This article compares the process of diet planning to the reality of diet performance. It explains how we dieters always seem to stray from our original plan when trying to follow a diet. Many events can affect how closely we follow the diet plan, and in the end it is up to us to make the appropriate adjustments to the plan as reality confronts us.
I have found that there exist two different worlds in the realm of dieting. The first is the world of planning. In the world of planning you can plan out every meal for the next week or month or for however long you want to plan. If you are detail-oriented, write down how many croutons will be in your salads, or specify the appropriate length for the banana you want to eat. Why not? The more specific you are in your plan, the easier it will be to follow, right? Well, maybe not.
Let’s talk now about the other world: the world of reality. In the world of reality, you change your mind about what you want to eat, often. You go out with your friends for dinner on a few nights that you hadn’t planned for, and on two of those nights you eat pizza, lots of pizza. You eat a banana split one night because everyone else is having one, and you don’t want to stand out. On three occasions you buy and eat three candy bars within 20 minutes for no apparent reason. You eat three huge meals that your Italian mother cooked, because you know how happy she is when you have to loosen your belt just to breathe after her meals. Nothing ever goes as planned. That’s the important message. Circumstances will usually change and you will be forced to modify your original plan. I had to learn how to handle these situations.
Let’s say that for this Wednesday’s dinner, you’re planning to have eight ounces of skinless chicken with vegetables, but you have just been invited to a barbeque (hotdogs, hamburgers). Don’t torture yourself and stay home, unless you don’t like that group of people. Have fun, but try to limit yourself. You will probably take in more calories at the barbeque than your original dinner, but maybe you can adjust your week’s meal plan. Making adjustments to your eating behavior is an art form that requires a little bit of practice. Try using logic and not your emotions when making these kinds of adjustments.
Try to eat slowly at the barbeque, because they will throw meat at you if you are empty-handed. It is easy to just panic and toss down a few greasy burgers while you aren’t paying attention. I’ve done that too many times. Try to look busy, and always have a food item in your hand, but don’t take any bites. Tell the hosts you’ve already eaten three burgers when you’re actually on the first one.
Another way of looking at these two different worlds in dieting is to notice the difference between logical thought (planning) and emotional execution (reality). You can be very logical when making your plan, because you probably haven’t even started your diet yet. You will count up the correct number of calories per day, hit all the different food groups, and still be able to eat one piece of a candy bar every single day. That’s great—until the diet starts. Once you find yourself on the inside of the fishbowl rather than on the outside, everything seems to change. The rules now seem unfair. “Why do I have to eat this crap every single day?” “I have desires (pizza, enchiladas, chow fun).” “I feel like I’m in prison.” We often forget that we volunteered for this diet. And we can get so emotional that the execution of our diet, just following the plan, becomes completely impossible.
That is how we came to be overweight. The types of food and the quantity we eat became too important to us. We try to give it up, but part of us still puts up a tremendous fight. It is part of us now, unless we can change.
I have a friend named Jeff. I’ve known him for about nine years. He is just like you and me except he genuinely dislikes eating. I know that’s hard to imagine. Jeff told me one day that he wishes that he could just take all his nutrients in pill form. That’s right. Just slosh them down with water. That way he wouldn’t waste any time having to chew anything. The reason I have introduced you to Jeff is to show you that there are other ways to be. There is Jeff, us, and everyone in between. You can step into that “in between.” When your emotions are locked on a bear claw, think how much better you’d look if you lost an inch anywhere. Losing the weight has got to be more important than a one-night stand with some chocolate Kisses.
If you want to stop eating certain types of food (like cookies or pies) the best place to start is in your own home. Take a look around your house, especially in your refrigerator and freezer. Do you see anything that will tempt you greatly? I generally have to keep all types of fatty foods and desserts completely out of my house, because if I know they are there, they will eventually crawl right into my mouth. I don’t mean to do it. I may be a victim of my own genes. So instead, if I absolutely have to have something, I’ll go to 7-Eleven and buy “just one” of whatever it is (usually chocolate) and bring it back. That’s my rule—just one regular-sized piece of junk food. Of course I could go right back and buy another one, but if the same clerk is at the store, he’ll think I’m a pig to come back so soon. I don’t usually take that chance. But many other stores sell candy bars, and unfortunately, I could drive to many of them blindfolded.
Some of you don’t live alone as I currently do, and you may have to get some help from your spouse or roommate to keep fattening foods out of the house. This may be more of a challenge for you, because your food environment might not be under your control. A little give and take may be in order. Hopefully, your spouse or roommate is someone with whom you can feel comfortable sharing the details of your diet. Or maybe he or she would also like to lose some weight. Having a supportive friend would be great, assuming he or she takes the diet seriously. It is usually easy to tell if someone is taking a diet seriously. If your roommate starts declaring Wednesday as “All-You-Can-Eat Pizza Night,” or if he or she feels that two “Big Macs” is the perfect meal, you are on your own.