This month, the topic is: Being Flexible
Dieting and having a restricted diet can be similar at times, especially when it comes to mindset. However, they do differ in that one is optional, and the later usually isn’t. For those of you with severe food allergies that practice strict avoidance, this isn’t written with you in mind. People like us simply don’t have a choice, and we know the pain that “failure” will bring. Instead, this is written with everyone else in mind. People who are starting a Paleo diet because they’ve read about it somewhere, for people who want to reduce their weight or improve overall health, or for those who have been prescribed a particular eating style for health reasons, such as AIP.
The overall idea that I want to share with you is learning to be flexible, and giving yourself some grace when you fall off the horse. Let’s start with the idea of habits. Can we all agree that they’re easy to break, and hard to form? It’s been said that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit, which is why I always tell people 30 days. Those can be 30 of the hardest days you’ll face. First, don’t tackle everything at once, especially if you’re dieting as a choice. Look at your overall issues. Let’s take a look at Sally.
Sally is 60 pounds over weight, eats processed foods, doesn’t exercise much, loves her soda, and has portion sizes that are simply too large. Should Sally tackle all of this in her first 30 days? NOPE. Instead, Sally should make a game plan to initiate a new change every 2 – 4 weeks, depending on her willpower. This is where it’s important to know yourself well. There should also be non-food rewards for maintaining goals. If I were Sally, I would start with the processed foods. I’d eliminate them, but still eat as much as I want. Why that? Simple. It’s harder to overeat when you’re eating clean, but Sally doesn’t know that yet. Sally should have 4 rewards in place (one for each week), such as, a new pair of shoes, attending a workshop, new kitchen tools, or day on a speed boat. The rewards should be tailored to each person’s needs. Once Sally has conquered the first 30 days, then she should address the next issue: portion control. Remember, she’s still drinking soda. Portion control is easier to wrangle with weekly food prep and a good kitchen scale. Sally should assess how much she’s eating, and cut it down a few ounces each week until she’s met the goal at the end of the 30 days. Phew. That’s two big problems done. Now it’s time to tackle soda. If you have an affinity for drinks such as these, it’s best to give them up on a Friday, after you’re done with work. Allow yourself a weekend of extra rest, as the body will demand it’s caffeine fix. Have some good movies ready to play, and extra pillows on the ready. Sally should swap in flavored drinks, and tea. Flavored drinks should be homemade, to avoid the processed junk. Simply add fruit and/or cucumber to containers of water, and presto! Homemade spa water. Now that Sally has done of this, she can look back on her journey and be so proud. I’m sure she’s already lost some weight, and is feeling a boost in her confidence. This is when exercise should be incorporated, but start small. Don’t start by saying, I’m going to the gym everyday! You’ll fail. Life gets in the way, you may get sick, or have extra projects at work. Start with 15 minutes a day. Go on a brisk walk at lunch time, or find a workout video online that you can do at some point in your day. The more you get into it, the more you will naturally increase the time. And that brings us to the end of Sally’s journey.
I’m sure you’re wondering where the flexibility was in all of that. In Sally’s case, the flexibility came from not doing everything at once. Change is usually not an easy thing, so don’t overwhelm yourself with it. Give yourself “enough” to accomplish without going overboard. For an overachiever, this is truly the hardest thing for us to do. Flexibility also comes through grace. I can promise you that in that first week of change, Sally slipped up and had her favorite fast food meal because she missed it so much. However, when that happens, you have to make a serious choice: Am I going to allow this one meal/mistake define my entire journey? OR Am I going to allow this one meal/mistake to strengthen my resolve for tomorrow? That’s the thing about change. It’s not a linear path. You’re going to make mistakes, and you must give yourself grace. If not, the only option is failure. I’ve seen so many people try something for 3 days, give into a craving, then simply give up. Others make it 10 days before giving up. You also have to reign in any negative self-talk, such as I’m no good, or I can’t. Instead, the feedback loop in your head should be “This mistake doesn’t mean I can’t keep going. This mistake won’t stop me from trying again.” Notice the use of the word This, rather than One. It’s important because if you only give yourself grace once, you’ll still fail. We’re all human, and we’re going to cave from time to time. Just be ready to pick yourself back up and keep going.
Alternatively, there are times when failure simply isn’t an option, and grace is nowhere to be found. Someone that’s starting an AIP diet is in this boat. With diets such as AIP, they say that you’re not on the diet until you’re fully on the diet. Usually, AIP is done in a strict manner for 30 days, then foods are reincorporated. For someone facing a tall order like this, the message I have is two-fold. First, ease into it. Start with one AIP meal a day for 3 days, then increase it to two AIP meals, then finally, all of your meals. Why? AIP is one of the strictest protocols in town, and trust me, it’s easy to go full on, get in 4 days, and want to quit. By easing into it, you’re less likely to give up. The second part of the message is rest and reward. If you’re on AIP, there’s a good chance that you have a serious medical condition. Extra rest is important as the body tries to heal itself. Reward yourself every day or two that you’re on AIP, as it’s not easy for everyone to stick to, especially if you’re coming from where Sally started.
My final thoughts are: “cheat” a little. Sweet is the top craving most people have. Look at your overall goals and find little ways to meet your needs. If you’re going Paleo, there are TONS of sweet options out there for you. If you’re going GAPs or AIP, your options are more limited, but trust me, there are cookies you can make for yourself. If you are super strict with yourself, you’ll hate the journey. Instead, give yourself some grace, wiggle room, and really good pep talks.