Sunday, November 20, 2011

When dieting during the holidays, don't be a martyr!

It's the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I'm quite excited. This means that I get the constant reminder all week to give thanks and I find I need it around this time of year. It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day necessary tasks that too often I forget to take notice of the many blessings in my life.

We all know that most people are thinking about what they are going to eat or what gifts they're giving for Christmas. So, I do try to make an extra effort to think about the things I'm thankful for. Personally, I've been quite thankful for my renewed belief in myself as an individual. See, I've always believed in my clients and my friends, but I once struggled with believing that I could achieve physically challenging goals. I'm also thankful for the dear friends I've made who are in the fitness industry with me. Many of these people have motivated me during the slow business months, stood by me through physical illness or after injuries, cried with me when loved ones died or became ill, and others have been mentors as I've grown into the business woman I'm becoming. Of course I'm thankful for my beautiful children, my doting husband, Christ my savior, my home, my country... But having once struggled with recognizing my own individual value as a competitor and as a business woman, this new determination and sense of worth is a blessing that I'm thankful for.

Now, back to Thanksgiving... My mother-in-law already has me down for the things that I love to make. Believing that there are no evil foods, I will make some things that I will also choose to not eat. Homemade bread, brownie pizza, and maybe even a cheesecake... Why do I make some of the things that I won't be eating? Do I believe that I'm contributing to the downfall of those around me? Are these questions you're asking yourself? Well, first of all, I do want my children to experience the balance of eating healthy and not worrying every moment of their existence whether or not something they eat will make them fat. There are special occasions when I believe that it is okay to celebrate with a feast as long as they understand that those occasions should be rare and balanced with healthy, clean-eating. Secondly, I have a pretty healthy family. They eat what they want to in moderation and I'm not worried about what one feast will do to their blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size, etc. If I had reason to be concerned about the health and weight of my husband and kids, our household eating would be pretty regimented if necessary; even then, there would be a balance. And here's another important thing important to realize. My fitness goals are my own and it's my job to monitor what I eat for those goals. Strict eating that a figure competitor or a bodybuilder chooses should not be imposed on others. Sometimes it is more difficult than other times, but that's my issue to deal with for the sport I've chosen.

Many people struggle to make the edible choices which will help them achieve their desired fitness level. Very often, a client will tell me, "Gretchen, I could lose the weight if _______ wouldn't bring home the crap." Look, I do understand and personally believe it's somewhat selfish if someone knows your stumbling blocks and still sets them in front of you. That being said, you must be prepared for such sabotagers. Many do this deliberately and many are just plain aloof. Once, I had a client whose fiancee deliberately left bags of chips or cookies on the counter knowing she would stumble. He hated seeing her deprive herself of the treats she enjoyed. One morning, when I arrived at her home to train her, we systematically went through all of her cabinets and her pantry and removed the temptations down to her basement. She'd answered the door in tears, disappointed in herself for putting so much effort into her workouts just to find herself downing 1500 calories in cookies (no kidding) in just a few minutes. We'd discarded the immediate temptations (the bags of crap that was opened) and put all of his junk food stash down in the basement (his man cave). And so he learned that if he wanted that stuff, she would no longer complain or fall prey to it, he simply had to have it away from her safe zone. It took a little while for him to catch on, but he eventually did. Her attitude was the determining factor though; he needed to see that she wasn't a suffering martyr; she was willing to do what she needed to do to succeed whether he was on board or not. Here's what he told me after she'd finally lost 70lbs. "Gretchen, I was so pissed at you for throwing out my food. It was a waste! But I didn't know what I was doing to her until she started to succeed." See, in his mind, if she'd lost a couple of pounds one week, she should be able to reward herself at the dining table. He learned to "reward" her with affirming words of encouragement or even new clothes to fit her shrinking waistline.

See, what I often see happening is two things among dieters. One is that someone is just determined to sabotage their weight-loss or competition goal efforts. Someone's mother, father, wife, husband, or best friend will say something like this, "It's Thanksgiving; can't you just enjoy one meal with us?" To which I recommend responding, "Sure, I could. But I have set a goal to lose ____ lbs by Christmas and this would set me back. I understand if you don't get it, but know that I'm enjoying your company regardless of what I'm eating." In other words, someone may think that you're suffering by not eating what they're eating. They've seen you enjoy that meal every Thanksgiving (or 21st birthday, or Christmas, or some other celebration) and suddenly you are giving the "Poor me, I can't eat this stuff anymore" story. That's what I call being a diet martyr. Change your attitude if you want to change your body. The second thing is half-hearted commitment. If you're true to your clean-eating plan 80% of the time, but 20% of the time, you eat or drink your heart out, there's a VERY good chance that you are your own personal sabotaging problem. Transforming your body requires transforming your thinking about food and exercise. That means, "Just one more piece of pizza" or "Just a few drinks" may not be an option for you if meeting your goals isn't happening for you.

Now, what if your loved ones (face it, almost everyone has a sabotager lurking around the corner) won't give in the way my client's husband did? Well, you're going to have to suck it up the hard way. You'll have to determine that you are worth the effort to buckle down and do this for you. Every time you see the bag of crackers or cookies, every time your friends invite you out for a margarita, every time a piece of your kids' birthday cake is tempting you you will need to overcome it with sheer willpower! If you face the temptation with the, "Oh, I can't eat that--poor me" attitude, the likelihood is that you'll eventually fail. That's the attitude of a martyr. If you face it with the attitude of "I could eat that, but it would do nothing to help me reach my fitness goals. So, I won't", you will certainly succeed! You're worth it!

Now all that being said, I do have clients and loved ones who seriously need to watch their eating. I strongly recommend to those people to not feel badly about bringing a small stash of your own healthy eats to your family's Thanksgiving feast. For example, I'll be bringing my sweet potatoes--already measured for my needs. Although I'll have enough to offer to others who may want some as well, I don't expect everyone to have my same goals. I know that my husband is watching his eating, so I'll likely offer to make a little extra sweet potato for him as well (only if that's what he wants). This goes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, birthdays, weddings, and more. Make your goals count, enjoy your family and friends regardless of whether or not they're celebrating with food. You matter, your goals matter, your health matters!

If you feel that you cannot do this on your own, I've got you covered! You may benefit from a knowledgable professional who is willing to keep your accountable through this journey. You can do this!!