Friday, April 25, 2014

Cheater Cheater

by Spencer Ward on May 1, 2012

Its inevitable, heading into training, that you’re going to slip up, that you’re going to make mistakes.  Sometimes temptation can get the better of you, even though your intentions are good. In reality, if you are training the way that you should be, and adhering to a solid meal plan a majority of the time, those slip-ups won’t make or break you. Its when they become habitual and turn into a recurring problem that they can spell your downfall.

One of the biggest challenges, in regard to eating healthy, is your mental attitude towards it. When most people hear the word “healthy” or “diet” they immediately relate that to foods that taste bad and, the idea of suffering or depriving themselves of something enjoyable. Most people, by the way, are also out of shape and likely overweight. Maybe these two concepts are related?  Maybe this negative attitude towards the idea that healthy foods can’t also be enjoyable, plays an important role in food choices. Your point of view or the preconceived notions you hold, may be a major contributor to sticking to good food habits.

So let’s start by looking at the way you view things. If you are able to maintain good eating habits by occasionally rewarding yourself after a week of hard training and remaining disciplined with the food you eat most of the time, there may be a better way to approach that strategy.  Many dieters call those “cheat meals.”  How about changing that terminology into something positive?  What if, instead, you call it your Reward Meal or your Reward Day (if you’re able to afford an entire day of relaxing your diet)?  If you’re going to strive for something, framing it as a positive outcome feels better, sounds better and is more motivating.  You might find it to be more successful by simply referring to it in more reward-based terminology, rather than something bad that you’re indulging in.

Next, try to avoid using the word diet.  I know how hard that is, when we are inundated with that word and use it so frequently in reference to almost any eating habit we have, but the word DIET has developed such a negative connotation that applying it to your athletic goals may be holding you back, without you even realizing it.  By applying such a loaded, heavy word in reference to what is really just a positive, lifestyle, training choice you might be suffering for it.  The mental baggage that comes with sticking to a diet may be making it a difficult part of your regimen to be disciplined in.  Maybe instead you can more frequently use the phrase meal plan to evoke images and feelings of a more structured, well-thougtht-out and desirable approach to what you eat.  The word diet feels restrictive and punitive, but meal plan sounds like it is a structured approach to achieving a goal.  Meal plan also doesn’t feel like it is something being forced on you.

There are also several foods that have, historically gotten a bad wrap.  Kids supposedly hate broccoli.  Cabbage stinks when you cook it.  Lettuce is considered rabbit food.  We’ve been somewhat conditioned to hate greens and yet they are one of our top two most valuable food sources.  If eating your veggies is a challenge for you, it might even be worth changing the way you talk about them.  Maybe it would be beneficial to say greens instead of vegetables.  Green is the color of money, spring and many other positive images.  It might help you make better choices in the produce aisle just by associating your vegetables with good experiences rather than your Mom making you eat your spinach.

The list is virtually endless when it comes to word association and your food choices.  Think about some of the words you use on your own and how you can develop better thought patterns in relation to what you eat.  If you feel like you drink enough water to hydrate the Mojave Desert, then start referring to it as fuel.  Get creative with your word substitutions.  Even if it sounds corny at first, as long as it brings a smile to your face or a chuckle from those around you, instead of a host of negative feelings and dread, then do it.  Do some self examination and if words or phrases you are using have a negative connotation or bring along bad feelings, then avoid using them.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy meal plan or approach to weight-loss, your attitude has more to do with it than most people imagine. Remember that Words have Power and you should never, never underestimate that. Whether you are fighting, eating or competing you should always strive to keep your internal dialogue positive and the words you speak working FOR you. They say that talk is cheap, but when it comes to what we say to ourselves, unless it’s good talk, it isn’t cheap…it comes at a high price.  One you don’t want to pay.

Spencer Ward is a Nutritionist with the Acupuncture Center in Overland Park KS.

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