I can’t remember a time since I started seventh grade when I didn’t want to lose weight. I’ve been between a size six (briefly) and a size 18 (a really tight 18 because I was not going to buy size 20 clothes), but even at my lowest, I wanted to get that flat stomach which eternally eluded me.
Exercise is fairly easy for me, especially if my schedule isn’t insane because I truly love the feeling of pushing my body to the limit and sweating and improving my performance. Eating well is another story. I just love food. I love fruits and peanut butter and white bread and butter and sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles and pizza and bbq on garlic bread smothered in sauce and greasy greasy french fries and, well you get the picture. Food is a delight and a comfort to me. It’s a way to celebrate and condole and commune.
Throughout those years, there have been a handful of times where I found myself in “the zone” mentally about food. Where the desire to be healthy overwhelms the desire to get the immediate gratification of eating something that I know isn’t good for me. When I’m in “the zone” making good food choices isn’t hard. It really isn’t. The brownies in the breakroom and the cheetoes in the pantry just lose their siren song. Instead of being something I can’t have or I shouldn’t have, they become something I don’t eat. I just don’t. There’s no struggle, no decision to be made, I know in myself that I don’t eat those things and the temptation loses its power.
And here’s the funny thing, when I have gotten in the zone, it’s always been to get healthy, not to lose weight. I was in the zone during my two pregnancies, especially the second one where I was able to completely control my gestational diabetes using diet alone. I knew eating a poptart or some chips could hurt Eli, so it wasn’t even an option. And therefore, it wasn’t difficult. Truly.
I was in the zone after Eli turned one and my blood pressure crept up and the fears of my gestational diabetes turning into real type 2 diabetes convinced me to change my lifestyle. Yes, I wanted to lose weight, but so much more I wanted to get healthy to see my kids and grandkids (my theoretical eventual grandkids, let me clarify) grow up. I wanted to lose weight, not for vanity alone, but so I could ride roller coasters and hike the grand canyon and run the Princess Half Marathon. I wanted to get healthy for these crazy guys:
The zone can last for months or years, but eventually the fears or desires that got me there fade into complacency. Cupcakes become monthly instead of annual treats. Little splurges become bigger splurges and happen more often. The addiction to sugar and fat and a quick fix to my mood outweighs the shadowy fear of stroke, heart attack and diabetes… It’s a gradual process and hard to recognize until it’s long entrenched.
I’ve been out of the zone now for at least a year. Eating well is a struggle again. The reeses cups on my coworker’s desk now become a possibility. I don’t always eat them but if my day is going badly or I’m feeling stressed, I might grab one or two. Even if I resist, I know some of my mental energy and willpower is used making that decision, when I used to not even consider it.
So, how do I get back into this mental zone again? I try new diets and “healthy eating” concepts and reading motivational stories and slogans. Nothing has me there yet. Thinking back, it is always health concerns that get me there. So, I need to remember how my Dad had quadruple bypass surgery at 50. And I need to think about the complications of type 2 diabetes. And I need to really consider that these things COULD happen to me if I don’t take care of myself. And that 80% of taking care of myself is eating foods that heal and nourish my body.
Thanks to some advice from readers, I’m going to start the Eat-Clean Diet. I’m going to consider it Clean Eating, not a diet though. I bought three books describing Clean Eating principles and with a bunch of recipes. I’m breaking the news to my snack loving husband. I’m going to start adding some of the meals and snacks to my day starting today, with a goal of a complete switchover on December 26th.
And if I can remember that I’m doing this for my health and to give myself the gift of an active and healthy lifestyle, without cardiovascular disease or diabetes then maybe, just maybe, I can get back into the zone, where the siren song of junk food is drowned out by the sound of laughter and the joy of living well.
Does the “mental zone” idea resonate with you? Have you had that experience where making the healthy choices was easy because you knew that was just how you ate? How did you get there?