I don’t have the willpower to eat Paleo,” in which I explained that after a while on the diet your willpower waxes as your addictions wane. I also, perhaps, said a harsh thing or two along the way (who, me?). And I quote (bold text is mine for emphasis)…
Have some self control and try Paleo for a good, solid two weeks where you don’t let yourself cave to your cravings. You can do it. See what happens when you have satisfying foods that keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. See what happens when you have enough respect for yourself and your health to NOT eat shit instead of healthy foods.
And one reader/blogger, Beth Mazur of www.weightmaven.org had a problem with that, as I can only imagine others did as well. Beth’s article (found here) is actually really good. Here’s what she said, among other things.
Seriously, even if that IS it, I’m not exactly sure how this kind of response is helpful.
One thought I’ve had, having struggled with this for decades, is that learning how to avoid the siren call of crappy food may be like learning to ride a bike. It’s hard. And people who can do it easily may be inspirational, and may show you that it’s doable, but they are NOT really going to be that helpful in helping YOU learn how.
I mean, imagine writing a blog post telling someone how to ride a bike. “Just TRY it. Hop on the seat, push forward, keep your balance and pedal. How hard is that?”
In this blog post, I will beg for all of your forgiveness and vow to never use curt, blanket statements again. No, actually, I won’t. But I will try to explain where I was coming from. I’m going to delve a little into the psychology and emotionality of compulsive overeating and let you know that I have been there myself.
Sometimes I just forget. I forget that it took me 4 years and about 5 attempts to even go gluten free because I loved doughnuts and tortillas so much. I forget that I cried when I found out I couldn’t eat my precious grains anymore. That during frequent fits of frustration and revolt I used to eat astounding quantities of cookies, doughnuts, brownies (and then blondies when I realized I couldn’t eat chocolate) and then want more. I mean like half a large pan of brownies or more in one day. I’d buy a big box of cookies and eat them all in a ravenous, seemingly starved frenzy on the way home, sometimes with tears of frustration for my own behavior streaming down my face. There was a time when I would eat a pint of rainbow sherbet every single day.
It wasn’t just sweets that I overate or ate for emotional reasons: it was everything. Like many of you, I had that “I’m going to starve if I don’t eat all of this and more” complex buried deep in my being and I just couldn’t shake it. I’ve had burrito-eating contests with grown men and WON.
I’m no stranger to emotional overeating.
So when I make seemingly stern or glib remarks, it’s not only you I’m talking to; I’m admonishing my old self, too. And I was speaking from experience when I said that it takes some self respect to exorcize those demons. Here’s what I mean.
I remember working in a café many years ago where we sold cookies. The café wasn’t doing so hot, so I was often alone, left to my own devices with those cookies. I’d stand there, looking at the cookies, mouth watering, saying to myself, “It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. I’ve been working so hard to lose weight and this is just going to ruin it if I do this.” And that intoxicating flavor and texture would win every single time. It would beat out even my own health and well-being and happiness! I would sometimes eat like 10 cookies in a shift and maybe a muffin or two for good measure. That’s what I mean by self respect, of which I had very little at the time.
When your health, happiness, and goals are worth less than a damn cookie (or 10), then you are lacking self respect. I don’t care if you are “addicted” and your brain responds to those foods differently than other people’s. It’s a choice, fueled by a lack of forethought, honesty and self respect that you make when you grab the cookie and eat it. Get professional help if you need it. Or go see a psychic to help you figure out what happened in your past lives that makes you this way. I did both and both helped.
I’m certainly not saying you can just gain a solid base of self respect overnight. But you can start by being honest with yourself and giving yourself an opportunity to make a choice before you put something in your mouth.
It took me a long time before I would admit to myself that ‘If I eat these 8 cookies that equal about 1200 calories, my ass and gut will seriously pay the price and I will NOT reach my weight goals. I will for real feel like crap and have diarrhea. And I will be very angry at myself later, which will make me want to binge even further.’ But those words and thoughts are only powerful if you believe them, and you will only believe them if you truly want the best for yourself. It took me a long time and a lot of reflecting on reality to stand in front of those cookies and win.
And once I did, it got easier and easier. And once I went Paleo, it got even easier. I don’t recall the last time I legitimately binged.
So please believe me when I say that I am not mindlessly or baselessly passing judgment on anyone who just can not imagine life without their junkfood or their binges. I am cheering you on in my own way, which is sometimes a little more to-the-point and blunt than people would like. However, I will try to be kinder in the future and remember how hard it used to be.
Here are a few things you can do to help build your self respect concerning food and gain confidence in your ability to turn those goodies away.
- Don’t work in a place where you have access to crappy foods all the time. If you can’t change your job, then try to revolutionize the food choices that are available or limit your exposure to them.
- When you’re about to put something naughty in your mouth, make yourself wait 30 seconds before you do it. In that half of a minute, drink some water and try to have clear thoughts about what the repercussions might be. Then make the choice.
- Write down your weight and health goals. Get very clear about them. How much weight do you want to lose and by when? Is this a realistic goal? Get help if you need to with making realistic goals, too. Remind yourself of your goals regularly (but not obsessively – it’s a fine line) and figure out how much and what foods you need to eat (or not eat) in order to make that happen. If your goals are clear, your choices will be clear, too.
- Find out how much you’re eating right now. Go to www.myfitnesspal.com and figure out if you’re overeating. Sometimes the raw reality of how much you’re overeating is enough to make it stop. It was embarrassing for me to find out one time that I’d been eating 1,000 calories worth of cashews every day for 2 months and that’s why I was gaining weight.
Anyone else have anything to add?