Forever is a Very Long Time

Recently I had a conversation with a co-worker about weight loss. I’ve been following a ketogenic diet, and I have lost a substantial amount of weight in a relatively short period of time. I’m doing this safely, I’m not missing any meals and my Doctor is aware of this and is monitoring my progress and health.

“Oh, I’d give anything to have that kind of discipline! To give up bread for the rest of your life…I could never do that!”

We’ve had this conversation before. I have stopped replying, because she isn’t ready to hear anything other than what’s in her own head about how one loses weight. It’s the same stuff that was in my head as well – eat less, move more, lose weight. I bought all sorts of diet books, following weight loss gurus and doing everything from starvation to ultra low-fat diets. In the end I was still fat, and miserable. One day I heard a local radio host talk about how he was passing on the donuts and cookies that were being brought in from one of the guest’s wives – a treat he would never normally pass up. He simply said he had gone to hypnosis for weight loss, and sugar was no longer on his menu. I was intrigued, and I was ready to lose some of the 300 pounds I had gotten up to.

I learned a lot that year. I broke my dependence on sugar, on the scale, and on the numbers. I dropped from a size 28 women’s to a size 14 women’s in just under a year. I had been pre-diabetic, on cholesterol and blood pressure medication, and was heading for knee surgery in a few years. I was taken off first one, then the second blood pressure medicine. My cholesterol dropped 100 points, from 273 to 173. My HDL came up, my LDL dropped, and I was taken off the medicine for my pre-diabetes. I was the healthiest I had ever been since I had given birth, 23 years prior.

The first week was rough, as I had no idea how to drink coffee without sugar. I used cream instead of milk, and I didn’t miss the sugar after that. I learned to make sandwiches using lettuce wraps instead of bread, I ruthlessly asked for restaurants to serve my fish with just parmesan cheese instead of bread crumbs, sent back plates that had fries on them when I hadn’t ordered them, and pushed away the plates of biscuits and muffins and popcorn that show up at the table even when you don’t ask for them. I did it meal by meal, day by day. My mantra was “Maybe tomorrow I will eat that piece of sweetness. Not today.”

I think, ultimately, that was what saved my sanity. I didn’t give up bread for the rest of my life, I just gave it up for that day. If I was dropped on an island and stranded there and the only thing to eat was bread, I’d eat it. I’d wish it was sushi or chocolate, but I’d still eat it.

So many people go into dietary changes, or life changes, with the idea that it’s FOREVER. They look at the long, long stretch of days, all the holidays and special occasions that they will now have to navigate without those foods they are avoiding, and they build themselves up for failure. Sooner or later, the fateful day comes when they just can’t hold out against forever any longer, and they indulge. And then, most likely, they over-indulge.  And then they have the guilt trip, and they don’t go back to their eating plan because obviously it’s too hard and it doesn’t work.

No, my friend, what doesn’t work is your FOREVER mentality. FOREVER is like looking down the barrel of a gun, knowing at the end of it you have nothing but death to look forward to. No warm Brioche or chocolate chip cookies in sight!

Instead of FOREVER, why not try FOR NOW? At the moment, I’m not eating potatoes. I’m not having sugar FOR NOW. No thanks, I’m not eating sugars right now. It’s very mindful. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and you can’t change what you did yesterday.  What you have control over is what you do right this moment.

It’s good to have a plan when you are invited to a wedding, or a birthday party, or are dealing with a family Thanksgiving meal.  Don’t worry about it until you are actually invited! Then don’t worry, make a plan to survive the event, and move on. Try not to live in the future.
And if, perhaps,  you do have a slice of wedding cake or some ice cream at the birthday party, or Mom’s pumpkin pie is just too much of a temptation to pass up? Eat it, be thankful for it, and move on. Don’t dwell on it, just accept it and get back on track.

Remember, it’s just today. It’s not forever.