Dealing with the Ups and Downs of the Diet

by Dan on January 31, 2010

So I’d love to begin this article with this proud statement: I’ve been on the Huge in a Hurry Diet/Workout plan for two months, have gained 10 pounds of solid muscle, and am showing my six pack off to everyone who will doesn’t mind staring at a stranger’s stomach.

However, it hasn’t quite worked like that. I got a little sick for a week in December, then went to the seven day Release Technique Retreat, where working out wasn’t really an option if you wanted to take advantage of all the releasing opportunities.

So, you could say I fell off the wagon a little bit. This is not to say I got fat. In fact, I think I lost a little weight of both muscle and fat in the last month, so I basically just became a leaner version of what I looked like in early December.

But now within a week or so, I’m back on it and doing great. It got me thinking about how we can keep our health & fitness goals consistent, while living in a very inconsistent world.

Even without time commitments and surprise affairs to deal with, we have the issue of situations where there’s limited access to healthy food, or the temptations for fatty/sugary foods seem to be too great for us to resist.

At my new job, there’s a bowl of Jelly Belly jelly beans on the front desk where you walk in. I love Jelly Belly beans, and it takes some discipline and not indulge myself every time I walk by the desk.

With my Huge in a Hurry diet plan, I was being extremely strict, with not indulging in any white carbs, added sugar, or fried foods, except for a cheat meal every week where I could eat anything. I actually am gifted with exceptional willpower so I’ve been able to do this pretty well.

The problem I noticed with this extreme, even with a cheat meal allowed, is that it feels very “all or nothing.” If you miss your workout for a week, it feels like you’ve abandoned your plan entirely, when you just simply had a busy four days at work. If you have a sundae three days after you already had your cheat meal, you feel like you’ve fallen off the wagon, when all you had was a little variation in your practice.

Here’s the solution I’ve given myself:

I know what to eat, and I know when to eat it. With Livestrong.com (formerly TheDailyPlate), I can hone in on my carbs, protein, and calories with microscopic precision. So knowing what to do is not an issue anymore.

My new decision is to give myself permission to eat anything, as long as I log it. When people keep a food diary with all their macros and calories and protein goals, they tend to stop recording when they cheat. If they don’t beat themselves up for this apparent infraction, they try to sweep the “infraction” under the rug, and start anew the next day. This leads to more occasions of you not keeping track of what you eat, followed by more binges, missed workouts, you get the idea.

Last night I took a friend to dinner at Chili’s to celebrate her getting a new job. Having just added up all the metrics, it was a 1,384 calorie meal. But I’m ok with that. I logged the whole thing, and I can stare it in the face and be ok with myself.

I believe that’s really the most crucial behavior when you go against your diet guidelines. In my opinion, most of the damage from junk food is done by you feeling bad before eating it, or feeling guilty or angry at yourself after over having eaten it.

Now does this mean I’m going to eat junk food more often? I don’t really think so. My relationship with junk food just changes. Now when I see the jelly beans, I can decide whether to eat it based on how it will make me feel, instead of if it will violate a rule or standard I set for myself. And from any outside observation, it would look like I’m following the Huge in a Hurry plan pretty exceptionally.

And yes, coworkers do laugh at me when I’m counting the potato chips on my plate for record keeping purposes, but so what?

If any readers here have experience with logging calories/carbs/fat/protein online, feel free to share your experiences in the comment section.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephen February 1, 2010 at 5:10 am

Although I’m not a self-described “Buddhist” (but then the essence of Buddhism transcends categories), I do use some Buddhist (especially Zen) ideas for practical purposes. So here’s one I will remind you of: Maybe you’re complicating your struggle with food by concentrating on it too much?

Maybe it would go more smoothly if you simply decided to stop caring whether you get fat. At least for a while.

As the Tao Te Ching says, “To become straight, be bent.” And similarly, to become slim, maybe the trick is to stop caring at all even if you get fat as a whale. By thinking this way, you might actually transition (paradoxically) into a NATURAL state in which your appetite does not govern your thoughts NOR your body!

Just some “food for thought”. (Pun intended! :-)

Cf, on the Taoist/Zen (Taoism informed Zen Buddhism) concept of “non-intentionality”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDW6vkuqGLg

2 Anand February 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

I generally try to plan my meals ahead of time and create a tracking sheet in Excel that I print out and keep with me. This allows me to preplan my caloric intake. Then, whenever I eat or take a supplement, I check it off. At the end of the week, I compare my actual diet with my planned diet. I find that as long as I have a minimum of 80% compliance, I’m usually making progress and most weeks, I’m able to achieve 95% compliance.

3 Stephen February 3, 2010 at 6:22 am

Anand,

If it works for you, then of course keep doing it. But see my above comment.

Don’t you find it a bit, um (looking for the right word…), PROFLIGATE, to THINK so much about caloric intake? Why not just be glad that you have enough to eat, and then devote your energies to more creative endeavours? (I pose the same question to Dan.)

I’ll be 50 in a few years and I’ve never counted calories in my whole life. I’m six feet and 178 pounds, around ten pounds more than I was in college a quarter-century ago. I’m drinking a Guinness at the moment and smoking a Dunhill cigarette, yet I can still outrun most American men half my age, because I eat sensibly and I’m not sedentary. Very simple.

Metaphorically, the more you contemplate your navel, the more your belly will rule your mind and your body. ;-)

And although I don’t advocate obesity or physical unfitness, some of the greatest people in history have been FAT! Churchill was a tub o’ lard and he smoked and enjoyed whisky, while Hitler was a vegetarian non-smoking teetotaler. And Heydrich, the number two man in the SS, the organiser of the Holocaust, was slender and athletic and handsome, but what good did that do him, or anyone, in the long run?

Maybe both you AND Dan ought to go to Chinatown and buy a statue of the smiling “Fat Buddha” to put things in perspective. ;-)

4 Stephen February 3, 2010 at 6:50 am

PS, a possibly useful story, about addictions. I forget exactly where I heard this one, but I think it was in one of Idries Shah’s books:

Around the 1920s, an English lady was a student of a Sufi Sheikh (“sheikh” means “elder teacher” in this context.) She asked him to guide her how to quit smoking (tobacco). After she was able to stop smoking, her teacher offered her a cigarette from his collection of fine tobacco. She asked him why. He told her, “because now you DON’T NEED IT anymore! So now you’re able to ENJOY it!”

(Puff….I often go for days without smoking. I don’t need it; I enjoy it. Puff….)

Same thing goes for food addictions, except that you NEED food. But your body will naturally tell you how much food you need, and your body (and mind) will be better able to do so if you don’t think about it so much. The more you think of food (or anything) as something to be “sacrificed”, the more control it will have over you. But if you follow your body’s nature without thinking about it in overly-intentional ways, your body will lead the way toward balance. Your body was designed to do so.

You don’t consciously think about how much water you want, do you? Same thing goes for food, or ought to, if you let your body do the “thinking” instead of your intentional-mind.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: