One of my favorite songs is “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, partly because it’s just a fun song, but also because it reminds me and the rest of us that we are the ones who most often get in our own way. We make plans and resolutions but when it comes time to put our money where our mouth is, we bail. Seriously, we chicken out- it’s too hard; those cupcakes look so good; I forgot, blah, blah, blah! End result: we’ll do better tomorrow… until it’s tomorrow!! Second verse, same as the first! Eventually, we give up: this is just too hard; I’m destined to be fat; obesity is in my genes; excuse, excuse!
Most of this is negative attitude and it’s compounded by poor planning. The negative attitude comes from always looking at ‘what’s hard.’ As with all our other good intentions, we trade what we want in the future for what we want now. As in: losing twenty pounds by summertime vs those red velvet cupcakes at the party. For most of us, it begins with bargaining (I’ll just have two bites of the cupcake; oops! make that three bites of the cupcake; umm, half??; one cupcake isn’t too bad) and from there, we fall victim to the negativity. We dump on ourselves for eating a cupcake: We’ve ruined the day! Why do we always give in? Why can’t I be stronger/ stay focused? I’m never going to lose this twenty pounds, so I might as well east all the dang cupcakes I want!
This negative “I can’t do this” attitude is the biggest obstacle for most of us and not only in weight loss. We’ve heard all the little aphorisms: “get out of your own way”; “be part of the solution, not part of the problem”; “your actions follow your attitude,” etc. Those are all true but do we know what they mean and how to make them work for us? Not really! The one that really works for me is the problem-solution point of view. Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) gave a great illustration of that one in a recent podcast: your car is stuck in the snow and no matter how you gun the engine, the wheels just spin and you go nowhere. So your choices are sitting there, focusing on how you’re stuck in the snow, or you can get out of the car and try to do something about it! As an aside, “Kitty litter!” immediately popped into my head. Sprinkling clay kitty litter around your back wheels provides traction in snow and mud situations. Silly as this sounds (I’ve heard it really works!), this is part of that problem-solution mindset. I automatically thought of how to get out of this situation instead of “dang-it, I’m stuck!” This is what most of us would do in that situation, but when it comes to other non-stuck in the snow situations, we tend to focus on the problem instead. Our actions really do follow our attitude: we’re so focused on whatever our problem is, we do nothing instead of taking any action at all!
Example: we’re at a working lunch and the office has provided sandwiches, salads and cookies. All of the salads are either pasta based or potato and all of the sandwiches are on thick rolls and there’s only cookies, although they brought soda, diet soda and water to drink. There’s really nothing ‘healthy’ or on your diet for you to eat. This is where most of us ‘do what we can,’ pick a sandwich, ignore the salads, choose water or diet soda and well, maybe one cookie, since we’ve already had the sandwich! We are focused on the problem: nothing healthy to eat. One option is to choose a sandwich and eat it (leave the other stuff alone); another option is to take the bread off the sandwich and just eat whatever meat, cheese and veggies are there; and a third option is to skip lunch. If anyone asks, “I’ll get something later/ I’m not hungry.” Recently, my boss chose option 3: he was at a deposition that ran through lunch and nothing they brought in looked good to him, so he stopped afterwards at one of his usual places and brought lunch back to our office. It wasn’t a big deal (he’s definitely not overweight either!) Just because food is provided doesn’t mean you have to eat it!
This also happens a lot in our home life: we get delayed or our schedule gets rearranged courtesy of someone or something else and suddenly we’re running way later than we planned and we’ve got nothing at home for dinner: “Oh well! I guess we’re getting Chinese/ pizza/ burgers!” That’s focusing on the problem, not looking for a better solution. How long does it take to stop for takeout? About fifteen- twenty minutes? How about stopping at a grocery store instead? In the same time it takes to get a pizza or Chinese, you can stop at grocery store, grab a bag of salad and a rotisserie chicken for dinner. A lot of times when we focus on the problem, we’re really looking for an excuse to give in. We really want Chinese or pizza or fast food, so by focusing on the problem (“I don’t have time to make dinner”) we are giving ourselves permission to eat what we really want (think back to those red velvet cupcakes up above). We are getting in our own way by choosing excuses over our goals, and this is where the poor planning compounds our problems.
I’ll be honest: I hate meal planning and I really hate grocery shopping! Both of those take up a lot of time, making up a list of what I need, driving down to the store, going through the aisles, standing in line, getting everything home and put away. It may be a huge pain in the butt every week, but it’s also a strategy for success. This is how we get out of our own way! You don’t have to spend your weekend cooking four or five chickens or gallons of soup, stew or chili or anything like that, although a lot of people do. They freeze or store all this food for later in the week or month when they’re running late. Rather than stop on the way home for take out or whatever else, they pull something out of the freezer. It’s called “batch cooking,” and it’s always an option if you have the time. There are a lot of people who will choose one or two days a month and make large amounts for just these situations, or to take with them for lunches- whatever they choose! It works for them to have one ‘inconvenient’ day to have convenience most of the time.
Myself, I just do the weekly grocery shopping. My ‘meal planning’ is limited to making my shopping list: I just ask myself what I want to eat this week and what do I need more of for the weekends. I like to make breakfast at home on weekends, so a dozen eggs will last me at least a month. (They also work for back up dinner if I’m running late or just feeling lazy.) While batch cooking is too much for me, usually if I am grilling ribs in the oven or whatever it is I’m making, I make enough for two or more days, since I’ll probably have the same thing the next day. I know I’m having it later in the week! That way, all I have to do the next day is warm it up. I do this a lot on work-out days, since I know I’ll be getting home a little later and dinner is in the fridge waiting to be heated up.
Most of what I have for dinner isn’t complicated anyway. This is how I get out of my way. I really don’t like cooking anything complex so it’s usually salads, veggies I can steam or saute and meats or proteins that I can grill, fry or roast which are easily reheated. Seriously, this is where most people allow negativity and the “I can’t do this” mentality to get in their way: they think ‘eating healthy’ is complicated. I know all those experts and celebrity chefs are trying to help by putting out cookbooks that make eating healthy look delicious, but they also make it look complicated! More than five ingredients and I totally balk at the recipe! (And five is pushing it!)
It takes a little practice to learn not to focus on the problem, but when you find yourself thinking something along the lines of “this is too hard,” or “this isn’t going to work for me,” take a breath and ask yourself “What can I do? How can I find a way around this?” The same thing applies when you’re going grocery shopping: planning what you’re eating for the week doesn’t have to involve a variety of mushrooms, duck fat and arrowroot flour!It can be something as simple as omelettes, roasted chicken or green salads! Eat what you like that you can easily- the only requirement is that it be healthy for you! Also, things like nuts, canned tuna/ fish or jerky are also handy for when you decide to say no to the office lunch. I keep some of these at my desk as well as in my pantry.
So when you find yourself spinning your wheels, remember the kitty litter! You can sit shivering in the snow or you can get out of the car and do something!