What to do right after a bad decision.

stop-over-eatingSitting in the church basement she seemed almost hesitant to ask the question.   She’d been listening to me answer questions for almost an hour, and after not hearing anyone else ask hers she found the courage to raise her hand.

“Don’t you ever just fail? Don’t you have a bad day?”

More than I care to admit – but admitting it part of dealing with it.  The truth is we all have off days.  We’re all making choices, every now and then, that slow our progress or even set us back.

I’ve been there.  I’ve been in a battle since December.  These last four months have been one-pound-off / two-pounds-on for me.  I haven’t had any major setbacks but there’s no momentum to my loss at the moment, and that’s completely on me.

Actually, getting out and launching the book has shown me just how laid back I’ve gotten.  For the better part of two years I’ve always been the most passionate person in the room – certainly the person most active in making the right choices to get healthy.   In church basements and legion halls I was meeting people who had more fire in their gut for this than I do.  I think I met them just in time.

It’s been 24 months since I ate the way I used to.  It’s been 22 months since I made my first “new” meal plan and set out this new way.  There was a science to what I did then.  I knew I was ignorant.  I was scared to death of screwing up.  I was super careful about every aspect of it.

Those edges dull after two years.  I’m still making the right choices most of the time – but there is a cockiness that comes with losing the amount of weight that I have.  I don’t in any way think I’m incapable of gaining it back. I’ve interviewed dozens who have!  One choice at the time they reverted back to their old habits until their big change was just a blip on their timeline.  I really don’t want that to be my story.  It’s one of the reasons I’m still so loud about all of this.  I don’t want to lose that accountability.  I’m not yet convinced I’m strong enough to just be accountable to myself.

There is something to be gained from those stumbles though. Too often we just want to move on out of embarrassment but there is a lot to learn from these setbacks and we can hopefully start to identify a trend.  When are we tempted to give up on our dream of living healthier, and make a choice we know is incongruent with that dream?

When I look at the times I have set backs – there is a trend.

First – I eat better in Fredericton than I do in Cape Breton.  I don’t know if I think I’m in vacation mode or what but I make choices in Cape Breton that I would never make in Fredericton.  Looking through my food journal after getting home it’s clear I have a different standard for some reason.  (Really, Jay?  You had onion rings two days in a row, while launching a healthy living book? Come on down off the pedestal, fella!)   So, now it’s on me to figure out what that’s about.  Going home is an emotional experience.  Being in the house I grew up is draining – and honestly, I spent the vast part of my life making bad decisions under that roof.   Again, none of these are reasons that justify the choices – but they’re patterns I can plan around in the future.

When I fall of the rails in Fredericton, it’s usually stress.  When work or my personal life throws me a curveball my prepped meals have a way of still being in the fridge the next day.  The pattern? I get busy, miss lunch, eat supper, and then end my days without a workout and having missed a meal.  That’s not only slowing my loss, it’s unhealthy because I’m not eating enough on those days to have the energy I need, or to keep my immune system up and running.

The bigger trend behind every mis-bite I take is fear.   When I let myself feel fear, I retreat to my old ways.  Maybe not as extreme as I used to, but I run off and find little slivers of comfort in my old ways.

For eighteen months I wrote that book knowing that at some point other people were going to read it.   That didn’t keep me from being honest.  I didn’t have any fear during the writing process.  All the fear came the minute I sent the final manuscript off to the publisher.

Then came the fear.  That was the second week of December and every moment between then and last week was filled with fear and doubt about the book.  Who am I to write a book when I still have weight to lose? Who am I to think my story is special enough that people would pay for it?  What would the people who’ve known me forever think once they read the book and really got to know me for the first time?

That fear didn’t send me in to drive-thrus and binges but if I’m being honest it was enough to knock me off my game a bit. It allowed me to buy things I wouldn’t normally buy and to go places I wouldn’t normally go.    Now that the book is out, and has had the reaction it has, it’s time for me to get back to basics.  I’m marking my two years of living this new way by going right back and starting the way I did back then.

  • Every meal is planned in advance.
  • Every ingredient is weighed and logged.
  • Every day is tracked.
  • Every workout is logged.
  • Every bite is chewed 30 times.
  • Every bite comes one minute after the last swallow.
  • Every day ends with me at the kitchen table journalling how I did.

When you make choices you know you shouldn’t, I suggest two things: First, identify the factors that led you to that choice so you can avoid it in the future, and then, get back to the basics so you know you’re clear about what success looks like one-day a time.  A massive lifestyle overhaul can seem overwhelming, but we’re all capable of putting one good choice in front of another for just 24 hours, and then finding the strength to do it again the next day.

Also – there’s no room for guilt in any of this.  Learn from setbacks but don’t wear the weight of them for the rest of the journey.  Remember, those extra calories were worth it if you learned something knew about why you are the way you are.

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