The Chocolate Problem
Losing weight isn’t just a matter of choosing healthy foods to eat and going to the gym, there are also psychological challenges to overcome as you make lifestyle changes to support and maintain healthy weight. This post is about tackling one little obstacle at a time on your journey to health and well being.
The Numbers Say it All
I got my blood test results back late last week and not surprisingly, I’m still anemic. According to the test results, I had only gained 1.7 points in my Hemoglobin levels in the last 4 months. I need at least 1.8 more before I’m in the normal range and considered no longer anemic. I’m halfway there. Based on the numbers, I figure it’ll take me close to 5 more months to reach normal hemoglobin levels. Coincidentally, that’s also how long I anticipate it will take me to lose the 30 lbs. since becoming anemic.
As far as my weight loss project went this past week, I didn’t do anything radical. The reason being is that I’ve known too many clients of mine and friends and family who get caught up in the exciting idea of losing weight and getting the badge of fitness of being able to display a six pack, that they hit the gym strong and cut radically back on their food consumption, only to burn out within a few days.
When the hardcore fitness program P90X came out a few years ago, an overweight friend of mine jumped on the fitness bandwagon with gusto and fierce determination to finally get fit. Within 2 days, my friend was at Five Guys Burgers complaining about how much pain he was experiencing and how hungry he was. He decided it wasn’t worth the torture of crazy intense exercise and food deprivation to get fit. He never did try to get in shape again after that experience. Many people seeking to get fit and healthy, will go through that type of experience only to meet disappointment (accompanied by a lot of muscle pain and hunger pains) when it doesn’t turn out the way they had anticipated. It scares them away from ever trying again.
This is why I recommend the sustainable approach of slow and steady. No, you won’t have a bikini body in 12 weeks, but you will eventually get there if you are consistent and stick to the new lifestyle that will sustain your weight loss efforts. I’ve known several women who train for Figure Competitions and bust it hard for 3 to 6 months to get their competition bodies, but then after it’s all over, they slip back into their old patterns of eating and gain a lot of the weight back. It’s a vicious cycle and hard on the body.
Using a Tracking System to Learn About Your Obstacles
My first week into my program consisted of becoming aware of what I put into my mouth. I tracked my food consumption in a food journal. It’s tedious to do so, but it’s only for the first week or so in order to make me aware of my current eating habits. Having this information will help me figure out a way to alter my behavior towards healthier choices.
I also record my thoughts and feelings about the food I was eating and I noticed I was rationalizing the over-consumption of chocolate. I had read somewhere that chocolate contains iron. The little-kid part of me decided that lots of chocolate was just fine to consume because “it was good for me”. This is a belief that needs to change, because, obviously, it isn’t true.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught his students, “Medicine is your food and food is your medicine.” It’s with that idea that I create my food plan. I need a diet that will address the iron-deficiency issues I’m struggling with, as well as decrease the calories I’m taking in.
Weight Loss Happens in the Kitchen First
Despite what you may feel inclined to believe, weight loss actually occurs in the kitchen, not the gym. You can easily lose weight without ever setting foot in the gym simply by reducing the number of calories you typically consume. But, it’s in the gym where you can get those endorphins pumping which will give you a psychological boost to deal with the challenges you may face as you change your lifestyle to sustain a healthier weight. It’s not easy giving up certain foods that were part of your “culture of comfort” such as cheesecake, burgers, pizza, or other highly processed foods. This isn’t just a matter of hitting the gym and eating more salad. It’s a process that involves conscious choices that will improve your quality of life, reduce your chances of disease, and help you feel really good inside your own skin.
The gym isn’t the only place where you can get a workout. I’m an advocate of home workouts especially if you are pressed for time and money. I’m also a fan of outdoor activities that require full body movement, using most of your muscles such as hiking, biking, paddle-boarding, climbing, etc.
The Big Chocolate Obstacle
Back to my chocolate problem. I could easily consume over 1,500 calories of chocolate in one sitting. My current caloric intake just to stay alive is about 1,500 calories and the kind of calories I was taking in didn’t contain all the nutrients I needed. This is a problem. Chocolate is my go-to comfort food. I have noticed that even though chocolate gives me an energy and mood boost, it also kills my appetite for nutritious food. Therefore, before I can expect to make any real progress with my weight loss project, I need to tackle the Chocolate Problem.
Instead of cutting out chocolate altogether and depriving myself of it’s deliciousness, I’m going to try a tactic a bodybuilder acquaintance of mine suggested. You put the chocolate in your mouth, get a good taste and then spit it out. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I’m two days into it, and it’s working. This tactic forces a conflict inside me that sees it as a waste of money and good chocolate. The “Parent” part of me is going to keep spitting out the chocolate until the “little kid” in me figures out that it’s pointless in persisting in the undesirable behavior patterns. Eventually, my “Parent” self which wants me to be healthy and strong will win out and my “kid” self will have to concede that she doesn’t want to waste anymore money on perfectly good chocolate that will just end up in the trash. The cool thing about projects, is that if one tactic doesn’t work, you can always figure out another. So, I’m going to try this for a couple of weeks to see if it will work.
I know myself well enough that there will be days where I will not want to spit that chocolate out, so I have a backup plan.
When I start craving the sweet stuff and I know I won’t be able to spit out chocolate if I stick it in my mouth because my sneaky “little kid” self outwitted my “Parent” self who wasn’t being as vigilant as she should have been, I have a supply of fruit on hand to reach for instead. I eat far less fruit than I do chocolate, plus, the fruit has vitamin C which helps my body absorb iron better. Double win!
Think. Plan. PRAY.
So, for this week in my Think. Plan. PRAY. Strategy:
Think: I’ve identified that my chocolate addiction must end.
Plan: My plan is to reduce my chocolate consumption and use it as a reward instead of a daily treat. I will eat one bar of chocolate on Sundays after lunch as my reward for making it a week without it.
PRAY: This is where I break my plan down into easy steps.
P=Prepare. I will prepare myself by setting aside some time to devote to creating and implementing my plan with the end result that I will not resist my chocolate cravings, instead, I will control my enjoyment of chocolate by consuming it only once per week, and in smaller portions instead of everyday in large portions.
R=Refine. This is where I get down to the nitty-gritty aspect of my plan on my Prep Day when I can sit down and look over my plan carefully and try to anticipate any and all obstacles or setbacks I may encounter. For this project, I decided that I will place the chocolate in a hard to reach place where I have to work to get at it, giving me time to talk myself out of it if I can. I will also place a post-it note near it reminding myself to spit it out. I will purchase a bar of my favorite and most expensive chocolate to consume on Sunday and only eat it when I can go a whole week without chocolate. I will give this bar of chocolate to a trusted friend to hold for me until then. Weight loss is greatly enhanced with the support of friends and family.
A=Accountability/Act. I commit to myself that I will be accountable for the success of this project. I know that chocolate is my go-to treat when I’ve had a stressful day. I need to substitute that stress reaction with something else. In my case, I choose to substitute the chocolate with a serving of fruit. It’s a matter of re-programming my behavior through incremental changes. I will act in a healthier way by going for the fruit.
Y=Yield. How do you know what your yields are if you don’t track it? I’m not sure how long it will take for me to break the chocolate habit. According to research, a new habit could take as little as 16 days or as long as 8 months to implement, so in order not to feel overwhelmed, I will take it a week at a time. On my Habit Calendar, I will mark an x for each day I overcome myself in beating my addiction. I know that 6 x’s will get me that desired chocolate bar on Sunday and I’m not depriving myself of something I enjoy, I’m just retraining myself to control my enjoyment of it. And of course, I pray/meditate on this aspect of the weight loss project to get myself aligned with healthier intentions.
The Chocolate Problem is the second mini-project of the overall larger project of Weight Loss. My next mini-project is my exercise program which I will share next week. If you’re interested in creating your own Health Improvement Project, I would be happy to offer you a free 20 minute consultation via email, Skype or phone to help get you started. Just contact me here and we’ll go from there.
Until then, here’s to your Health Success!