Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the Weight Loss Game, Know Your Own Weaknesses

I get a lot of questions from people about whether they should or shouldn’t do something, or what would I do in their situation. These can be tough questions because what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. My best friend can count off eight chips and two tablespoons of dip and feel satisfied that she got to eat what she wanted, but didn’t over do it. This can be a great weight loss strategy, but for me it wouldn’t work. How do I know this? Because too many times eight chips has turned in to “hmm I wonder how many chips I’ve had, I lost count.” Another friend of mine asked me, if I knew I was going to a restaurant where I’d be tempted by greasy appetizers, would I eat a snack first to ward off any cravings for appetizers? Again, this can be another great strategy for some people, but for me it wouldn’t work. I’d be the person who ate the snack thinking this would be a strong enough defense against the appetizers, but then break down and eat the appetizers too. My advice to anyone reading this is to learn your own weaknesses. There are a million and one weight loss tricks you can employ to be successful; find the ones that work for YOU.

Through a lot of trial and error and acceptance, I’ve learned to stop lying to myself about what I can and can’t handle. Trust me, you will feel a lot more free if you own up to what does and doesn't work for you. Here’s a list of my weaknesses and how I stay strong against them (if and when I need or want to):

1. Buffets or Spreads – There is nothing more tempting and fun to me than walking into someone’s home where there is a table full of delicious food options. For me, if I stand by that table and start eating a little of this and that, it’s going to turn into a lot of this and that. I am powerless over buffets and spreads where the food is so accessible and in my face. I recognize this and have two options. If I want to partake, I don’t count or stress out about how much I am eating because I already know I’m going to eat what I want and how much of it I want. If I don’t want to partake, I steer clear of the food or I only load my plate up with veggies and fruit.

2. Anything Sweet That is Not Pre-Portioned – If its chocolate, cake, ice cream, or anything else that's sugary and it is not already in a nice pre-portioned size it = DANGER for me. I can’t buy a gallon of ice cream to keep around the house unless I accept exactly what is going to happen to that gallon. I would be lying to myself if I really believed that I was going to grab a measuring cup and only eat the recommended serving size of half a cup. Honestly, if I am helping myself to a bowl of ice cream I am probably serving myself four to five times that. I know I am weak in this regard. So, instead I buy pre-portioned ice cream because I do much better that way. Same goes for cake. If you ask me to cut myself a slice, trust me, it won’t be 1/16th of the cake; it’ll be more like 1/5th of the cake. I am much better off eating a cupcake, where I don't have to decide on the portion to serve myself. Again, if I am in the mood for cake or ice cream from the carton fine, but then I recognize and accept that I am not going to have just a taste or a small serving.

3. Baking – I cannot bake without eating the batter and frosting throughout the whole process. So if I’m in the mood to bake, I fully embrace the role of ‘taste tester.’ My best friend on the other hand, can bake for all sorts of events and not lick the bowl. I don’t know how she does it!

4. Leftovers from Work – this is a new realization I’ve come to. In the past month or two there have been leftover goodies from events or holidays that I will ignore all day at work, but then someone will say, “Why don’t you take some of this home?” I say “yes,” truly believing I will give it to a friend. But, what happens? I eat it before the poor goodie even has a chance to make it in to my refrigerator or cupboard. I’ve decided to stop lying to myself. If I take it home, I’m taking it home for me, and if I don’t want it, then I’m better off leaving it behind.

5. Bread at Restaurants – I love how I tell myself before I go to a restaurant that I can and will ignore the bread basket. I won’t. I accept that now. I love bread, especially from Italian restaurants where I can dip it in olive oil and I realize I am not going to ignore it. This leaves me with two choices, I can either factor it in to the night or forgo going out to dinner. I can’t lie to myself about this one anymore.

6. Mexican Food – Mexican food kills me! It’s not the entrée so much as it is the chips and salsa before dinner and that grande delicioso margarita (pretty much the most calorie-laden alcoholic beverage you can order) I enjoy. If I am going to have Mexican food then I better be prepared to indulge myself because it will happen.

7. Donuts and Pizza – I love donuts and pizza! If either is around, I’m either going to have multiple servings, or I’m going to have to pretend they don’t exist all together. The choice is mine.

8. Cheese – I would rather lose a limb (well, ok not really) than give up cheese. I never met a cheese I didn’t like. You can only imagine what a deadly combo it is for me to be at someone’s house where the spread involves lots of cheese!

On the flip side, there are certain bad foods that surprisingly don’t tempt me in the least, and I never have to worry about going overboard on them:

1. Salt – I crave sugar, but I don’t have the salt craving. I can pass on fries, popcorn, mashed potatoes, chips (well unless they are tortilla chips when I am out for Mexican food), you name it.

2. Pastries – I love donuts, but pastries don’t do it for me. I’m just not interested in croissants, muffins, jelly or chocolate filled pastry puffs, etc.

3. Candy – unless it is chocolate candy, I don’t crave it. I could be surrounded by Skittles, jelly beans, and licorice and not be tempted one bit!

4. Hot Dogs and Cheeseburgers – I really like both, but neither sends me over the edge the way pizza does!

5. Fast Food – I never crave fast food. I only have one exception; occasionally I’ll want In-N-Out. But, other than that, I never crave McDonalds, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., etc.

6. Soda – I will occasionally drink a diet soda, but I never miss drinking the real thing.

7. Mayonnaise – I can truly take it or leave it when it comes to mayonnaise. I like it on some sandwiches, but I never feel deprived if I don’t have it.

8. Fancy Coffee Drinks and Smoothies – I don’t feel like I am missing out by not drinking frappuccinos with whipped cream and chocolate syrup or extra large Jamba Juice smoothies. I actually like my Starbucks skinny vanilla and caramel lattes. I guess I am not one for drinking my calories, well, unless it is in the form of a margarita.

The key to being successful in weight loss is to know which bad foods or situations are “triggers” for you and how to handle them. Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve lied to yourself about what you can handle. Try to reflect on this because power comes from knowing your own weaknesses. And, if there is something you are weak for, accept it, and learn how to deal with it. I’m never not going to love cheese or margaritas, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this!! I am not eating these things every day; I’m only having them on occasion. At the same time, if it’s a time I need to avoid them, I know how to do that too. And, don’t just focus on your weaknesses; think about your strengths too! If it makes you feel better, write a list of all those bad foods or situations that you can pass on without flinching (these might be the same foods that would make someone else weak in the knees). It’ll make you feel better to know that while you’re weak in some areas you're really strong in others. So, stop telling yourself lies, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and learn to use both to your advantage.

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