Does anyone else out there fall into this pattern?
When I have any kind of time off, I start thinking is should be a vacation from *EVERYTHING!* Especially my strict adherence to Phase 1. I also seem to have a lot of trouble de-coupling food from relaxing or celebrating… Or even from regular old evenings and weekends…
I've noticed the following patterns:
- Weekends: My go-to indulgence on a weekend extra fat a few times - i.e. bacon at breakfast, cheese & real dressing on salads, butter on veggies. My mind suggests I deserve it after a long week or that I need it to truly relax and enjoy myself.
- Longer Staycations: My mind insists that since we're not going anywhere expensive or exciting, I deserve to entertain myself with "treats." My bright ideas usually include fancy dinners out, movies, home-tourist stuff where we just *have* to eat while we're there. Even if we stay at home, in my mind it's not just a movie night or TV series binge session… It's *supposed* to be movie & pizza night, or TV & munchies…
- Roadtrips: My mind treats road trips like a journey through a healthy-food wasteland… All planning is thrown out and all I can imagine eating is roadside fast-food - saturated with fat and 'tastes' of everyone else's carby sides. I cheat on fries, cheese & bacon (usually on greasy burgers or at breakfast), and lots of diet soda because somehow I totally forget it's possible to order regular water.
- Long distance travel to somewhere / anywhere: If I plan a faraway trip, my mind immediately suggests that I NEED to be OFF IP while I'm gone. Note that OFF never means ON Maintenance. It means eating whatever I want as part of my relaxation / entertainment on the trip. I always justify this by planning to get RIGHT BACK ON when I get home. (We all know how well that usually goes…) But if I try and picture my vacation staying on Phase 1, I start to feel resentful, pouty, sorry for myself. My mind whines, "It won't be a vacation if I can't eat / drink ________!!!" Fill in the blank with whatever each place is known for. There is ALWAYS something.
- Holidays: I got to see this pattern up close and personal over Thanksgiving. Talk about the most food-centered holiday of all! My mind kicked and screamed about how unfair it was to not eat the special foods my friends had prepared. It vowed that next year when I'm not on Phase 1, I'll eat *everything* I want. Interesting… Those foods won't be any better for me next year than they are this year - whether on Maintenance or Phase 1.
I'd love to start this paragraph with, "Here's how to solve this!" I'd love to, except I'm still working on this myself. These thoughts still come up nearly every time. I don't seem to be able to stop them, but I have noticed that there are things which make it either harder or easier to resist them.
Let's start with what makes it harder. I've learned there are two forces which drive any food craving for me: physical and mental. If I'm dealing with just one or the other, I can usually make it through. If I'm dealing with BOTH at the same time, I'm pretty much sunk. The best weapon I've ever found for staying clean on Phase 1 is deep food peace (the appetite suppressant effect of ketosis). If I'm not in food peace, it has to be my top priority to get there because until I am, any tempting situations are going to be too hard to resist. If you haven't heard about food peace, take a peek at my Confessions blog post entitled "Don't Drive Off The Cliff. Everything happening over that Thanksgiving break were great examples of how it feels NOT being in food peace. To reach food peace, it takes me 3-5 days of very strict adherence to Phase 1. I have to white-knuckle it the whole time and I don’t always make it. I often have to start over. (This has been easier since I started my 12-step work).
Once I'm in deep ketosis, I feel very disinterested in food. I'm not hungry because my body is burning ketones produced from my fat and that is a rich and plentiful resources in my body. LOL!! In fact, most of the time I have to remind myself to eat and try hard to get all of my required food in. This is a GREAT problem to have. This peaceful, stable state lets me tackle the next hurdle to staying on track: my thinking.
I'm pretty convinced that my own mind is my WORST enemy. It's never anyone else pushing me to eat or drink things that aren't on my plan, it's ME. Even if other people get a little pushy or encourage me to cheat "just a little," I just dismiss their efforts as kind but misguided attempts to help. The only one who ever pressures me to drop my eating plan is ME. My own thoughts, my own urges, my own habits… All of those happen in my mind.
My best weapon on the mental front is "mindfulness." If you aren't sure what I mean, try reading some of the writings of Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat Zinn or Byron Katie. My favorite metaphor for understanding the goal or point of mindfulness is this:
Lets say you're watching the sky. It's bright and blue and fills the horizon. Pretty soon a little white cloud drifts by. Then a few more. Next, some dark clouds drift in, followed by many more and then it's overcast. It starts to rain, perhaps you see lightning and hear thunder. But then, as you watch, the clouds start to break up, and you see the bright blue sky peeking through. The rain stops, the clouds dissipate, and the clear blue sky is visible again.
In this metaphor, the clouds are your thoughts. They drift through, not controlled by you. But if you focus on them, you forget about the sky. They are temporary. They come and go. Sometimes they are light and fluffy, and sometimes they are dark and stormy.
The weather is your emotions which follow and result from the clouds (or lack thereof) - rain, lightning, thunder, or pure radiant sunshine. Behind all of it is the blue sky. The goal of mindfulness is to realize YOU ARE the blue sky.
The thoughts drift by, and if you don't pay them much attention, they come and go on their own. The sky is always there. The permanent, eternal, peaceful backdrop. Some of the clouds seem more threatening and distracting -- they make noise and produce angry thunder or scary lightning. But even those emotions aren't you. You (the blue sky) FEEL those emotions, but they are not YOU. You are the one noticing you are having a feeling or a thought. You are the constant calm blue backdrop behind the weather. At any moment the "weather" of your thinking can and will change, reshape, pass if you let it. At any moment, you can rise above the weather, like a plane passing above the clouds, and remember who you really are.
When I remember that I'm the blue sky, I can see my thoughts and feelings / cravings and compulsions about food as passing events. I am NOT my desire for cheesecake. If I'm distracted enough, I may even forget the cheesecake exists. I may even forget how badly I wanted it, or how sorry I felt for myself when I made the decision not to indulge.
The very best distraction I've found is to focus on other people. Thoughts and feelings about food are very self-centered. If I can re-direct my mind to other people (i.e. how they are feeling, what makes them happy)… And especially if I take action (I.e. trying to make their day brighter, show love, understanding or bring peace to their lives), I suddenly forget my obsession with whatever food situation was calling to me.
This is particularly effective at the Holidays and on vacations since many of those times are also full of people I care about. Deciding to focus on how I can brighten the lives of my loved ones can be a full-time job, and one that brings me infinitely more joy than food. Plotting ways to surprise and delight my family and friends, or even just give them my undivided attention while they speak to me can immediately turn my internal weather from stormy to bright. Counting my blessings and focusing on my gratitude for all of the wonderful people and circumstances I am privileged to have is another way to distract myself.
These redirections have become my very best tool. Sometimes I can't manage to snap out of my self-centered food funk - usually when I'm out of food peace - but I'm getting better and better at it. My 12-step work is essentially all about this. However, if you don't share the serious kind of addiction that I have, you may be able to develop this practice by simple meditating on the image of the blue sky and then setting intention to begin to serve and actively love the people in your life instead of turning to food. It's also helpful to become curious about what the blue sky inside of you actually is. Any kind of practice that takes you out of the illusion that your thoughts are real, and helps you stop focusing only on yourself and the content of your thoughts is helpful.
I hope this is useful to others looking for a way out of the traps of the body and mind - both of which keep us stuck and fat and sick. I have appreciated the thoughts and feedback I've received from so many of you so much! My clients at Ideal Northwest, my friends and acquaintances on the Ideal Protein Phase 1 Support board… Thank you for reaching out with comments and questions. I hope each one of you realizes what a gift you've been to me on this restart. Hugs and many thanks.