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The human mind has an amazing capacity for sheer bullheadedness. We just have to tap into those reserves and bring out the stubborn in us – for the right reasons.
I have this weakness, as you might too, for sweets and treats. And unfortunately, it seems that I am always surrounded by them. Whether I am hosting guests or me & my family are visiting someone else’s home, whether it’s a birthday or an anniversary, New Year’s Day, Christmas, Pongal, Ganesh Chathurthi, Diwali or Id-ul-Fitr, sugar arrives in all forms as I celebrate with friends and family. And let’s not even talk about the local specialties that I just ‘have to try’ while travelling on holidays.
Do you have the same problem? If not sweets, perhaps your kryptonite is the myriad variety of savoury items in the form of samosas, puris, vadas, chaat, chips and other crispy delights.
It’s not wrong to enjoy your food, it is one of the great joys of life. But perhaps it’s time to accept that we are actively hurting our body when we:
An occasional treat is perfectly fine but “I want to enjoy life and all it has to offer” can become an excuse to scarf down every possible dessert on that buffet counter.
Calling yourself a foodie is not an excuse to abuse your body. You can be a foodie and treat your body right at the same time.
Isn’t that the perfect combination!
Why does all this matter? It is because a bad diet is the road that leads to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, bone health issues and a host of other severe diseases including some forms of cancer. While modern treatments may have evolved and can help prolong life, these come with serious costs including a host of potential side effects. Not to mention the damage that has already been caused to our bodies. Nothing says it better than:
“Prevention is better than a cure”.
And we have a weapon to wield in the fight against these situations: Our own minds.
A man named George Hood was in the news recently. Why? He broke the Guinness World Record for holding the longest time in a plank position by a male, by holding one for 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds.
If you have ever held a plank, you’d know that holding one for even 4 minutes can be considered a minor achievement. So imagine holding one for as long as he did.
The interesting part is that George Hood said that the hardest part of conquering the record was the mental challenge. Recognising this well in advance, he had mindset coaching over the 6 months before his record.
He’s 62 years old.
Now doesn’t that throw things in perspective? If the human mind is capable of such extraordinary feats, shouldn’t it be simple to resist that scoop of ice cream, especially if we have had a filling meal already?
If you need examples you can relate to: many people around us practise fasting or abstinence from certain foods for religious reasons. This could be for a few hours, or a few days or even a month. How do they do it? It’s simple. They make a commitment to themselves and their beliefs, and stick to it.
Photo by visuals on Unsplash
If you are serious about getting healthier and fitter, fixing your diet should be an inextricable part of your overall plan to achieve your goal.
And you need a plan to address your weakness.
Get your planning right
“Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
This is clearly the first step. If it’s sugar, note down all the sources of your daily sugar intake – e.g. coffee/tea, juices, biscuits, chocolates, cereals, sweets, puddings, flavored yoghurt, ice creams and other desserts and even those supposedly ‘healthy’ ‘fibre-rich’ granola bars.
Do you want to avoid the ‘treat’ entirely? I would not recommend this, as this is not sustainable for most over the long-term. Do you want to cut it by 50%? Do you want to cut it by 75%? You get to decide. Make it a challenging goal, but not so challenging that you will exhaust yourself.
For example, you may decide to reduce your treats from 7 days a week to twice a week. Or from 5 treats a day to once a day. Whatever it is, set a specific goal that you can measure.
What gets measured gets done.
Baby steps help. Set the timeframe over which you want to achieve this goal. You could go cold turkey (i.e. immediately start implementing your target goal) if it works for you; or you could stagger the plan so that you reach your target over a period. And remember – pick a target that you think you can sustain over the long-term. By picking a realistic goal, you will be able to have your cake and eat it too!
You want to be healthier and fitter. Perhaps this has been a long-term goal of yours. Or maybe you or someone you know has experienced a health issue and made you realize the importance of taking care of your body. Or you want to be able to play with your kids and even outrun them.
Whatever the reason, write it down. That’s your ‘why’. Keep a note of it in a place that you will come across often. Your phone or laptop wallpaper. Your refrigerator. A place where you will see it every day.
This quote reminds me about my ‘why’.
Cut off the source. Prune your shopping list to fit your goal. Did you know that at one point, I cleaned out my pantry and I did not store any plain sugar in the house? It became an issue when I had guests over who requested sugar in their coffee. That might sound extreme but ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’! While you might not be able to do this (as a courtesy to others in the household), at least cut as many of the ‘no’ items as possible from your usual shopping list.
If it’s not good for you, it’s not good for the people you love either.
So don’t let family or the children become an excuse to stock poor foods at home.
Seek support from your family, friends and colleagues. There is no reason to be embarrassed about giving attention to your health. We often succumb to peer pressure when it comes to food. It might be a close friend insisting you join him or her in sharing a dessert, or the insistence of your host at having ‘just a little bite’ while visiting their home.
What you can do is instead mention your motivation and perhaps even get them to join you in your quest for healthy living. Some friendly competition always helps! Ultimately, you will probably end up gaining their respect for sticking to your guns: because everyone knows how difficult it can be.
Find alternatives. If you feel hungry, nibble on something healthy instead. Sip green tea. Have a fruit. Find your acceptable alternative. We know that healthy snacking is a challenge and we spend a lot of time helping people with this in our coaching programme.
Identify your mode of stress relief. Cravings are often the result of stress so figure out what helps lighten your mood. Music. Dance. A chat with a close friend. Meditation. Whatever works for you.
Now that you have come this far, the most important challenge for you is to mentally prepare yourself and implement your plan. All the planning and preparation in the earlier steps is meant to give you the support you need to achieve your goal. So make the commitment to yourself and your health and start working on your goal.
And if you slip up and don’t achieve your goal immediately, there’s no reason to feel guilty and give up. It happens. Enjoy the extra treat. Then wipe the slate clean and start working on your goal again! Think of it as a bad habit. Breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work.
People who are healthy and lean have had a lot of practice eating healthy. All you need is the practice.
You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all.
Photo by Alysha Rosly on Unsplash
Make the commitment to yourself and stick to it. Because you’re worth it!
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