Run…squat…jump…good girl, Aly! Want a treat?

You must be juice fasting. Are you eating Paleo? Total body cleanse? Are you vegan?  Raw food movement? Have you tried the three-day diet? Did you know that if you drink nothing but cayenne pepper, lemonade, and maple syrup you’ll immediately turn into Beyonce?

After I slimmed down to my current size, the number one topic discussed with curious friends, family and colleagues was my diet. Actually, I’d say 90% asked about diet, 10% asked about what I was doing as far as working out goes.

What was I eating?  Did I consume evil carbs regularly?  You bet. I can’t live without carbs… or chocolate…or meat. My weight loss did not coincide with some big life-altering diet secret.  Rather, a new mindset for how I thought of and treated food brought about weight loss.

I’ve always had a problem with authority.  I view it is a person who tells me what I can and can’t do.  This I blame on the fact that I am a middle child. Listening to someone because they happen to be “in charge” is not a good enough reason for me if I don’t subscribe to what they are saying.  The trait isn’t all bad, and has actually helped me to achieve goals out of pure defiance.

For instance, my eighth grade English teacher, God have mercy on her current students, told me that she just didn’t believe I “had what it takes” to be a journalist. Had I peaked in middle school, as was clearly her experience, she was probably correct.

 Her words stuck with me and originally prevented me from choosing that major as a college freshman. Fast-forward a few years, and her face was burned in my mind as I opened a highly esteemed Washington, DC newspaper with a familiar byline.  I get enormous satisfaction from defiance of those whose words I do not respect.

This is how I feel about a diet. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t eat? I’ll eat what I want thankyouverymuch.  You don’t know me!  As petulant and childish as that sounds, it really does go through my head. I needed a new plan—a plan to which I could wholeheartedly subscribe.

So here it is… my big secret—please share with all your friends!

Eat well to support your training; don’t try to make up for unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits by training.

 So many days I catch myself falling back into a habit of thinking, “I can eat this half pound bacon cheeseburger because I have a killer workout planned later.” Have you ever tried to push yourself in the gym after eating a half-pound bacon cheeseburger? … And maybe some sweet potato fries…and a couple bites of pie. And a beer. Ok, two.  You’re sluggish, unfocused, queasy, and probably had to run to that gross gym bathroom a couple times to deal with that rock in your stomach.

Roll over. Shake.

Changing a mindset of food as a reward for good behavior was a big adjustment for me as well.  You know when you’re teaching a dog how to do tricks and they get a treat if they do it right? I would do that with fitness goal success, which is pretty amusing and ironic. Achieved a new level of fitness goal? Have some cheesecake. Yeah, good plan.

Considering food and its purpose made it easier for me to choose the right thing for my body.  There are no mandated lists of food I can and can’t eat, which makes life much easier. Food is now an energy source, not an evil fattening beast that must be contained. I also have gotten into the habit of eating small meals (really, it’s more of small grazing snacks) pretty much every two hours, not because it’s part of some big diet plan, but because I’m hungry and need some energy.  

That’s the thing about food—when you stop obsessing about every calorie you’re allowed to eat and not allowed to eat, and think about how what you’re eating affects your body, it’s way easier to make a better decision.  Then the weight starts coming off, not the other way around.  Full disclosure: Sometimes, my body does want the cheeseburger. And you know what? I enjoy every last bite.

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