The first six weeks of Lean Eating are meant to be an induction phase, to slowly introduce you to following new habits and doing regular workouts. Starting this week the workouts and the habits are going to be harder. I'm both excited and scared.
I'm down another pound this week. That's a total of three pounds in six weeks. Coach has assured us that weight loss is not expected in the first phase and that the most dramatic changes tend to be in the second half of the year. Still, I'm glad I managed to accomplish a little something. It makes these struggles feel a bit more worthwhile.
I had to take pictures this week. I'm not posting them because they don't show any differences. I really don't see the point of asking us to do photos again this early in the program.
Struggle is an interesting choice of words. How often do I really struggle? This week the lessons were all about fear and discomfort. Just those words alone make me afraid.
I'm not ambitious and I'm not a risk taker. I have lived my life almost entirely within my comfort zone. I don't do things that scare me very often. I don't like my life being disrupted. People who write inspirational posters think that's bad. If you aren't constantly taking risks you never enjoy life, right? I don't find that to be true. I do enjoy my life. I have a wonderful husband. I have hobbies I enjoy. I have the most amazing set of friends. The world should envy me for the friends I have. It's not such a bad life. On the other hand, I do know that life isn't always within my control and I do worry that I've had it so easy that I won't be able to handle it if anything were to come along and change things radically.
But this program, and any nutritional and exercise program for that matter, is about change. Maybe it's not as radical as a career change or a relationship change or a change in health. It's still about making many changes. Those changes, like any change in life, can cause both fear and discomfort.
What is uncomfortable about dieting? The first discomfort is food choice. There is a reason why we use the term "comfort foods" when we talk about foods that induce positive emotions. We like to eat foods that are familiar to us, taste good, and fill us up easily. Convenience is also a factor in comfort. Very often we seek foods that are easy to procure, easy to prepare, and easy to eat. If given a choice, wouldn't you prefer a food whose taste, texture, and smell evoke nothing but positive emotions, and make you feel full for hours, and also don't require much effort to eat and prepare?
Here is an example of going out of the food comfort zone. Last weekend I was on the road on the way to the barn and stopped at Quick Check for lunch as I always do. It was a cold winter day and I was thinking about how good a nice, gooey grilled cheese with bacon, tomato, and pickles would be. I really considered ordering one. It was a long drive on a cold day. Didn't I deserve it? I had to remind myself ten times over that eating such a sandwich, while not a poor choice in isolation, would not likely help me reach my goals. I had just lost two pounds. Why put them back on so quickly? Maybe one sandwich wouldn't hurt, but it could easily snowball into more poor choices. I ordered a grilled chicken salad instead (and even had them put pickle chips on it). Was it the comfortable choice? Was it the easy choice? It wasn't. Making the tougher choice is a habit I have to cultivate. It's not easy.
Another discomfort is physical discomfort. There is no physical discomfort quite like hunger. Have you ever eaten more than you should at a particular meal or snack because you fear you'll be hungry later? I know I have. Most diet experts tell you to avoid being hungry or else you'll binge at your next meal or else ruin your metabolism.
Lean Eating is one of the few programs I have ever seen (along with the Beck Diet Solution) where I'm being told to let myself experience hunger and learn to tolerate it. Being hungry and aware of your hunger can be key in regulating how much food you eat. If you don't know how hungry you are, how do you know how satisfied you are?
I had two incidents that dealt with the fear of hunger in the past two weeks. The first time was a Monday night when I had to head to dance class shortly after coming home from work. I usually try to snarf down my dinner at this time so I'm not starving through class, which doesn't end until nine o'clock. I'm supposed to be eating my meals slowly. I should take twenty minutes to finish. I didn't have twenty minutes. Either I would need to wolf down dinner or else just deal with being hungry. I chose the latter.
You know what? I survived. Most of the time I was concentrating so hard at class that hunger didn't play into it. I was starving when I came home, but I ate slowly, and found I didn't overindulge. I still held on to the eighty percent rule.
I tolerated yet another dance class this week and then also had to deal with Zumba class Wednesday night. I had almost no time at all between when I came home and when I had to go to class. I started seeking out snacks before I boarded the train at Grand Central Station. Nothing really seemed suitable. I rushed to Zumba feeling hungrier than ever. I wondered if I could have enough energy for class without any food in my body. That's ridiculous. My body has plenty of stored up energy. All you need to do is look at my thighs and stomach to know that. Class was occasionally uncomfortable, but it was not intolerable. I still had an hour after class while I waited for Kevin to come home and eat dinner. I spent that time doing laundry and doing an online check in with my friends. Again, I ate dinner slowly and monitored my hunger and I didn't overeat once I sat down to dinner.
Learning to deal with the fear of being hungry seems to be one I can work through, but there are other fears as well.
I'm afraid of failing. I'm afraid of falling off the wagon. I'm afraid that this program will be like all of the other abandoned weight loss programs behind it. As soon as I lose enough weight for people to notice, I maintain for a while and never lose as much as I would like. Then I gain it back as soon as I have a series of special occasions. It's the story of my life. The consequences of failing at this program are twofold. One is the loss of money because this program is so expensive. The other is simply the embarrassment. I have told the world about my being on this plan because that makes me accountable to everyone I know. I fear people softly snickering at me if eight months from now I'm sitting down to a pizza and brownie sundae dinner, weighing what I do now.
I also fear the permanent changes needed to make this plan work. How radically do I have to change? Will I have to abandon all of my favorite foods? Supposedly one should always make room for indulgences now and then so we don't suck all of the pleasure out of life. Then again, didn't I just address the idea in a recent blog that there are other pleasures in life besides eating? How much do I have to give up to make a lasting change in my body? It's fine to say, "All things in moderation," but what is "moderation"? Is it once a month? Is it once a week? Is it once a quarter? How many times can you say, "Just this once," before you start heading down the road to weight gain again? How many foods and how many occasions are "special" enough to warrant eating something you know is bad for you?
I had a perfect example of this during the week. A group of my coworkers had ordered lunch from a place called Melt Shop that specializes in fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots. It looked more delicious than a mere sandwich lunch should be. Looking at my coworkers' lunches just set off the wild woman in me. I was ready to pounce. I considered getting lunch from there the next day.
Reason took over eventually. I thought about how fragile and small my progress has been so far. It seemed ridiculous to backslide so soon in the program. I rationalized the idea of indulgence thinking about how I could eat it slowly and follow the eighty percent rule. I doubted I could be satisfied eating only enough of the sandwich and tots to the point of eighty percent fullness. Besides, lunch in Midtown Manhattan is expensive enough without having to throw away a chunk of it.
I began to feel a bit sad and scared. Would there ever be a time when I felt I could have lunch at Melt Shop? How much weight would I have to lose to justify it? Every single weight loss program on the planet tells us not to reward ourselves with food when we lose. By saying, "I will have lunch at Melt Shop when I lose X number of pounds," is rewarding myself with food. Then I think to myself that if I've lost a decent amount of weight, a small backslide of a pound or so from an indulgent lunch wouldn't be the big deal it is now. Then my conscience reminds me that once I allow one such an indulgence, others could likely follow.
There is no easy answer. The future of this program is a mystery. How much I will benefit from it is a mystery. I have to just surrender to it. I must do the workouts, read the daily lessons, and try to do the habits to the best of my ability. What happens happens.
Speaking of non-food rewards, I have decided what my ultimate non-food reward will be, if I actually follow through with the program and am successful at achieving my dream body (whatever my dream body is-my thoughts on that will eventually be in a new blog). Once Lean Eating is over it will be December. I will have to bury my newly smokin' hot body beneath layers of heavy clothing. I need to be someplace where I can wear a bathing suit. For years I have been complaining that the last few weeks of winter are just excruciating and I want badly to take a trip to warmer climes. Should I achieve my goals, I am taking myself (and Kevin of course) on a nice warm winter vacation. I'm thinking the Caribbean or the Florida Keys. I'm also thinking I should do what I did for Paris and start putting away small amounts of money weekly starting now. That might be added inspiration. (If I fail at the program, the money I put away can go towards another year on the LE program.)