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Willpower… Is it Worth It? Moderation… Is it Possible?

May 27, 2010

What are we to do when junk food is always in our faces?!

"Hey, look at me, I'm a doughnut!!"

Again I’ve been struggling to put my beliefs into an understandable framework, even for myself so I want to work through it in the way that my mind takes me. It makes sense to me, and I value that above most else. So, where to begin… This is an epic post, but stick with it through the explanations if you really want the answer!

So the latest episode of Biggest Loser (***POSSIBLE SPOILER***) was the season finale part one, and all of the final four contestants went home for 30 days prior to the final weigh in. They all struggle at home much more than being on the ranch. One of the most likely to win started giving in to his cravings at night especially. He was doing so well, he’s been losing 5-10 pounds every week, 150 pounds altogether lost in 16 weeks!! He just ran a marathon! Well, this week at the weigh-in he gained 2 lbs. and might go home because of his stress-eating. It was really hard to see that because he was doing so well and then his willpower just crashed.

It was haunting to watch that episode. I know how hard it is because I used to have those same eating tendencies. People don’t understand how often we eat out of emotion or mental exhaustion- it doesn’t just mean you’re crying while eating ice cream. 🙂 It can mean you’re mindlessly (or willfully) making a huge portion of a favorite comfort meal or hitting the drive-thru after a hard day. Basically, I really have to watch it and I don’t know if anyone understands how much. Everyone I meet seems to say- “Just have some! don’t you want it? You can have a little…” maybe I need to join overeaters anonymous for people to understand- that’s like offering one drink to an alcoholic. A lot of people can apparently have a little of something. Some people have a harder time and I am one of those. It seems like a stretch to equate those two situations, but I don’t think they are that far removed. Food, like drugs and alcohol, changes your body, emotions, hormones, all your chemical reactions- gives you a rush or a moment of calm, feels good, tastes good… Anyone who ever ate a meal with me at all might have noticed I can eat a lot. I love to eat. Eating healthier foods, I can eat so much more volume and feel great! That’s one of the benefits to eating healthy- eating more!! When I eat pizza for instance, (not kidding) I can eat 6, 8 10 pieces. In order to feel full and satisfied, I need to eat so much that if it’s not a healthy food, I’m prone to feeling disgusting and bloated, gaining weight, and feeling guilty. There is the “just have one piece” approach, but it just doesn’t work for me. I would be left wanting more and it doesn’t seem worth it to tease myself. I’d rather be actually satisfied!! That’s the ironic part- it seems eating the pizza would satisfy me. But really eating rice, salad and vegetables is really so much more filling and fulfilling overall. For this reason, I loved Dean Ornish’s concepts. I don’t eat as little fat as he advocates, but I love his research and the way he explained this idea.

I’m not tempted all the time, but sometimes I am, and when I give in it’s like other people are more satisfied. Why is that? Are they worried that I don’t eat enough? Are they trying to justify that they are eating it because they don’t understand why I won’t and it threatens them somehow? I don’t mean to do that, everyone is different and different things work for them. Since I have come to the conclusion that no one will understand me like I understand me, I can’t really rely on anything but my own strength. Not just willpower, but I have to use all means necessary. I need to have patience with people that don’t understand, I have make time to prepare for situations and always have lots of healthy food and drink alternatives to keep me happily eating along with other people. I have to have explanations ready that make sense when people want the full version. I have to have a super-polite short but firm answer when I’m offered something, and remember that they really are probably trying to be nice and let them know I really appreciate it. And I need to forgive myself if I stray a little by my own standards. Doing so will help me get back on track faster than if I just said screw it, I messed up, I’ll just mess up this week. I have to do this all so long and so well that it becomes absolutely easy, second-nature.

I know that moderation and balance are very important, and I feel I am practicing moderation in the ways I can. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean hit the drive-thru once a week or have a cookie a day. Weird rationalizations can be the downfall of anyone trying to stay disciplined in any endeavor. I have to do my best at this, I can’t accept anything less. I’m doing so well, I want to feel I’ve done my very best. I want to feel and see the results that I desire in my physique but also in my health, mood, complexion and energy. Why work hard just to sabotage it?

I love the challenge of feeding my body with exactly what it needs. I love the challenge of getting healthy food on the tightest budget I’ve ever been on and while being being under a lot of stress. If I can do it now, I can do it forever. I enjoy shopping for healthy food, finding recipes, cooking, and eating food that I know is good for me. I don’t feel deprived very much and if I do, I always realize it’s because I’m comparing myself to other people. Some people can seem to eat whatever they want and not gain weight or be affected physically. I have to remind myself that either they have different genes, different metabolisms, maybe they can easily digest somethings I can’t, or that they can’t either and just think that feeling bloated and tired, having painful joints, acne, digestion issues or a dull sallow complexion is just a part of life. Sometimes people say they are tired, overweight, or get headaches or complain about whatever issue they have and I want to tell them “Hey, I’ve read that eating this helps!” but most of the time I don’t. People don’t think there is any connection and I think they get tired of me always thinking there is. I know there is. People don’t realize how much better they could feel! Food can’t cure everything, but it can really help. Everything we’ve ever been taught practically says the opposite, so I understand the confusion.

Most of what we learn from the mainstream outlets is driven by marketers, CEOs and lobbyists- whether on tv, or even in school it is there- who made the food pyramid, who chooses the foods kids eat in public school programs, who makes pharmaceuticals… are they influenced by people who promote meat and milk and wheat? In short, yes. Are they filthy rich? Yes.  Again, I have to think for myself and take charge of my own education. No one is going to care about me while trying make money off me. Every business out there is trying to sell me something and they are going to do it by saying “it’s healthy, you need it, it will make you feel great!” With all these extreme products and foods coming out to make things ever tastier, more stable for shelf-life, faster, more convenient, how do you measure moderation? Is moderation one bite of a KFC Double-Down or a normal size Big Mac Meal? Where is the line when the extreme side keeps moving over? Should the middle line keep moving over to stay in the middle??! I say no. Moderation is possible, but it is impossible to define with a broad stroke. Moderation is relative to each individual!

Source: CDC/NCHS, Health, United States, 2006

Natural foods always stay there and available, and while our ass-backwards culture drives for efficiency, productivity and profits above all else, we are watching our food habits, food supply, activity levels, and overall health dwindle little by little. In refusing to eat fast food anymore, eat packaged convenience foods and genetically modified foods (they are everywhere), I am also rejecting this cultural movement in favor of keeping things as natural as possible. By eating whatever “food” we want and then making a pill for the ailment we created, we are shortening our lives. That’s the long and short of it. So is this thing we call willpower worth the trouble? Yes!! Moderation is important in that we can’t feel deprived. We have to find the foods that make us feel truly wonderful! For me it used to be onion rings, chips, crackers,cheesy pasta, bread with butter or oil and herbs… Well, now I still feel great, I feel better even. But I find my food pleasures in bananas, avocados, mangos, peppers, berries, snap peas… the list has shifted and sometimes it is a challenge, but overall satisfaction has increased. Anything worth doing isn’t always easy.

By eating real, natural foods, getting plenty of exercise, getting plenty of sleep, water and sunlight, we are living the way our bodies are meant to. So yes, I may have strong beliefs about this, but we all have things we care about. This is one of mine. Eating right is a way of life. And I think when we push through the hard times, the rewards are far beyond anything imaginable!!

So be strong in what you believe, be steadfast in your plan, and don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. When you have a goal to reach, it’s the only way. Period!  So the big question is…



One Comment leave one →
  1. Wendy Michael permalink
    May 27, 2010 7:47 pm

    I’m impressed 🙂 keep it coming!!!!

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