Sometimes I write in response to a question I’ve been asked. Sometimes I write to explore an idea. And sometimes I write what I need to read. Today would be the latter.
If you’ve read any of my recent monthly reports or listened to the last few podcasts, you know I’m really struggling with food. The old habits that took me to over 200 lbs. are roaring back. The difference is that I see it coming now; it’s no longer hidden. Although I haven’t had the courage to officially get back on the scale, I know I’m carrying an extra 10-15 lbs. over where I’ve maintained for the last few years.
I also know it’s the stress. Several of my projects are peaking in intensity at the same time. I’ve subtracted all that I can, and my days are still full from 5am to 9pm. So I’ve decided that I need to learn to make better decisions under these conditions. If you can relate, perhaps this will be useful for you too.
Step 1: Define success.
Over years of research and experimenting, I know my body thrives when I eat paleo. My goal is to eat strict paleo 6 days per week, meaning no grains, dairy, potatoes, or corn. On the 7th day (usually Saturday), I can give on anything but the grains. I simply can’t eat wheat flour in any form. It makes me sluggish and sick for several days afterwards.
By eating this way, I’ll feel healthy and energized. I’ll sleep better. My joints won’t ache, and I won’t have headaches. And I’ll easily maintain a healthy weight.
Step 2: Identify the obstacles or challenges.
My primary nemesis has a name: Decision Fatigue. I talked about him on the last podcast. He causes me to make very poor decisions when my brain is tired. (I quickly default to nachos.) This happens at the end of the day or during an intense project. It’s become worse since I quit drinking Monster Rehab. That at least provided some glucose and probably had some appetite suppressants in it as well, but I’m still pleased with that decision.
Also, I struggle with wanting to fit in, and sharing meals is a way to do that. Deep down, I know I can’t be normal. (And you can’t be either.) But that’s hard to fight three times a day. Sometimes I give in and go with the flow.
And, eating is one of my major forms of entertainment or relaxation. I’ve linked winding down for the day with going out for a meal. Sometimes, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. I don’t shop. I don’t watch network television, and movie theaters are overwhelming. I’m too tired to read, and I want to get out of anything that feels like an office. But I’m an introvert, so crowds are daunting. I also go to bed early. Restaurants have become my default option, and they don’t lend themselves to eating paleo.
Yikes. I can’t believe I actually wrote all that down. I think I feel better already. (But I’d better hit post in the next few minutes before I chicken out.) Now, I’ve at least been honest with myself about why I struggle. It’s much deeper than the food.
Step 3: Implement strategies to overcome them.
If one of you could open a restaurant in Corpus Christi that feels like a coffee shop but serves paleo food, that would do the trick!
Short of that, I’ll need to address this on two fronts: 1) reduce the number of food decisions I make when I’m tired and 2) find another way to unwind.
For the first strategy, I need to simplify and pre-decide. For breakfast, I’m having my green juice. For lunch, I’ll have a MyFit or a salad/lettuce wrap (if I need to eat out). For dinner, I still need a plan that works for my family as well. When we stay home, I tend to stay on track. But we’re all busy, so we’re eating out a lot. And, they don’t want to eat paleo, so I’m frequently staring across the table at foods I know I shouldn’t eat.
By the end of the month, I’m going to make a list of all the restaurants we frequent and the paleo meal options they offer. Then when we go out, I’ll develop a habit of checking my list to see what I’ve already decided I’ll order. I won’t have to decide when I’m tired, so my brain will be happy with that.
The second area is a bit trickier, but I think I can make progress with a similar strategy. I can make a list of alternate ways to unwind that fit within my values and preferences. I can already think of a few: watching inspiring Netflix documentaries, walking outside with our dog, jogging on the bayfront, or reading fiction. For some categories, I could even go ahead and fill the queue with interesting documentaries and actual books.
Just making these lists is a tiny step, but I’m betting that each tiny positive choice will snowball, and I’ll eventually have my momentum back.
What do you think? Is this enough?
Have you ever tackled these challenges? What worked for you?
Photo: the infamous Brisket Nachos at Beaches, in Port Aransas, Texas