For people with mental illnesses, lack of impulse control or a health issue that can cause difficulty in making good decisions (i.e. concussions) eating right doesn’t just require control, it can require an entire mental reset.
I personally struggle with two of those three things and to top it off, I work at a Starbucks, where hyper-palatable drinks and food items are abundant and inescapable. I had basically given up on dieting and simply tried to make better choices occasionally.
That was until my boyfriend decided to do a four-week metabolic reset diet based on the book The Metabolism Reset Diet by Alan Christianson. The diet basically consists of two protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner, a combination of super clean proteins, rice or lentils and a ton of vegetables. I thought he was crazy, but he asked me to support him in the diet by doing some of the harder parts with him (the protein shakes).
So, I bunkered down and just agreed to do the whole thing with him, mostly because he asked me to, partly because I wanted to see if I could do it. We’re a week in, and I’m honestly super surprised that I’ve made it this far.
Having someone to hold you accountable is usually my number one tip when it comes to things like diets and due dates. When you ask someone to help you ‘stick to a diet’ or to do it with you, you’re signaling to your brain that it’s more than a personal commitment and that you’d let another person down if you gave up.
It also provides a sense of support. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you that you are already one fourth the way through it, or that there are a ton of health benefits. Other times, you just need to hear that someone you love would probably give up if it wasn’t for you helping them out.
At the end of a hard day, I would always tell myself “I deserve this” and then eat a brownie or a cake pop. On days that were especially rough, I might also have a super sweet blended beverage too. The fact is, I probably didn’t deserve it as much as I wanted it, and I was just hurting myself in the long run.
There are plenty of other ways to treat yourself that don’t involve food. Professional massages, bath bombs, getting your eyebrows waxed and threaded, or even buying yourself a new bag to replace the one that keeps falling apart. You’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food.
I had to find different ways to treat myself because, in reality, I don’t deserve ‘it’ nearly as much as my body deserves to be healthy.
Diets can be especially difficult because you put yourself in a very limited mindset. You can’t have this, or you absolutely must avoid that. While it’s true for the diet to work, telling yourself that you can’t gets exhausting after a while.
It’s easier to tell yourself that you choose not to eat the brownie rather than you can’t. This simple change of words helps our brain build up the ability to choose not to do it on a regular basis so that we can make that decision subconsciously.
Your will power is limited. Everyone’s is. People who have to make more choices with willpower at the beginning on the day have a harder time doing so later. Limit where you have to make those hard decisions. Because I work at a fast food restaurant, I got rid of all other temptations at home so that I only have to exert my will power at work.
The first few days were hard, but the good news is that your willpower is also like a muscle. The more you exert your willpower, longer it will last through your day.
This one is a personal thing I did to help me stick to my diet. On the first day, I pulled something out of a high cupboard and knocked over a glass tincture while food prepping. It rolled, fell to the floor and shattered before I even realized I’d knocked it over.
It sucked having to clean it up, but I was always told that breaking glass means the breaking of a bad habit. I couldn’t help but feel like it was some sort of sign while I picked up little glass shards off the floor.
Even though I’ve been successful for this past week, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been hard, it just means that it’s been more rewarding. Even on the day that I had to go to work on one of our busiest days of the week with three new people for the night. This was after I had two panic attacks that morning. It was hard, and all I wanted to do was to eat something sugary, but I didn’t, and I’m very proud of myself for that.
I still have three weeks to go, but it’ll be worth it in the end.