Avoid the Weekend Binge: Control Your Mind Control Your Eating

It’s Friday, and if you are like most people you are looking forward to the weekend. Weekends are less structured with more free time and generally time to have fun and relax. We need this time to decompress and settle down. The lack of structure is great and necessary. However the lack of structure can be detrimental to health and weight loss goals. 

Specifically people find they binge or have increased “cheating” over the weekend. It is easy during the week to stay on track and maintain a fit and healthy routine. Know that a lot of people struggle to maintain a routine over the weekend and a lot of people “fall off the bandwagon”. That is why diets start on Mondays and a Monday in the gym is one of the busiest days of the week. People are in the gym trying to undo the damage they made with their eating over the weekend. Unfortunately it is not that easy; your body has already metabolized the food and it is impossible to out-train a bad diet. The act of binging over the weekend may be why people abandon their weight loss and health goals. They see a cheat meal, or two, or three, as failure. They let this failure cause them to lose hope. They probably think things like, “I can’t do this”, “I am not motivated enough”, or “it is too hard” to continue to maintain a fit life. If those are the thoughts then those things will be true. I have written a lot about this in previous blogs, so feel free to read those. Bottom line is, you ARE, what you think you ARE. 

The struggle is not necessarily due to being weak, lacking motivation and willpower, or having too strong cravings. The struggle is related to what you think!  How you encounter meals and the thoughts associated with eating any meal will determine whether you are successful or unsuccessful at maintning your healthy eating and fit lifestyle. 

What you think is vital to your eating behaviors and whether or not you will maintain your weight loss and health goals. Researchers found that people on diets failed because certain foods triggered enjoyable and pleasurablemthoughts about the food (Papies, 2008). People that struggled with self-regulation were less successful at avoiding the temptation, whereas people that were able to evulate their thoughts were more successful. 

Staying with your plan requires self-regulation. Self-regulation is understanding your thoughts and how your thoughts cause you to feel and behave. Let’s say I show you an image of chocolate. Looks good right?!? The majority of people would see that image and agree chocolate is good and would agree they would enjoy a piece of chocolate. The people that say “no”  and refuse the chocolate (despite agreeing the chocolate looks good) are able to see the temptation but are also able to remain focused on thier goal. Individuals with temptation-goal self-regulation thinking are able to avoid temptation and remain successful toward their weight loss goals (Kroese, Adriaanse, Evers, & De Ridder, 2011). If you are someone that struggles with binging and experiences increased cravings over the weekend do not lose heart. What is most exciting about these research studies is that volunteers were unsuccessful dieters prior to the study. They were able to learn to reframe their thinking to avoid food and they found increased weight loss success. Here is how you can win the battlefield of your own mind and stay on track this weekend. 

  • When going for a meal or snack; Stop, take a few breaths, and think. Ask yourself if the meal is worth it?  Is this really something that you want right now?  Is there another choice that sounds good? How will you feel after eating this meal?  Is it worth it to feel that way?  If you are not sure how eating makes you feel keep a food diary.  This is different than apps like MyFitness Pal (for example). In addition to writing down what you are eating and tracking the number of calories consumed and the number of macronutrients you also write down how eating that meal made you feel physically and emotionally.  
  • Avoid boredom eating by keeping the mind focused. Say to yourself, “I am in charge. I control my thoughts”. You are the boss of you, not the food. You have the power to tell yourself what to do and how to do it. In that moment you are in charge of your behavior. 
  • You choose what you put in your mouth. Say, “I choose what to eat and I right now I choose not to eat that”. This kind of thinking is only asking you to stay on task and focused for this meal and this moment in time only.  You worry about the next meal at the next meal. When learning new behaviors it is a step-by-step process. Take the urge to binge and eat poorly one meal and one step at a time. 
  • Think about your goal and your motivation. Ask, “how will eating this meal impact my goals?”  You know the answer to this and you know the right decision to make. Trust that. If you make a choice to refuse tempting foods that should cause pride and confidence for you to make healthy decisions at your next meal. If you choose to binge or “cheat” that one meal it is still ok.  Remember you are OK with taking things one meal at a time. 

A cheat meal is not a slip up. A binge is not a slip up. It is ok. Tell yourself that. You are human and you make mistakes. You are human and have the right to enjoy things. You can keep going forward and choose to eat something healthier next time. You can avoid future cheats and binges by applying the thinking above to each meal situation. Changing thinkng can be hard, but you will gain confidence as you are successful at each meal. To help improve compliance and increase confidence try carrying healthy snacks with you so you do not get too hungry. Or if you are craving a food try finding a healthier alternative. Pinterest (for example) has many clean and healthy recipes to satisfy any tantalizing craving and eating the “clean” version will leave you feeling guiltless. 

A dirty meal here and there is ok. Please enjoy your weekend and eat well. Enjoy dessert. Enjoy a fattening and dirty meal. If you do well over the week a cheat meal or two on the weekend will not mess up your goals. However binging and grazing over the weekend can be harmful. It will definitely harm your ego and your pride. If you feel guilty, bad, “fat” or shame after eating then you know you went too far. A meal, regardless if cheating or eating healthy, should not make you feel bad. Eating should make you feel full, energized, and fulfilled. Enjoy the opportunity to let loose and enjoy your self but know you can stop. You do not have to become victim to sabotaging your healthy eating. You are in charge. You are in control. 

 

References:

 

Kroese, F., Adriaanse, M., Evers, C., & De Ridder, D. (2011). “Instant Success” turning tempest ions int cues for goal-directed behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1389-1397. 

Papies, E. (2008). Healthy cognition: Processes of self-regulatory success in restrained eating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 1290-1300. 

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Top Tips to Find Balance to Keep A Fit, Fun, and Fabulous Life.

We have all heard the term, “Go hard or go home”. I say this to myself to power through a workout. I say this to my classes to motivate my students to push through their workout. I highly encourage working hard while being physically active. I also encourage being disciplined in your healthy eating choices. However I also recommend balance. 

Balance is necessary to keep us focused, motivated, interested, and engaged. Giving your all every single day can deter you from your goals. Why?  Because you are human. There will be days you will be tired, you will have obligations, your loved ones will want to spend time with you, and you will make mistakes. Having the “go hard or go home” mentality will sway you from your goals because you will be quick to abandon your goals when you have a dirty meal or you skip a workout or two. 

Balance is the key to making fitness, health, healthy eating, and weight loss a lifestyle. I think balance is hard to find though. For example people fear skipping the gym or having a cheat meal because they worry this will cause them to abandon all motivation. Skipping the gym today will not make going tomorrow any harder or easier. Or people fear certain foods and avoid health benefits by restricting foods for fear of gaining weight or not losing any additional weight. Restricting is not helpful and restricting leads to future weight gain and binging. All the stress of trying to stay 100% focused makes working out and healthy eating bothersome and it removes the fun from living a fit life. 

Here are my top tips to find balance and keep a fit, fun, and fabulous lifestyle. 

1.  Step away from the scale. Put it away. Throw it away. The scale will deceive you and only make you feel bad. The scale only measures your body as it is related to gravity. People tend tomfocus on weight loss and will weigh weekly. Some even weigh daily. In the midst of my hysteria and unhealthy way of achieving fitness I weighed multiple times a day. This caused guit and shame and drove me crazy. You see we weigh to expect a certain outcome (pounds lost) and it is impossible to achieve that outcome overnight. Rather than focus on pounds lost focus on how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, how much longer and faster you can run, that you can lift heavier today than last week, that you were able to complete a group fitness class, and the extra energy that you have. 

2.  Turn off your cellphone, computer, tablet, and TV. Specifically spend a day not looking at fitness models or people working out on Instagram or Facebook. Seeing this can shame you and cause you to feel like you need to be working out rather than resting. Not only will this allow you to rest but eliminating these distractions opens you to have more time to enjoy the weather outside, enjoy time with loved ones, or learn something new. 

3. Take things one day at a time. Yes, planning will help you be successful in your goals. However life happens. It is inevitable that you will have your whole day planned but life will have a plan of its own. Rather than be thrown off by life’s little mishaps and things that are not planned, you can be best prepared by planning one day at a time. Yesterday may have been terrible and things did not go according to your plan. The good news is you have tomorrow. Tomorrow you will wake up and your goal and your plans will still be there. The gym did not close over night and healthy foods will still be stocked in the stores. Decide to tackle each day and be the best you can be today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. 

4.  There is nothing more important than your relationships with family and friends. Do not sacrifice spending time with loved ones for a workout. Perhaps you can incorporate fun and family time with physical fitness. But you must make time to spend time with those you care about. Have a weekly date night with your spouse or have coffee with a friend. Cut your workout early to,get home and greet your family. We are all busy and we have things we are working toward but nothing is more important than our time with the special people in our lives. 

5.  Find hobbies and interests that are different from healthy eating and working out. As you engage in fitness and healthy eating you will find you are drawn to friends with similar interests. You will start to read books and articles about health and fitness. Soon your activities become consumed with health and fitness. It is true you can have too much of a good thing. Having other interests outside of your new fit friends and outside the gym helps you find peace. When you can enjoy and look forward to other things it helps keep working out and healthy eating fresh and interesting as well. 

6. Find time to meditate, journal, and relax. You take such good care of yourself by working out and eating well but you also need to care for your soul. You need to find peace to stay relaxed and focused. A relaxed and peaceful mind will help you enjoy physical activity better. Meditation will help you keep your emotions calm. This will only help you acheive your fitness goals. Stress makes weight loss and healthy eating harder. Meditation, journaling, and relaxation will control stress so you can be your best. 

7.  Cheat!  It is ok to have a “dirty” meal two to three times a week. It is ok to skip the gym because you would rather go shopping or go to the movies. This helps keep life in perspective. This helps you have fun without worrying about your stomach or your thighs. Life is precious and fun. And although living a fit life is fun and exciting, cheating every once in while keeps life interesting as well. You have motivation to make changes. Your desire to be fit and healthy will not change because you ate dessert or because you were not able to workout for a couple days. 

Life is an adventure. You are the author. You have control over every thought and behavior. You get to choose how you live each day. Sure there are things beyond our control but you are responsible for how you approach each task through the day. The best way to find balance is to accept yourself and love yourself. Know that you are ok. Trust you are making the right decisions for yourself. Trust your choices. You will make mistakes. Be open to learn from them. Be open to change today what you did wrong yesterday. Live this one life with passion and drive. You accomplish that when you say to yourself, “I choose”. What do you choose to do today?

So you got a Bossy Gut…

With the start of the New Year millions of Americans have opted to start living healthier lives.  People vowed to get fit.  The gyms are full to capacity.  With the decision to get fit in 2014 millions have also decided to eat healthy.  It is thrilling that so many people understand the concept of healthy eating in association with a fitness program and weight loss plan.  My gym is doing a 7 day Cleanse Challenge.  Members were challenged to detox the body of unhealthy foods and substances in 7 days.  This requires dedication to clean eating.  The members were all thrilled to participate.  There was so much excitement.  But why is it so hard, even after only a few days?  

It is not because you lack self-discipline, motivation, and dedication.  It is not because you are weak and a failure.  I am here to help you understand why you have those cravings.  I am here to explain why healthy eating is so difficult, but I am also here to provide you a solution to help you get through cravings.  I am here to help you be the BOSS!

The concept of “clean eating” is hot right now.  For one it is effective.  For another it is in your bodies best interest to eat clean.  Clean eating means eating food as natural as possible.  Eating clean requires omitting all processed foods, foods with added chemicals, and products.  Generally these products added to foods give the food flavor.  It is the yummy stuff.  Eating clean illuminates these flavorful items from you diet.  Don’t get me wrong, clean eating is yummy too, it just doesn’t have the other products added to give extra flavor. Think of clean eating as not having to do much cooking.  With clean eating you simply heat (by baking, broiling, grilling, warming, etc) the food because you will not have to add any additional products.  So there is another perk of clean eating, it is simple!

So many people that dedicated to eat healthy started the journey with excitement.  They bought delicious whole foods.  They searched recipes and meal planned.  The first few days of a clean diet are easy and exciting.  However, clean eating becomes difficult generally about days 3-5.  This is why such a large number of people abandon their healthy eating goals after only 14 days.  Are we unmotivated, undedicated, and weak?  Not necessarily.

If you are not accustomed to clean eating you have been consuming foods that can be addictive.  Your body is addicted to food.  Your body is most likely addicted to 3 types of foods.  

  1. Sugar – That sugary, sweetness changes your brain.  Sherry Pagoto in Shrink noted that your body craves sugar because chemicals in your brain change.  These brain chemicals tell you, you want sugar.  You can probably guess which foods contain sugar, but there are foods you may have been eating that also contained sugar.  Foods like bread, pasta sauce, salad dressings (even the low-fat, low calorie kinds), protein/health bars, and canned fruit.  You may have been eating some of these foods thinking you were making healthier options, but the amount of sugar in them cause your body to want more sugar.
  2. Sodium – According to CBN News sodium triggers a chemical in your brain, called dopamine. This brain chemical makes you feel happy.  When we feel happy our body and brain want to continue feeling happy, so our body will crave more sodium.  Sodium also makes you want to consume more sugar.  Foods that contain sodium are salad dressing, soups, bacon (even my beloved turkey bacon), cheese (yep, even the lower fat kind), and popcorn.  
  3. Fat – Fat, also triggers your happy brain chemicals.  We also crave fat foods because brain chemicals are triggered that support a feeling of comfort and saity.  (Are you getting the point our brain just wants to feel good and it will do whatever it can to feel that way?)  Fat does not satisfy for long, therefore we are left lacking and hungry for more.  Foods with fat that you may not have been avoiding are popcorn, crackers, vegetable shortening, margarine, and many frozen foods.  

When you start clean eating you detox your body.  Your body functions as it should and it clears the processed, unnecessary chemicals out of the body.  This is the goal.  But 3-5 days after not receiving the addictive foods they body starts to miss them.  The body yearns for it.  The body craves it.  The body screams loudly that you NEED to eat something that you have been restricting.  Your body wants sugar, salt, and fat.  

This is why most diets fail.  The same chemicals that receive the food in your stomach are also in your brain.  Serotonin, another brain chemical responsible for mood, is also in your gut!  Not only that but the nerves in the brain that transmit brain chemicals are also in the gut!  Don’t believe me?!?  When you feel anxious, nervous, upset you probably get that fluttery, upset stomach feeling.  That is because the same mood chemicals in your brain are also in your stomach.  

So you craving food is normal, biological, expected.  Your body is doing what it knows to do.  Your brain, and apparently, your gut want to stay happy and feeling good.  The body has learned that certain foods make us feel happy.  That strong desire to eat a food, that is a craving.  The problem is when people get a craving, they feel they NEED that food.  Truth is, your body will be OK.  If you are consuming healthy, balanced foods your body will be OK.  You need to tell your gut brain to be quiet!  Here are 10 statements you can tell your gut brain when a craving arises.  

  • I am feeding my body food it needs to be happy, healthy, and fabulous!
  • I am strong!  
  • I am not weak!  I am human and this is a natural, biological process.  My body will adjust!
  • I am in control of what I eat and I eat foods that satisfy me and sustain me.
  • I am making healthy choices and my body appreciates me for that!
  • I am making choices that my body loves, and I love myself for making these choices.
  • I can have balance, and I can enjoy food, but right now I am choose to eat foods that will heal my body.
  • I enjoy foods that are healthy, nutritious, and good for my body.
  • This craving is a normal reaction and it does not mean I need to eat the food I am craving.
  • I have love, support, and fun that sustains me and makes me happy.

Your body will adjust.  Your gut brain will learn that it is satisfied and sustained and those cravings will decease.  If you are feeling weak or feeling like a failure, you are not!  Your gut is not the boss, YOU are!