Alright, friends and family, I love you to death, but you know what? I have to stop acting like it’s a major holiday when I see you all. This is a problem for me, because I still feel like celebrating the wondrousness of being back in Maine and near you all, but I’ve put on 15 pounds in about two months in no small part because I’ve been eating and drinking like it’s Christmas every time I hang out with anyone.
My approach to eating has generally been “Don’t make other people uncomfortable by exercising weird and specific diet habits in front of them.” I still mostly believe in this. I love good food, I love sharing good food with the people I love, and I think that depriving yourself of the joy of those two things is sad for everyone. HOWEVER…as I get older, my body can’t actually shed every single bad eating decision I make with the same ease it did when I was 18. You know that famous freshman 15? I didn’t gain it–I lost it. Unfortunately, I’m not a freshman anymore. I thought I would at least hit 30 before that became true, but guess what? My body has its own timeline.
So here’s the thing: I’m done with dessert and alcohol during the week. I will define the weekend as starting Friday night and ending Sunday night to accommodate times we’re more likely to be hanging with people, but I’m going to put a minor movement requirement on myself in order to earn dessert and alcohol even for the weekend. I have to walk 2 hours throughout the week.
My reasoning here is that dessert and wine are the most nutrient-devoid, calorie-rich things that I have been regularly eating after 2pm, which is roughly when you should be eating less sugar and carbs and more veggies and protein if you’re trying to lose weight. I had pretty good success with that approach during the 17 Day Diet, but that just didn’t turn out to be a sustainable life choice for me, so I’m going to take the useful lessons and leave the rest behind.
As for exercise: I like walking. It’s refreshing and wakes my mind up. It’s the only exercise other than yoga (which I don’t have much room for) and using an elliptical machine (which I don’t own) that leaves my body feeling good and ready for the day instead of spent and brain-dead. So I can do it. I already spend 1 hour walking to work most of the time, so I’m only asking myself for 2 more brisk walks during the week, which will be a pleasure instead of a pain and will not necessarily require me to shower immediately after getting home. (Until I master the 5-minute shower, the time commitment of showering will continue to be an impediment to setting time aside for sweat-inducing exercise.)
One more point: I’m starting today. I came to a realization last night that I needed to make a change, and this time, I’m not building up until Monday to start. I’m starting now. Why?
I never really understood what Yoda meant as a kid. “But sometimes we do fail,” I would think. “So how does he explain that?” What I’ve come to realize is that doing is not always a short-term prospect. Doing instead of trying means never believing that you cannot accomplish what you set out to do. I’m getting better at this mindset the more I practice it, and it’s time for me to apply it to the way I approach wellness. Will the particular set of rules be enough to help me hit the balance of reasonable eating and enjoying food? That remains to be seen. But they’re a start, and I’m going to do them.
I also recently read, in brief, about a study on willpower. There’s been more research done contesting this, so I’d have to hunt down a metanalysis on this type of work to get a better picture of how willpower works, but the gist of the work seemed to be saying that (a) humans have a depletable willpower bar, like a mage in a video game, (b) how quickly that bar depletes is dependent on whether or not you believe in its existence, and (c) there are ways to renew the energy in that bar.
What I am choosing to take away from this research is that I can put less strain on my willpower by not waiting until next week or after some holiday or whatever to get going. So, no excuses or delays, I’m starting today. I suspect the social component is also fairly critical. Having to say “no” repeatedly makes each time that much more difficult, and having accountability helps, so if those of you I end up hanging out with on any given week night can find the kindness within you to either let me off the hook for dessert and booze with little pressure or even remind me of what I’ve committed to, I’ll be thankful.
Most importantly, though–please don’t feel like I’m judging you when your food choices are different than mine. I love you all and I respect the individual nature of a relationship with food and how that fits into everything else in life. Eating less celebratory food when I’m with you doesn’t mean I’m less inclined to celebrate my time with you, either: it just means I’m settling in to keep the celebration going long-term.
Alrighty then. That’s settled. Time for a walk.