If It Is Not Amazing, It Is Not Going In My Face
Summer is approaching. Trips are being planned, bodies are about to be worked into sweaty messes, and diets will be attempted, all in the name of feeling good in that bathing suit. (I do it too!)
But with summer may come hot-weather-induced ice cream cravings, BBQs, refreshing summer cocktails and the occasional ballpark hotdog, i.e. the potential for weight gain, bloating, binging, and worst of all in my opinion, guilt.
Guilt for eating too much, drinking too much, eating things you don’t even like just because it was there. Guilt for working for months to lose the weight and then gaining some back in a matter of weeks. Guilt for not working out on vacation. Guilt for feeling guilty. Yuck.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
A few years back, in anticipation of a trip to my old stomping grounds, New York City, I devised a plan to enjoy my favorite foods and try new restaurants and treats without wrecking the mission I was on: to see how lean I could get and still look healthy.
My mission was working and my bod was revealing some stellar results, so while I didn’t want to limit myself and miss out on yummy treats, I wasn’t about to sabotage all that hard work for just any pizza slice or a dessert I wouldn’t usually order just because I was on vacation and hanging with friends.
So I needed a plan. A mindset. A rule.
It went like this.
Step 1: If it is not AMAZING, it is NOT going in my face.
Simple as that.
If I wanted classic New York pizza, it was going to be the best damn slice I could find. If I wanted a pastry, it wasn’t coming out of a wrapper at a deli, I was going to get it at a fancy bakery. Fresh, warm, yumface-inducing. If I wanted a glass of wine, I wasn’t going to save my pennies, I’d invest in a worthy grape. And if I wanted bread, it would have to be fresh, soft, buttery, worth it.
Which brings me to Step 2.
If it lands in my face and I realize it is not amazing, STOP eating it.
This is the tricky part, something I still talk myself through to this day. Especially when encountering the infamous restaurant bread basket. As I quickly scan the many restaurant memories of my life, only a few places come to mind that have really good bread. Bread so glorious I could eat it for my Last Meal and die happy.
And yet, before I had this rule, there were so many times I kept eating the bread when it wasn’t even good, let alone amazing. Some of it is day old, stale, boring, tasteless cardboard.
There is even a place I went to in New Orleans that put a bowl of whole red potatoes on the table. Boring, plain, steamed potatoes. I had to taste it to see what the deal was, but to this day I don’t understand the concept. And yet, as I looked around, people kept eating them!
It happens to us all for any number of reasons. Perhaps we’re stressed, feeding an emotion, in a food induced trance, at a party, it’s a holiday, we liked it as a kid and haven’t stopped long enough to realize we don’t actually like it anymore, or we’re just downright hungry! So when our bodies and brains get a taste of food, it is just so hard to stop.
What helps is having the wherewithal to pause before reaching in, to survey the goods and decide if it even looks good. If you’re honest about the food you eat out of habit, much of it isn’t very visually appealing.
Putting Step 1 into use, I can look at a cookie, bread, burger or even vegetable dish, and determine if I think it will taste good to me or not. I don’t need to go there if I already know it couldn’t possibly dazzle me. And if I have eaten it before, I remind myself that I already know what that tastes like, so I don’t need to go there again.
When I can’t tell just by looking and decide to taste it, employing Step 2 often saves me from stuffing my face with something I’m not really liking, which in turn saves me calories, fat, guilt, brain cells, my sanity.
Healthy New York State of Mind
Applying this mindset and set of rules made for a terrific trip. I experienced some fabulous food and didn’t feel the least bit bad about it, nor did it wreck my fitness mission. If anything, it was a much-needed break from being focused and gave me some gusto when I got home. It was so successful that on my return flight I remember being a bit bummed that I hadn’t come up with it sooner in my life!
Better late than never though. I still work it to this day and I have taught all my clients about it, which continues to serve them well in their daily lives and while traveling. In fact, this mindset is a cornerstone of my nutrition plan I give people instead of putting them on a crazy diet.
I never tell someone not to eat a specific food or beverage. That creates a deprivation mindset and, while it may yield quick results, they are never lasting results. Instead, I teach that it is possible and healthier to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, by eating clean and lean most of the time, and when you treat yourself to something, it better be AMAZING.
Notice I said treat, not cheat.
A common phrase these days is Cheat Meal, a meal people have maybe once a week when they are on a diet so they don’t go crazy. I’m all for it, and I encourage it, but my problem with this is that calling it “cheating” evokes feelings of guilt, sucking the life out of the experience. I remind you, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Since the way I eat and the nutrition plan I give people is not a diet, there is nothing to “cheat” on. So I call it a Treat Meal. Treat evokes a feeling of enjoyment, which is exactly what we should be doing with food that passes the tests of Step 1 and 2 and finds its way to our beautiful faces. ENJOY IT!
Once you master this mindset in your every day life, on dates, at parties or basic family dinners, you’ll be really grateful on big holiday dinners such as Thanksgiving. I always remind my clients of the Amazing Rules when holidays roll around. Because, once again, I’m not telling them not to eat something they look forward to every year, I just ask them to stop and think if it is really that good!
For example, at my family’s Thanksgiving, although I somewhat like mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and pie, none of it excites me. I can do without it. I do, however, want turkey, green beans and two generous servings of our sweet potatoes, which are no longer a superfood when we are done with them. They are buttery, brown sugary deliciousness and must go in my face, with unabashed enjoyment and absolutely no guilt.
I also highly recommend applying the Amazing Rules to dating.
Step 1: If you can tell or get a feeling this person is not up to your amazing standards, going on a date with him or her is not worth your valuable time and energy.
Step 2: If you go out on a date and realize at some point he or she is not up to your standards, you don’t need to keep going out with this person! Move along.
There are better quality people, fresher loaves of bread, richer chocolates, and juicier burgers to be had in your life. And when you find them, enjoy!