The holiday break started great. I had a weigh-in on a Tuesday night meeting in Manhattan on December 21st. I clocked in exactly at goal weight, which I thought was a pretty fabulous way of entering the holiday week. I was sticking to my plan, and I did not act like a complete food crazed freak during the week leading into Christmas. I was feeling strong and cocky.
Per the plan, I started to loosen up on Christmas Eve, and I went completely off the healthy food grid on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day, I hit the gym in the morning for an hour of weights followed by a one hour spin class. I was so proud that I wrenched my shoulder patting myself on the back. I was rocking this Christmas plan.
Then I got hideously sick with the stomach flu for about 24 hours. The nasty part of the bug was pretty fast, but I was definitely a little weakened for the next couple of days. Nonetheless, I was a good soldier, and I hit the gym anyway during the recovery days. I really didn't have much of an appetite, so I stayed true during these couple of days. Throw in the Activity Points from digging out of a nasty little blizzard, and I was still in good form.
Then I got better. I got all the way better. I felt GREAT. What to do with all this euphoria? Run for the sugar plum hills! I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday whooping it up as if I couldn't even spell W-e-i-g-h-t W-a-t-c-h-e-r-s. What the heck, I was a saint for the past seven days. I'm invincible!!! All that stocking candy that I was planning to eat one piece per day for the next three months? Let's work that inventory down by 50%! Wine? Yes please! Seconds? You bet!
In truth, you really can't do that much damage in three days, and I knew that I was going to be fully back on plan starting Jan 3. Still, I was beating myself up about being such a nasty dude. Nothing like a little self-flagellation to put the icing on top of 72 hours of food indiscretion.
Today, I was reading an article in the Sunday NY Times titled: "Why a Budget is Like a Diet -- Ineffective." There was one quote in particular that struck a chord with me.
"As a species, humans are notoriously poor at following through with their plans. Sticking to a budget -- a dirty word even among many financial planners, who prefer the more euphemistic 'spending plan' -- feels too much like dieting. And we often fail at both for the same reasons: too much focus on the restrictions, not enough on fun. So it's not surprising when people end up on bingeing later, more than making up for the dollars not spent or calories not consumed."The column then went on to lay out a bunch of strategies that sounded very much like the same strategies I hear in our Weight Watchers meetings all the time. They mostly focused on a common theme: set up broad goals with a positive outcome in mind.
With this in mind, I am laying out my 2011 long term goals (not to be confused with short-lived resolutions, he writes hopefully).
- Recognize that the over-the-top events I think will make me happy actually make me feel like doo-doo. Every binge I have had this year literally made me feel sick. Not just mentally sick, but physically ill. A huge food splurge inevitably gives me a nasty case of indigestion, and I sleep terribly that night. Further, these binges never seem to have the hedonistic dividend I think they will. How exactly am I depriving myself by avoiding the binge if the binge itself is all downside?
- I want to fully embrace those habits that make me feel food, physically and mentally. When I eat good, real, healthy food, I feel physically great. It really is true. I have more energy and my gastrointestinal tract is much happier with me. I sleep better too. In other words, I want to eat better for purely selfish reasons: it will make me feel better and result in better days and nights. I am done with the concept of eating healthily because my deep-rooted Calvinistic origins say that I should suffer like the miserable puritan that I think I should be.
- I want to fully embrace the awesome fact that the healthy food tastes just as good as the gross food I used to eat. I like a nice piece of fish just as much or more than a 24 oz Fred Flintstone brontosaurus burger. I like fruit mixed in with Greek yogurt as much as ice cream. This isn't a blind hope, it's actually true. There is a degenerate, Rasputan character that lives in my brain who tries to convince me otherwise, but frankly, he's an untrustworthy creep. And he's wrong.
- I want to eat when I'm really hungry, and not eat when I'm just bored and fidgety. Even better, I want to find ways of not being bored and fidgety. I can't remember the last time I had a period of boredom and said at the end of it, "That was such as awesome experience! I can't wait to be bored again!"
- Mostly, I am done thinking of healthy life as a slog. It's a gift and a better way for me to live.