As I discussed in the last post Creating Your Plan, the plan itself is an essential component to success on any lifestyle program. If you live in the United States and many other Western countries, you’re likely to live in a culture where your environment is far from health promoting. The norm is to eat processed, sugary, fat laden foods, and lots of them, all in the name of taste, tradition, or plain old habit. To go against the norm can cause some anxiety, emotionally, socially, and physically. To succeed for the long term, you’ve got to have some solid strategies for following your plan. Creating rules that work for you is the next step.
I’ve been working with Dr. Livingston to create some new habits to help me stick with my successful food plan. In our session, I walked through some very specific steps to create my food rules. I started with my most challenging rule, the one I had been struggling with the most: nuts. For months on the Ultimate Weight Loss program I had abstained from nuts completely. And I lived to tell about it, in case you’re wondering. But after maintaining an ideal weight for some time, I decided to reintroduce nuts into my diet here and there. That worked, for awhile, until nuts were finding their way into every meal and most snacks. Uh oh!
I needed to come up with a way to have nuts, but not at will. I tried hiding them from myself by keeping them in a hard to reach cabinet. I tried locking them in a box in that cabinet that only my husband knew the combination to. I toyed with rules like, “I’ll only eat nuts after a workout” or “I’ll have nuts only as long as they’re on a salad.” What worked best was “I’ll only have nuts on days that end in Y…” Write that down. I bet that would work for you too!
Because I had permission to eat some nuts, I would eat all nuts. I’d try to moderate them and I could do great at that for awhile, but then I would find myself in some situation having one handful after another. As a guest, I once ate so many nuts out of the bowl on the table, I felt bad hogging them before anyone else could have any. So I discreetly refilled the jar. You know, for everyone else. Oops.
I now know what was wrong with all of those rules – there was a way for The Pig to get around it. There was a way to convince me that it was ok to violate the rule. I didn’t think through it carefully enough and I obviously wasn’t committed to the rule enough in the first place.
Through a coaching session with Dr. Livingston, I was able to zero in on a precise clear rule that has worked for me every day ever since: I will never eat nuts by themselves, ever again. It sounds simple, and it is, but there was a lot that went into phrasing it that way, and figuring out what would work for me long term.
I am empowered by this rule. I am now able to enjoy nuts without overeating them like I was. I am moderating quantity by choosing only to eat them in a recipe of some kind. The most important part of the exercise was walking through all of the objections my Pig raised when I was crafting the rule. Recognizing those objections as Pig Squeal and thinking through a logical response to the objection helped me tremendously. This part of the exercise is where you’re really getting serious about sticking to your plan, no matter what! I can’t recommend strongly enough that you write it down.
Think about an element of your food plan that you struggle with the most. Start crafting a rule that is strict enough to have an impact but lenient enough for you to stick with it. Jot down all the objections you hear your Pig raise. Revisit them and figure out how to address each objection. Revise the phrasing of your rule as necessary until you like how it sounds, you know that it will have a positive impact on your life, and you can be 100% certain that you will follow it.
I invite you to listen in to my recorded session with Dr. Livingston so you can hear exactly how I walked through the steps and exactly how we drew out all of the Pig Squeal to zero in on a rule that would work for me. Of course, this rule is what works for me and the intention is for you to apply it to your own rules. I’m not advocating for or against nuts. It’s your job to find your most challenging rule and work though the similar steps to find one that works.
Live with your food plan, just focusing on that one rule for a couple of weeks, then sit down again and see if you want to revise it at all.
For extra credit, share your most challenging food issue in the comments and draft a rule to address it!