I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately and how to incorporate good food choices throughout my day while occasionally straying outside the Paleo framework. As many of you already know, I struggle with moderation and have a long history of all-or-nothing thinking. I love following a Paleo lifestyle and continue to believe it is the better way for me to live and eat. When I am focused on Paleo food choices, I feel better, have steady energy and moods, and happily go about my business. Until I stumble. And then I sometimes have a very hard time picking myself back up.
More and more research is coming out about how the food industry creates craveable food that lights up the reward center in our brains. Some people, and I’d be willing to bet I fall into this category, have a reward center that lights up like a Christmas tree at the mere thought of certain foods. Frankly, I probably light up for both healthy and unhealthy foods! The problem with certain foods, primarily various sugar-fat-salt combos, is that once the reward center is set alight, it is very hard to satisfy. In fact, as with some other drugs, it keeps screaming to be satisfied and takes more and more of the food to satisfy it. So just when I think I’m okay to have a small piece of chocolate, the impulse to eat the entire bar goes into overdrive and I can do my best to fight it, but there’s a good chance it will still get the better of me.
One of the things that I’ve realized is that I might need to consider being okay with all-or-nothing sometimes. That maybe, I have to be nothing. Forever. That’s possible and I’m still working on that. I’ll share more of those thoughts another time.
But I am also considering that reframing my thinking is critical to making a shift towards balance. Sometimes I say to myself, “Stop eating that. You’re being ridiculous. You know it’s wreaking havoc on your mind and body and yet still you eat it! Stop it!” But then, before I can stop, I need to have one more bite or one more piece so that I can start fresh the next day. I’ve often called this “The Last Supper Syndrome”. However, when I think about it differently, worrying less about the bad and more about the good choices, I seem to make better choices, more consistently.
This is extremely important because consistency is key. It’s not one bowl of ice cream or one weekend of socializing that is going to take away any health gains I’ve made by eating right over the long term. In fact, there are arguments to be made that taking a break every once in awhile to relax and reset is even a good thing. But an all-or-nothing type of person doesn’t necessarily see it that way and will spend a long time in the “all” phase before feeling ready to tackle the “nothing” phase. What ends up being consistent is not a lifestyle of good choices and balanced eating, but a lifestyle of less-than-stellar choices for a few days of healthy ones.
I’d like this to change. Here’s what’s working for me right now…
MAKE 3 GOOD CHOICES A DAY
That’s it. I’ve taken the focus off the foods that I don’t want to eat and placed it firmly on the things that I do. I don’t worry about whether I’m going to have a glass of wine or not or indulge in something non-Paleo, which would previously derail me for days at a time. Instead I look at each of my food choice opportunities and ask myself if this is one of my good ones. You know what’s been happening? The good choices are prevailing more often than not. A sip of my husband’s cider didn’t turn into my own cocktail, because I didn’t really want one. It wasn’t forbidden, even in my mind, but I did ask whether I wanted to grab some bubbly water instead and make it one of my good choices. And that’s what I did. Tea in the evening instead of something sweet was a choice, not because I had to but because I decided that would be one of my good choices. Not forever, just for then.
Habits take a long time to form – 21 days is a myth. For many people or situations, it can take much, much longer. We have to start somewhere if we want to make progress and by making that switch, focusing on the good choices instead of beating myself up for the bad, I’ve been able to make some good choices lately. Long may it last!