Recently, Pacific Gas & Electric shut off the power to tens of thousands of customers in my state due to high winds and the resulting fire danger. My dad was one of those customers without power for two days. My big concern was the cold nights and the dark house but my dad assured me that he had his big flashlight and if it did get cold, he could always light a fire in the wood stove. One of his phones, thankfully, was not cordless so he still had that since he gets no cell reception at his house.
This reminded me of many instances during my childhood when we had been without power. We lived in the country when I was in college and power failure was common. I used to remark to friends and family that “we lose power every time there’s a big wind.” As a result, we had hurricane lamps, candles and we all got the big D cell Maglite for Christmas one year! In fact, I’d gotten so used to doing homework by flashlight, I’d pull it out of my desk drawer as soon as the lights blinked. I learned to turn on the ‘auto-save’ on the computer and to save manually after major changes as well. When the power went out, if we weren’t doing homework, the biggest inconvenience were things like heat/ AC and water (our well was electric); other than those, we had plenty of books and games to keep us entertained. No worries!
But for my mom, reading and games were never high on her list of Fun Things To Do. I remember coming home with my dad from the grocery store and as we were carrying the groceries into the house, the lights went out. My mom, in her recliner with the tv on and the cordless phone in her hand, was angry as usual while the rest of us were more relaxed about it. I put the grocery bags on the kitchen counter and began putting the food away while my mom groused about being without power. At one point she shouted at me “how can you put the groceries away in the dark?!” I grabbed a couple of items out from the bags and walked into the living room. Handing her one of them, I asked: “what’s this?” “I don’t know… cottage cheese or sour cream?” “And this?” “Cereal or crackers?” “So the cottage cheese goes in the fridge and the crackers go in the pantry.” End of discussion.
The point was that my mom just wanted to complain about the power being out. She wasn’t interested in changing her behavior to deal with no power: she wanted to complain and be inconvenienced. When most of us begin changing our eating either for health or weight loss, we tend to adopt my mom’s attitude: “It’s hard!” “It’s inconvenient!” “I don’t know how to do it!” “I don’t like that food!” We’d rather complain than make any adjustments or learn new habits. The problem is that while we are busy complaining, we are not making progress and we are wasting time and energy in unproductive behavior. We get nothing beneficial from complaining and whining and pouting.
We all know that change is hard. It means unlearning bad habits and learning new ones. It takes time, patience and– most importantly– consistency! Complaining seems to be easier, since we feel like we get some kind of ‘result.’ A few months ago, the cable box for my tv service died. There were several frustrating and unsuccessful attempts to reboot it before disconnecting it, taking it to the local store, waiting around for a couple hours only to get home and go through the equally frustrating installation process. The whole time, I groused and complained and let everyone know how inconvenienced I was by this. To be honest, I took a kind of self-indulgent pleasure in letting everyone know how inconvenient it was. At the same time, I also knew that if I wanted tv again, this was what I had to do and there was no getting around it! It’s an irritating process but if I wanted to watch tv sooner rather than later, I had to do the work!
Changing our eating habits and how we think about what we eat is not that different: we have to uninstall the ‘faulty equipment’ and install a new, updated, version. While complaining about it soothed my self-indulgent nature, it did nothing to help me get my cable service back. However, going through all the ‘inconvenient hassle’ not only got my service restored, it also saved me an extra $20 a month! So in the end, which served me better: grousing & whining or going through the hassle & doing the work? (If you have to think about this, I can’t help you!)
We find ourselves in a similar situation when we have to change out how we eat and how we think about food. Most of us separate food into two camps: ‘Healthy Food’ and ‘Food That Tastes Good.’ The idea that food can be both good for you and taste good is nonsense to this way of thinking. Either it’s something healthy that obviously tastes like grass, cardboard or is utterly flavorless, or it tastes good and is full of fat, calories and sugar! This kind of binary thinking is why most of us do well on a diet for a few days or weeks and then we binge on a bag of grocery store cookies. It’s not that the cookies are delicious or yummy: it’s because we’ve been eating tasteless bland ‘healthy’ food for the last ten days! We need to stop that kind of thinking! If what you are eating doesn’t taste good, THEN STOP EATING IT! It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘healthy’ or not: if you aren’t loving (or at least liking) what you are eating, you’re doing it wrong. Not everyone loves salads or vegetables but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat dried up cauliflower or wilted iceberg lettuce. Seriously, neither of those veggies are high on my list of foods, even when they’re fresh, but I do enjoy broccoli, Brussels sprouts and butter or red leaf lettuce, so when I make veggies at home, those are usually somewhere on my dinner plate. Just because everyone is eating ‘cauliflower rice’ doesn’t mean you have to eat it in order to be healthy or lose weight!
A lot of us start out not knowing what to eat that’s healthy and so we default to The Usual Diet Foods, such as ice berg salads with low cal dressing and dried out skinless chicken breasts. Those are also on my list of Unfavorite Foods, so I eventually learned to change that meal into something I do enjoy. My healthy ‘chicken and salad’ dinner consists of a chicken thigh with a spinach-butter lettuce mix with oil and vinegar. Not a major shift, but it’s enough of a shift so that I actually enjoy my dinner instead of suffering through a meal that’s going to leave me unsatisfied.
When I started eating healthier, it took some time to figure out how to swap out unhealthy or unfavorite foods for healthy food I enjoyed but again, it wasn’t a complicated process. It just took practice and consistency! It also means that you have to give up the self-indulgent complaining and whining about it. If your focus is constantly what a hassle and inconvenience this process is for you, then you aren’t going to be able to focus on any better options available to you. Seriously, if you want to focus on how awful it is eating skinless chicken breast with dry cauliflower every night and complain about how much you hate it to everyone you know, that’s your choice. However, your energy can be better spent finding something just as healthy and nutritious that you really enjoy eating. Unfortunately, when your focus is on eating healthy food that you really love that helps you lose weight, there’s not a whole lot to complain about it– darn it!