From years of personal experience, I think one of the best ways to sabotage a new diet is try to do too much too fast. Instead, for the first week of the new year I am only focused on one goal: eating only the allowable foods for my personal low carb plan, which are:
- Meats, eggs, and dairy products full of what I consider ‘good fats’
- Butter, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil
- Nuts and nut products from only almonds and macadamia nuts
- Non-starchy vegetables
- 70% or more dark chocolate and pure sucralose (EZ-Sweetz) to calm any sweet tooth
That’s pretty broad. There’s no calorie-counting, tallying macronutrients, exercise requirements or even the slightest bit of portion control. Many might not agree with the allowing of artificial sweeteners, but to me the point isn’t to punish myself for past food transgressions nor is it to attain instant nutritional/moral perfection – the point is to just get myself acclimated to eating to a workable plan. I can always fine-tune it later.
While the above list includes a lot of tasty foods, it removes a lot as well:
- Any wheat products – I’m experimenting with a gluten-free diet.
- Any sugar except for the tiny amount in the dark chocolate
- Any fruit except berries
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes
Removing just those 4 items from my list has made my grocery store a much smaller place. As you’ve surely heard, all those inner aisles are pretty much made from those 4 items.
Too bad I like all those things.
To deal with any feelings of deprivation after a few months of indulgence in anything I wanted that I need to get unused to, I am going to try practicing a few techniques I came across in ‘The Willpower Instinct’. I highly recommend the book because while I have already played with many of the techniques mentioned, the book is structured in a way that presents them to maximum effect – way better than you’ll read here.
So here’s the two techniques I’m focusing on this week – one is the primary and one is the backup.
‘Surfing the Urge’ – here’s an amazing realization that seems to me might be the key to all dieting success:
All strong food cravings eventually go away whether or not you satisfy them.
Think about it: cravings have an ebb and flow to them. Whether it’s drinking, smoking, cupcakes or a loaf of crunchy Italian bread, the craving is sometimes stronger than other times. Instead of resisting the urge, don’t give into it but rather go into it: explore how it feels, maybe like getting stuck in a rainstorm and getting so wet and being so far from shelter that you go beyond the point of even caring. It is what it is, you deal with it, and feel the feelings you feel almost as if you are watching yourself, and eventually their power will lessen and your mind will move on to other things – and eventually you’ll be able to change out of those rain-soaked clothes.
Usually my feelings are of feeling sorry for myself. I don’t resist the feelings, nor intellectualize them, nor shame myself for having them: I just let them run their course. If I’m genuinely hungry, I have plenty to choose from that I can eat instead of the prohibited foods, so it’s not like I’m punishing myself (though that’s what the whiny inner child thinks). Eventually the feelings lessen – perhaps they grow tired of themselves, like someone never given a chance to speak that is suddenly given the floor and, with their newfound freedom, find they have nothing to say.
There’s a second technique as a backup to Surfing the Urge, when the feelings feel unbearable and you can’t bear the feeling anymore.
‘In 10 minutes’ – If surfing the urge isn’t cutting it for me, I promise myself I’ll give in – in 10 minutes. somehow, this stupid trick you play on yourself can actually work. Whatever primeval aspect of ourselves this connects with can actually be fooled by this. Again, imagining that you are talking to a child is the best analogy because this part of you *IS* still a child in a sense. Telling yourself: “in 10 minutes” can calm this aspect of yourself – and there’s no reason why the next time the urge comes back you can’t say ‘in 10 minutes’ again – you can keep this game going as long as it works for you.
These 2 techniques will not guarantee perfection – don’t think they do and discard them the first time they fail you – but if they get you 50% of where you want to be, you’re half the way there.
Let’s see what a week of this brings.