Despite years of practice, I know that I often fall into having an all-or-nothing mindset around weight management, where I have to be either “all-in” on my eating program, or I am out of control. I often can’t inhabit a middle ground for long, and particularly when I was new to maintaining my weight loss I needed to spend the vast majority of my time all-in. The more time I spend all-in the better off I am. But once I’m out of control, how do I get back in?
I need to put my foot down sometimes and designate certain days, weeks, events, or places as “decision-free”. Meaning, I don’t get to decide what of the food on offer I get to eat. This removes me from falling into a vicious cycle of negotiating myself down a slippery slope into a dieting train wreck. So, when I know it’s time to get back into control, I decide I’m in the groove and I start kicking up my planning several notches. I ensure I have all the food I need to sustain my needs for the day, and I rule out anything not already planned for.
When I find myself in a situation where there is food available – a party, a buffet, any kind of event where food is part of the social situation, I make up my mind before I go that nothing there is on my plan. I don’t get to eat anything there, I don’t have to make any choices, and so I eat before I arrive.
The reason this is so effective is because I can completely disregard the food table (or menu, whatever) and pretend in my mind like it doesn’t exist. I can tell myself that it’s not even food – it’s just plastic food replicas. Because if I didn’t to this, if I just decided I would eat the healthy things I found at the food table for the party (for example), I would start negotiating with the part of me that makes food choices. I would say, “Hey look, veggies, those are safe, I can eat those. oh, but they’d taste so much better with that cheese dip on them, I’ll just take a little! And, ooh, right next to them – just a bite or two of cheese, cheese is made of milk so that’s healthy. But I’ll need a cracker or two to put that on, and hey – cookies! I can have one or two. And now I need some protein, so I’ll grab some cold cuts, but look, wings, those are chicken and that’s healthy…!”
See the slippery slope in action? I’m better off if I just remove the entire decision making scenario from the situation and don’t have to make any choices at all. This is how I handle food situations when I know I can’t control my decision-making in the moment. It’s easier to decide before-hand, if I know I am better off avoiding treats and focusing on my own health, than to try to implement this on the spot.