Often times what people living the ‘healthy life’ fail to talk about is the struggle. It’s all work-out selfies and healthy food shots, but let me tell you folks, making better food choices is STILL HARD! The struggle is REAL! And for me recently, I have been failing miserably at it.
Here is an example of one of my bigger ‘food choice fails’ of late – we recently had a guest stay with us and leave behind almost full tubs of Nutella and Peanut Butter (not the good, natural kind. The Kraft, full of added crap kind). Now let me just point out – I don’t even like Nutella! But did that stop me from sneaking into the fridge four of five times a day for a spoonful of PB-Nut (in case you’re wondering, the perfect spoon is a 2:1 ratio in favour of PB)? Hells no! If I’m completely honest, I even asked my partner to throw the offending foods out, then snuck them back out of the garbage for another few guilty spoons before he noticed. At that point, I realised I might have a problem.
This was not my only poor food choice of recent weeks, so I decided it was time to stop and think about why I was making these choices. This is what I realised – there are three reasons that I go down the crap food path (sugar is my drug of choice – lollies, chocolate, cakes, the list is endless),
Cravings: There is a load of research out there about the physical effects that sugar has on the brain (I highly recommend this video), but basically sugar acts like a drug. You eat it, and your brain goes on a super happy high. When the high wears off, your brain tells you to have more – only to achieve the same high, you have to consume higher quantities. It’s a vicious cycle.
SOLUTION: I hate to say it, and this is my advice purely from personal experience – cold turkey. They say it takes 21 days for your taste buds to change, and I’m inclined to agree. The only way to kick the craving is to sloth your way through it. Exercise will really help – right after breaking a sweat, your body definitely isn’t craving the bad stuff!
It’s There: I’m sure there’s all sorts of reasoning behind it, but all I know is that if it’s there, I have to eat it. I would say the need is almost uncontrollable. On the plus side, the solution is super simple.
SOLUTION: Don’t buy it. If it’s not there, you can’t put it in your mouth. Get yourself an accountability buddy – someone that comes and cleans out your cupboard, and can do spot inspections without warning. You’re much more likely to keep the crap out if someone’s going to know about it if you don’t.
Stress: Everyone has stresses in their lives, but god knows some days are tougher than others! One day this week it was like everything was going against me, I was literally (and I do genuinely mean literally, which is a post for another time) pushing shit up hill. On this day the only way I could find to get down from that adrenalin filled, anxiety laden edge, was to eat. Eat until I was overwhelmingly full. Eat until I was calm.
SOLUTION: Just do it. I am a big believer in the psychological aspect of food (something I highly recommend you read more about to help understand your own food needs), and that sometimes it’s actually more detrimental to deny yourself. Please note the word sometimes. There’s a big difference between a neurological sugar craving and a psychological need, and it’s important that you’re in touch with your body enough to understand the difference. It’s also really important to have a whole list of go-to ‘calming strategies’, and that food is on the bottom of that list. The day in questions I went through all of mine – long hot shower, classical music followed by angry music, heavy lifting session, tough METCON, Gilmore Girls marathon (don’t judge, we all have a Gilmore Girls in our closet). Only when these options had tried and failed did I turn to food. And how did I know it was the right choice? I didn’t feel guilty about it afterwards.
Now that I’ve taken some time out to think about the forces behind my behaviour, I can do something about it. I’ll be keeping a food diary, only entering food stores with my accountability buddy, taking the exact change I need to buy my morning coffee so I can’t be tempted by sugary snacks, and making a plan to reduce, or at least spread out, the stresses in my life.
In the meantime remember, the struggle is real! It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it.