It almost always happens the same. I’ll make the big decision to try, again, and I’ll do all of the necessary physical and mental preparations to start working towards a healthier lifestyle, and then…
First, I have the talk with my husband to let him know that changes are coming – i.e. there will no longer be a stock of ice-cream in the freezer or individually wrapped pastries in the cupboard.
I go to the supermarket and buy lite yogurts, fresh fruits and veggies, and other high-protein or fiber rich, low-calorie foods. I walk by all of my favorite salty and sweet treats with a firm resolve and can feel a sense of strength and pride growing with each good choice as I manage to leave them out of my cart and on the shelf where they belong. I research healthy recipes and fun exercises. I dig my old workout clothes out of storage and dust off my gym shoes. I affix goal pictures to my fridge and print out a chart complete with a weekly menu and workout regimen.
The first week goes by and, as the water weight goes quickly away, I bask in the glow of sudden success. By this time, and often with a quick five pounds already melted away, I’m feeling pretty darn good and even a little smug. I envision going on a shopping spree for a new wardrobe to fit my smaller body and I somehow convince myself that I don’t have long to wait – at five pounds a week (which is, of course, unrealistic and unhealthy), I could be hitting the mall with my ‘BFF’ in just a month. On a particularly good attempt, sometimes the second week goes almost as well as the first.
And then, like a hammer falling on a sheet of glass, my well-laid plans shatter.
Typically, it starts with a well-meaning friend or relative inviting us out to dinner. As soon as I’m removed from my carefully safe-guarded home or office setting and placed in the path of temptation with over-confidence skewing my sensibility, I cave. After that, it’s all over. My mother-in-law sends a batch of her delicious fudge to our house, and one piece leads to another, leads to another, leads to another, etc. After a busy week of work, I realize I haven’t done groceries, and there’s nothing in the house to eat, so we order pizza for dinner. The temperature outside falls to -50 degrees, and all of the outdoor exercise I planned is replaced with snuggling under the electric blanket on my bed. And so on.
Once I see the first pounds start to creep back on the scale, discouragement moves into the space in my brain that smugness previously occupied. I reflexively turn to food, which I know from experience will stimulate the happy hormones in my head so that I won’t feel so bad about failing – again. I eat away my sorrow and end up right back where I started. The goal pictures on the fridge and the wellness chart I printed go in the trashcan. The gym clothes go back in the bin. My cupboards welcome the familiar sweet and salty snacks, and my freezer once again holds a variety of ice-cream flavors.
It’s been my experience that every person has a threshold that they reach when attempting to implement a healthier lifestyle. Mine is right around the end of week two. A friend does quite well for about six months before she begins to falter. Reaching that point is a daunting challenge, but it is possible to cross that threshold, and there are less trying days lay ahead on the other side.
I still haven’t come to the point where I am convinced that this will be a forever change. I still anticipate failure, and I pray that I’m not sabotaging my chances with those discouraging thoughts. It’s hard to stay positive when I have a historical record of literally dozens of failed attempts intruding on my attempt to change my way of thinking, but I know I have to try.
So, when I hit week two this time, my in-laws invited us out to eat at one of our local restaurants. Here we go again, I thought. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to go there, look at the menu and ignore all of my favorites to choose something healthy – like a salad. But when you walk into a restaurant and you’re hit with all of the glorious scents and are confronted with all of the displayed dishes people around you have ordered, then I believe it takes a steel resolve and an inhuman ability to resist.
But then something happened. As I was sitting there staring at the menu and having the same internal debate I’d experienced so many times before, I made a decision to compromise and to be okay with that compromise. I ordered a BLT and a bowl of my favorite chowder. Sure, it wasn’t country fried steak and gravy, but it was delicious and I enjoyed every last bite. And then I ordered a dessert and, instead of eating the whole thing, I shared it with my husband. But here’s the important part – I left the guilt on the table with the napkins and empty dishes when I left the restaurant that night.
The next morning, I ate a healthy breakfast, went for a walk and resumed my journey. I’ve often preached moderation, but I, like many folks, have trouble practicing that religion. The all or nothing mentality, however, leads me to failure and I know I must learn to let it go. I plan to remember this as I begin week five today – three weeks over my threshold.