Be honest: How many diets have you tried in your life?
I’ve sampled my share: Weight Watchers in my teens, the Cabbage Soup Diet, crazy cleanses where you drink shakes and eat chocolate squares; South Beach, Atkins, and lest we forget the Big Fat-Free movement of the ’90s. I’ve cleansed and eliminated, tried and failed, and my weight has gone up and down.
For the few years, however, I’ve eschewed diets because, let’s say it together ‘Diets Don’t Works.’ We know ‘ but we still get into the situation where the holiday is around the corner and you need to look good in your bathing suit. You can be good for short periods of time, so long as you know there is an end in sight, right?
My 66-day habit change is about ‘being good’ most of the time ‘ eating clean, healthy food that will fuel my body for the active life I live. Not for 66 days ‘ I’m trying to make a new habit, where healthy eating is the norm. This means letting go of sugar, wheat and most dairy; saying no to processed foods, and being a diligent label reader. I’m already bored and exhausted writing that sentence.
When we eat and live in tune with our body something happens ‘ our body gets in tune with us, and with what we need ‘ physically and emotionally. I have a head start over the average Canadian: my fridge is full of leafy greens, apples, berries, Greek yogurt, eggs, lean, organic meats, fish. My pantry has almonds and healthy oils like olive and coconut. I love quinoa and brown rice, and I don’t eat gluten’with the exception of warm baguette. Who can resist warm baguette?
Which leads me to today’s question. What’s your kryptonite?
Mine is chocolate, and kryptonite got me over the weekend. I’m not taking all the blame. There is a box of opened chocolates in my fridge from before Christmas, beautiful Belgium chocolates with fancy fillings. I’ve been avoiding them. I didn’t throw them out because my family likes the occasional chocolate. Sure, Erin.
Rewind to last Saturday night. Hubby was on an overseas business trip, and I was sitting by the fire, mint tea in hand, writing. I thought to myself: I would like one, just one of those chocolates. And I deserve it: weeks on the righteous path sans booze or sugar. I deserved one treat, I told myself’a reward for good behavior.
So, what did I reach for? Naturally, sugar. At least it wasn’t a funnel full of wine. That was tempting, especially on Friday when my daughter vomited her pizza lunch all over the car. That night ‘ after rounds of weeping, more vomiting, and finally cuddling the sick one to sleep – I stared at the luscious Zinfandel in my wine rack, and thought about it. But I didn’t do it.
By Saturday, one measly chocolate seemed not only within my rights, but my duty. I deserved it! That chocolate was mine. And it tasted so good (ok, I had two).
It isn’t my fault, dietitian Stefanie Senior tells me.’ Not only does sugar have addictive properties ‘ it stimulates the reward centres in our brain,’ she says. My bigger concern ‘ after what I will now refer to as ‘My First 66 Day Misdemeanor’ is whether I can retrain my brain to not to want to reward myself with chocolate.
‘After a period of about a month, when you have eliminated sweetened and processed food, people may start to detect more subtle tastes in natural foods,’ says Senior. ‘At this point, when you reintroduce an artificially sweetened food, you will find it very sweet. You might start to prefer food that is less sweet than before.’
So, the long story short is this: you can retrain your palate. If sweet isn’t your thing, but you can’t help yourself around a bag of potato chips, cut them out for a month. You might find that you really taste the salt and fat that much more, once you’ve gone without.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t reward ourselves, or allow ‘cheat days.’ Many trainers I know live by them ‘ allowing yourself to have one day a week where you don’t necessarily ‘go crazy’ but you let yourself have some of the foods that you really want.
What is your kryptonite? Cheese? Cookies? Fries? I’d love to hear stories.
And speaking of which, lots of people Tweet me and let me know how they are doing; many of you are drinking lemon water, and quite a few have started a Loonie Jar to reward fitness activities. Great stuff! And a few people have asked me if I’m ever having sugar again. I think it would be a sad world to live in if we didn’t allow ourselves treats ‘ and a little wine, in moderation, is good for the health. The good news is that, after my First Demeanor, I didn’t devour all the chocolate in the house.
I’m trying to do is swap my bad habits for good ones. Remember, when we started out, I told you the research from the UK says it takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit. What the research also says is that it takes longer to break a habit. I’m in this for the long haul.
It’s only my life, right?
Follow me on Twitter @erinpp
Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health and will be blogging here every Tuesday and Friday for the next 66 days.