We follow rules in areas of our lives where we are successful— and we need them around food and exercise, too, to stay fit, strong, and at our ideal weight.
“What can I eat?” This is a question I hear often. So many of us want someone else to tell us what foods we can and can’t eat. At first thought, that seems to make life so much easier. The problem is that human nature is such that when we are given rules from outside ourselves our instinct is to rebel. However, this does not mean that we can lose weight and get healthy without an eating plan; obviously, the opposite is true.
MAKE YOUR OWN RULES
For PERMANENT change, you must follow rules. But to get the results you want, you must make your own rules, and these rules need to make sense for you. What foods are you going to eat and what foods aren’t you going to eat? You have rules in other areas of your life where you are successful—you need them around food and exercise, too.
In fact, the reason you struggle weight and/or health is not because there is something innately deficient in your life. It’s not because you are an out of control person, weak-willed, or had a more difficult childhood than everybody else (although, please give yourself compassion for all the challenges you have faced).
The great news is you have followed rules for success in other areas of your life, so you know how to do it! These are areas where you base your actions on the results you want—not on transient feelings.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK-WILLED
If you want to understand how fit people stay that way, realize that they are simply doing what you do naturally in areas of your life where you are successful.
Does she have some super inner power that you don’t have? Of course, not!
You will learn to do the same once you tune into the reality that it’s not about dieting, it’s about following food and lifestyle rules that work for you, while reprogramming your subconscious.
Before you get too down on yourself and call yourself weak for living so long without following food rules, realize that this is most likely because following food rules wasn’t modeled to you. In the same way, people who break social rules do so because treating others with respect failed to be instilled in them as a pattern of behavior.
NOW IS THE TIME
It’s never too late to create rules for yourself. The first step is believing that they are necessary. To do that, take a moment and think about what makes you successful in other areas of your life. Instead of seeing willpower as something that you don’t possess, take a moment to reflect on the amazing amount of strength and courage you have within. If you can’t see strength and courage inside yourself, take a moment to acknowledge the incredible hardship it is to carry around excess weight and still lead a productive life. Now, let’s turn your strong will into a tool that will allow you to be happy, healthy, and live at your ideal weight.
In every area of your life where you are getting the results you want, you have rules. Do you blurt out your every thought? Unlikely! You have rules about the way you treat people and about what you do and don’t say to others. You have rules about how you care for your children and pets, and you follow them—whether you feel like it or not.
Create rules with food that will lead you to be successful. Rules are not predicated on whether you feel like adhering to them in any given moment. Rules are rules because they lead to specific outcomes that are desirable.
Let’s take a look at some good examples of rules to pick from. Think about what makes sense for you and your lifestyle. Remember that, ultimately, you must make your own rules.
Rule #1: What foods do you eat?
“I eat clean food, from the earth, in as natural a state as possible, as unprocessed as possible. Example: If I am going to eat bread, it will only be made from whole wheat flour, water, and sea salt.” This rule alone would limit your bread intake due to convenience, and yet you wouldn’t be deprived because you could always go buy a loaf of natural wheat bread at a bakery and keep it in your freezer, having a small slice at a time if you feel that you need bread in your diet/eating regime. Or, “I can eliminate bread all together because I see it as a trigger food that puts fat on my body.”
Rule #2: Eat with Balance in Mind
“If I do eat a carb/starch like a whole grain cracker, I ONLY eat it with a protein food (chicken, fish, meat) and a vegetable so my blood sugar stays balanced. I never just sit and eat a box of crackers plain.”
Rule #3: Enjoy the Healthy Foods You Select
“I make sure to have protein and vegetables (fresh) with every meal, with only a small amount of complex carbs (like a whole grain or root vegetable) and healthy fat (such as extra virgin olive oil, or a little cheese or nuts) to make the food taste good.” The key is to enjoy everything that you do eat so you don’t feel deprived or like you are dieting; however, have only JUST enough “fattening food” to make it taste good.
Rule #4: Stick with the Basics
“I continuously eat a group of foods that are healthy and appeal to my tastes.” Studies show that the less variety in your food choices, the more likely you are to be at your ideal weight. Know what foods you do and don’t eat and stick to the plan (without ever thinking that you are on a diet).
Rule #5: Get Rid of Trigger Foods
“I eliminate the foods that are triggers for me. I know they are triggers because when I eat them, I eat too much in general, or I crave more of that specific food.” Get rid of trigger foods and leave the area when they are being served if possible, especially in the early stages of your weight loss/healthy eating quest.
Rule #6: Don’t Let Yourself Get TOO Hungry
Eat healthy treats that aren’t trigger foods when you are physically hungry. You may enjoy almond butter, cheese, avocado with healthy crackers, or other “treats” that don’t create fuel the compulsion to consume too much food. This is what “everything in moderation” means.
The more balanced and healthy you are, the easier it is to have small amounts of healthy treats without reaching a “tipping point”— that place where you are overeating or binge eating.
Rule #7: Don’t Starve Yourself
Eat only when you are physically hungry and eat just enough to satisfy your physical hunger. Make sure that you aren’t too hungry because when your blood sugar dips, you often can’t think straight enough to make healthy choices.
Rule #8: Plan Ahead
Make sure you have plenty of healthy food available at all times. I never leave the house without a healthy snack in my bag. If you go to a restaurant, plan what you are going to order ahead of time. If you’ll be on the go all day, pack enough food with you so you won’t find yourself starving with no good food choices to make. A new mother doesn’t leave the house without a diaper bag. You need to treat yourself like a baby who needs your care.
Rule #9: Honor Your Emotions
Let yourself feel your feelings, but don’t let them dictate your behavior. Express them, if that is the wise thing to do, or write them down. Burn them off by taking a walk or going for a swim. NEVER eat just because you are feeling a certain way. Let your emotions pass like the weather.
Rule #10: Stay Focused on Your Goal
Have a plan to eat healthy and move your body every day. Not because you have to but because you want to! If ever you feel weak, just think of the alternative to healthy living and know that it’s not an option for you. See and feel yourself as if you’ve already achieved your ideal weight. Practice meditation or self-hypnosis every day and imagine yourself healthy and strong.