This post is sort of off topic for the blog, but it relates in larger context to the ongoing “unrealistic standards of beauty” meme that is constantly going around in Christian singles discussion, and the MSM in general. Basically, I no longer have time to listen to girls who whine about their body type/not being able to lose weight but still chug Starbucks and constantly circle around the candy jar at work, or who cling to starvation diets in the hope that a miracle will occur.
Since May, I’ve been doing a DVD-based workout program. Basically, I’d gotten tired of my longtime exercise go-to’s and was having a hard time motivating myself. I knew that I needed something to revolutionize my exercising, and I figured that if this guy in the videos trained Victoria’s Secret models, then he was probably doing something right.
What I didn’t realize when I ordered the DVDs was that the kit comes with a small booklet called “Fat Burning Foods.” This booklet contains simple recipes for 12 breakfasts, 12 lunches, and 12 dinners, along with a bunch of “savvy skinny” snack options and advice on the types of foods to order when you are at various types of restaurants. Each breakfast is around 250 calories, each lunch around 350, and each dinner about 400, with an emphasis on protein and fiber. I decided that if I was going to give BBL a go, I needed to follow the diet, too.
I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to succeed in sticking to the meal plan unless I put myself on a schedule, which made me realize that undisciplined eating was a big problem for me. I didn’t have the problem of constantly going to McDonald’s or eating half a sheet cake at a time, but I did have a problem of reaching for convenient snacks because I didn’t keep much food in the house, the idea being that I didn’t want to keep temptation around, or waste food that I no longer had an interest in. But the thing is, if your stomach is completely empty, you’re not going to reach for those raw baby carrots first, or start gnawing on celery. That’s where the problems start.
My solution was to go full-on nerd and make myself a spreadsheet accounting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, as well as two daily snacks between meals. Then I would make a grocery list and buy everything for the week all at once. This way I was locked into my meal plan – the investment had already been made, and I had no excuses that I didn’t have those particular foods available. Additionally, I prepared everything in advance that could be prepared, in order to remove laziness as an excuse not to follow the plan. If fruit could be cut up in advance, I cut it. If I was going to be eating quinoa, I prepared that all at once. When you are tired, even the tiniest amount of chopping or boiling seems like work, so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t cheat because I felt too
That first spreadsheet worked. What I found was that having an actual meal plan freed me to eat. I no longer felt a food dilemma at every meal, wondering what I should have, or worrying that it was too fattening, or not wanting to eat because I snacked too much earlier, or rationalizing a meal out. I no longer felt guilty about snacking because I had calculated snacks into my meal plan. Since that first spreadsheet, I’ve made a spreadsheet every week.
The meal plan had other benefits, too. First, it re-normalized my idea of correct portion size. When you’re measuring most of your food with a measuring cup, and you see it on your plate, you start to get a feel for how much you should be eating at a time. Second, it kept me from ever feeling like I overate AND it kept me from ever feeling ravenously hungry. When your hunger level stays pretty even keel all day, the desire to dig into bad snacks greatly diminishes. Third, it reset my taste buds. I’ve only had butter a handful of times since starting the meal plan, and I can’t say I really miss it. I almost never put salt on anything anymore. And, maybe the biggest change, I don’t have much of an appetite for junk food anymore. I don’t have cravings for cake or cookies the way I used to, or for chips, or desserts. I still enjoy these foods, but, for example, if I eat one cookie, I don’t have the desire to eat a bunch more. Doritos don’t hold the same appeal. This was probably the most unexpected of all the results of changing the way I ate. Usually when you think of following a diet, you think of denial and wanting all of the foods you’re not supposed to have anymore. But I’ve found that eating right isn’t really denial, because your desires for the bad stuff subside. Fourth, my digestive system is much happier now. (TMI or not, it’s true.) And fifth, my skin now has a glow that no amount of exfoliation could have ever given it.
I can’t say that what happened for me will happen for everyone if they just do what I did. But I do think that a lot of people who are basically healthy and active but keep struggling with weight that just won’t disappear are probably dealing with eating discipline issues. If this is you, I encourage you to examine your eating habits and see if undisciplined eating is holding you back.