I see it so many times. It’s predictable. It’s awful. It’s sad to watch. I’ve done it myself and it’s terrible!
You decide you are sick of being fat, or weak or tired or whatever, so you decide to make a change. You join a weight loss plan and they set you up on a diet and some supplements and a strict regimen. Or you stop eating at fast food restaurants – you swear off of them! Or you stop watching TV until 1 a.m. every night and go to bed earlier, or make the commitment to get up at 5 a.m. and go to the gym for a workout before work. Perhaps you eliminate all junk food from your diet and stop having desert and pop and sugar, instead choosing only healthy things.
Wait a second, aren’t these good things? Isn’t this the best plan to get fit and healthy?
Here’s the big problem with these methods – they all have a critical flaw – they revolve around deprivation. They involve the act of depraving you from the things you like or even love. There is a saying in Zen philosophy, “The cause of all suffering is the absence of that which we love, or the presence of that which we do not love.”
What if you love chocolate? But you don’t love tofu and cabbage soup? Will you really stick to that extreme diet? The ridiculous low calorie starvation diet you are trying which consists of the painful presence of hunger all the time and having handfuls of pills instead of real food. What would motivate you to continue that?
Even something less extreme like an actual healthy eating plan that involves a reduction in refined products, avoids sugar and focuses on healthy proteins, fruits, veggies and good healthy carbs, can feel like deprivation if you let it.
Think about this, your friends are all going out for beer and wings on Tuesday night, but you are trying to drop 40 lbs. and say ‘no’, because you choose to stay home and eat a healthy meal just like you had last night and the night before and the night before. Then the next day, it is someone’s birthday and you say ‘no’ to cake. That night someone is having a party and the food is going to be all ‘off the plan’. Again you say ‘no’. Soon you may feel like life is no fun, like you can’t go out or do anything that you used to do.
You are now doomed to fail. You will crack at some point, it is inevitable, unless you can find a way to reframe it all or seek a balance.
It’s all about balance and one option I have written about before is in having a ‘cheat day’, or a ‘free day’. This can function in two ways – one, it gives you the choice to have some non healthy food once a week just for fun, and second, it will remind you how awful you feel physically when you do indulge and feed yourself ‘junk’ food. There is also evidence that a once per week or month cheat day of higher calories can restore leptin levels – a hormone that is linked to the body’s ability to burn fat.
The big shift I want to talk about is that it’s about the fact that it’s all about choice.
It’s about being clear that you are choosing to be a certain way – fitter, leaner, healthier, etc. When the offer for greasy food and sugar comes you must reframe the decision not to go as, “I choose not to go because I refuse to deny myself the healthy body I deserve.” Think about it – going out for ‘junk’ food all the time will deprive you of a healthy body. Eating cake every week or donuts every day will deprive you of ever having a flat stomach.
Skipping a workout will deprive you of feeling stronger and having more energy. Being overweight will deprive you of wearing clothes off the regular priced rack or being comfortable in a movie theatre seat. Being unhealthy could deprive you of playing with your children or grandchildren.
We have to flip the script on feeling like eating healthy and exercising is some sort of punishment or awful burden or chore. It is most certainly not. All these gizmos and gadgets and late night commercials would have you believe that exercising and eating well are some insufferable pain that you must endure, and if there is any way to make it only last 10 minutes, or six, or four minutes a day or come in a pill, that this is somehow better.
Your body was designed to move. Period. Living a lie and eating garbage, sitting around and letting your body rot and atrophy is the real deprivation. Redefine your terms, change your definitions and buck the trend – celebrate health! Celebrate movement!
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.