If you’re following a specific program for eating, or exercise, or really any lifestyle change, then you’re probably the type of person that does well when plans are all laid out. I’m like that. If you tell me exactly what to do, I can usually do it. It takes the guesswork out of the game, makes decision making easier, and makes it more likely for me to follow it. Turns out I like rules afterall (Sorry it took so long to admit it, Mom and Dad!). I spent 20 years working with dogs and after watching them I’ve often said that if someone would just tell me what to eat to stay healthy, or better yet put it in a bowl in front of me, I would eat it! I’ve been jealous of domesticated dogs who never have to make decisions about what or when or where to eat. Someone else takes care of that for them, it’s wonderful!
I’ve been following Chef AJ and John Pierre’s Ultimate Weight Loss Program for over 2 years now. It’s been the answer to that pipe dream – just tell me what actually works and I’ll do it! So I’ve done it, which is awesome. But I’m not perfect, which is not awesome. Sometimes I find myself at a restaurant, or at someone else’s house, or grabbing something at the grocery store that I really shouldn’t grab. If you’ve heard about my saga with nuts, you’re familiar with this concept. It’s rarely just a little lapse in judgement for me. If I stick my toe in to test the waters I’m gonna do a cannonball! Having learned this has helped me tremendously. But what also helped was developing a plan. A How-To-Get-Back-on-Track Plan. That actually works.
In following this program, the way that I eat involves filling up on veggies, starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, brown rice, quinoa, etc), and fruit. It’s a focus on whole natural foods which means they’re free of added salt, oil, and sugar (which are all highly processed). I avoid the natural foods that are very high in fat like coconut, avocado, and nuts/seeds. I also practice intermittent fasting, eating according to hunger not according to the clock or social situations. It’s easiest for me when I’m doing all of these things at the same time on an ongoing basis. When I’ve gone off the path a little in the past, I found it’s easiest for me to get back on track when I do it gradually. Dr. Lisle has explained that it takes 3 clean days to get back on track (to eating whole natural foods). It’s not because you need to neuroadapt all over again but rather because it takes 3 days to start to forget about that highly palatable food you ate. Your brain has an awesome memory that evolved to help you find the richest food in your environment, so as long as your environment includes exposure to super rich food (high in calorie density that usually has added sugar, oil, and salt), your brain will continue to seek it.
Let’s just assume I’m coming back from a vacation where I was exposed to highly palatable food. EVEN IF I DIDN’T EAT IT… I can be affected by it. I’ve read this from many other UWL members as well – we can use all of our tools to get through a challenging situation successfully (a trip, a visit to someone else’s house, a wedding/birthday party, etc) and then we get home and go off the rails! What gives? I think it has a lot to do with the exposure to the food. Your brain was totally aware that it was around, and it can still affect you. But let’s say I was on vacation and did eat a few restaurant meals with some salt and oil. Before I created this plan I may have struggled for weeks after a lapse. I tried to go back to following my complete program and I just couldn’t do it. And then I heard Dr. Lisle discuss needing 3 days to get back on track. Check out this video for details and loads of info on Weight Loss Wisdom! I can do anything for 3 days! Remember how I like having rules to follow? So here’s how I do it.
Day 1: Fill up on whole natural foods. On day 1 I make sure to eat foods that are unprocessed. I start with Veggies for Breakfast (VFB) and get back to some normal meals but I may add a few extras to help me transition. So even if the day includes a few foods Right of the Red Line (ROTRL) like olives and avocado on my salad, or a few seed crackers, I call it a win.
Day 2: Make sure to stay Left of the Red Line (LOTRL). I eat according to the principles of calorie density, eating as much as I want, when I want as long as it’s LOTRL. If I have cravings at 7am and 8pm, I give myself permission to go ahead and eat, even though under normal situations I would try not to eat unless I’m actually hungry.
Day 3: Stay LOTRL but stop eating after dinner. I eat all my yummy UWL compliant foods: veggies, starches, fruit, as much as I want when I want, but I stop eating after dinner. I use tools like green powder and essential oils if I have cravings after dinner.
By Day 4 I’m back to normal – Waiting to eat my VFB until I’m actually hungry (usually around 10:30 or 11), having as much food as I want LOTRL, never worrying about portions, and I stop eating after dinner. When I follow these simple rules, I’m back on track in 3 days and I’m back for good. Nailed it! For some people this recovery plan would be a permission slip to go off plan frequently, so if that’s how you roll, then don’t try this system. I haven’t found that to be the case for me and I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss easily by having this plan to get back on track.
Of course you can adapt the plan however you need for wherever you are on your journey. The concept is to acknowledge that food and your environment can be powerful and they can make It much more challenging than you think. If you’ve ever had the thought “I know I shouldn’t eat this” but you do anyway… You know what I’m talking about. The solution is to be gentle with yourself when you stray from your path, and give yourself a few days to ease back into it successfully. This reminds me of an unforgettable experience when I was a teenager. My boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel and drifted out of his lane. We went from the far left lane on a three lane highway, all the way to the right, over the rumble strips, and then the front tire slipped off the right edge of the highway into the soft shoulder. The rumble strips woke him up and he jerked the wheel to the left which sent us careening across the highway. I had fallen asleep as well and woke up in a car that was spinning out of control until we came to a stop on the far left side of the road. Thank goodness we were both ok. In hindsight, the overcorrection of jerking the wheel was responsible for the car’s flying across the highway. Had he had the awareness at the time to keep the car kinda straight and ease it gently back up onto the road, we may have never spun at all.
Next time you go off course, don’t let yourself spiral out of control. Create a gradual plan to get yourself back on the road to success as quickly as possible. You can do anything for 3 days.