Low Carbing - Diet Mind Games
By April S. Fields
Dieting is as much a psychological battle as it is a physical one. If your mind isn't fully determined to do what the task ahead demands, you will not succeed, regardless of how painless the diet you choose might claim to be. So, the first thing to do is convince your head that your body really truly wants to wage war on excess weight and that you've got the mettle to do what it takes.
When my husband and I made up our minds that we would give the low-carb diet a go, I set thirty-five pounds as my weight loss goal. I was delusional, of course, but it didn't matter, because if I had told myself that I needed to lose fifty pounds (which was closer to the truth) I would have felt overwhelmed and defeated at the get-go. Thirty-five seemed more doable and certainly less intimidating and so that was the best number for me, psychologically speaking, to strike out for.
Learning the tricks to keep the positive side fed is one of your best weapons in the weight loss fight. Once I had established my diet routine and the weight started falling off, I was encouraged to continue on even after I did reach my first goal.
Funny thing about head-games is that we can rationalize our way to either success or failure; our willingness to arm ourselves with positivism is the only difference in the direction we find ourselves moving. Allowing the negative to creep in, i.e., "I'll never be able to give up potatoes, or pasta or bread," sets us up for failure. But if we say, "I can give up anything, for awhile, if it means I can lose weight," we sound our bugle and charge on with heightened determination against the old nemesis "I can't".
Occasionally, I receive email from desperate people looking for the panacea to weight loss. They want me to tell them how they can lose weight and at the same time, not give up anything. One frantic emailer bemoaned, "I am Italian and I can't give up pasta!"
I always try to respond with gentle and encouraging suggestions but, I rarely get a response back because what I tell them doesn't align with the caveats they have limited themselves with. They simply are not ready mentally to lose weight. They want a miracle that doesn't require any sacrifice on their part. The Easy Diet Pill makers prey and thrive on individuals such as this. Unfortunately, these poor people are doomed to sink further into desperation and depression because not having made the mental commitment to dieting, they not only remain overweight, they also lose the basic minimum of self-respect it takes to get started. This is the same mean process that feeds itself and perpetuates the failure that eventually infects all the other areas of life.
Overcoming this self-defeating cycle is less a matter of sacrifice and more a matter of psychological self-encouragement and discipline. Think of yourself as your best friend. What will you say to this best friend who is unhappy and discouraged and self-disappointed? Will you tell your friend that anything is possible? Will you offer pep talks and help him/her put a plan into action? Would you say that the first step on any journey is one step closer to the destination? These are positive things that you can do for yourself when you are ready to let go of the pity-party, shake off the negatives and take the plunge.
If you can commit to the first month, and you start seeing those real results on the scale, you will find a sudden elevation in self-esteem and respect for yourself that you had forgotten was possible. Then the positivity begets positivity.
You should also keep in mind that low-carbing to lose weight is not the same as low-carbing to maintain weight loss. There are many forbidden carbs that you can add back into your daily and occasional diet once you reach your goal.
Of course, everyone has his/her own weak areas. My soft spot is sweets. I had to identify and stare down this monster in the very beginning so that I could find a way to turn this minus into a plus. It turned out to be as simple as knowing that I had a lovely, legal dessert to look forward to after dinner, making it possible for me to skip the potatoes, rice and breads with no angst or feeling of sacrifice. It's a trade off, for sure, but this has worked very well for me as I close in on four years of the low-carb WOE.
This, then, is the crux of the matter, learn to use those trade offs to good advantage. What is your weak spot? How can you tackle and tame it to your benefit?
Since we live in an insanely busy world many people won't take the time to craft their low-carb meals. They fall back on eating cheese and lunchmeat, salads and more cheese. Occasionally they grill a steak and add a salad, or a chop and a salad or….well, you get the picture. BORING.
Well, I'm here to warn you that boring will always lead to diet failure. ALWAYS.
After you convince your head it's time to get serious, you have to use your head and invest a little time in figuring out ways to make your meals satisfying and varied so you don't start sprouting broccoli out of your ears.
For one thing, it wouldn't hurt to invest in a good low-carb cookbook since there are a number of good ones out there now. Preparing healthy, delicious low-carb meals is actually easier than the old standard meat-potato/rice/pasta-two vegetables-bread scenario. I can whip up a more than gratifying low-carb meal in less than thirty minutes, on average.
Recently I had not planned to be away from home all day but found myself dragging in at 6:30, out of a frog-strangling rain, no less. Since I hadn't planned ahead and defrosted something, I was not prepared to make a meal. Was I tempted to pull out the lunchmeat and cheese? NO! Well, maybe, but instead I reached into my well-stocked freezer and pulled out two rock-hard salmon steaks. Now usually I prefer to grill Salmon, but I didn't feel like cooking underneath an umbrella in a rain storm, so I fired up my creative juices instead of the grill. First, I put the steaks into the micro for two minutes to soften the hard edge. Then I poured a small amount of olive oil and a pat of butter into a large sauté pan and heated this just to sizzling. I placed the salmon steaks into the hot oil/butter and browned both sides, then, in a stroke of genius (which came from who knows where), I poured 1/4 cup of sugarfree maple syrup over the steaks and let this simmer. A few minutes later I turned the steaks and let them finish cooking. As the incredible aroma of the maple and the salmon was overwhelming my kitchen, I tossed fresh asparagus in another pan in a little heated olive oil. A salad or slaw would have worked as well but the asparagus was just as easy and so much more appealing. Twenty minutes later, my husband and I sat down to the most incredible meal, topped off with an ample slice of Peanut Butter Cheesecake.
Did we miss the potato? What potato?
We always manage to handle those things that are really significant to us, don't we? Because it is important to me, I manage to make time to make dessert and have something available in my refrigerator at all times even when I can't remember to put out something to defrost for the entrée. It always comes down to priorities. Or perhaps I know that I can always fall back on the ole cheese and lunch meat but no matter how simple the dinner meal ends up, even if it turns out to be coldcuts, I always have a delicious and satisfying dessert to look forward to.
Now and again, I take the time to leaf through cookbooks, looking for easy, interesting recipes that I can tweak for my low-carb lifestyle. If I invited you to dinner and told you we were having BBQ Chicken and Roasted Veggie Medley or Pulled Pork and Cucumber Salad would you come? I bet. So, why not be your own best friend and make these wonderful recipes for yourself. I'm POSITIVE you will be happy with the results.