“No cheese this week, so no cheese today,” I tell myself as I rummage through the refrigerator. As many of my clients and close friends know, I am currently working in addition to wellness coaching. The balance between commuting, working out consistently, working my job and then coaching… can be overwhelming at times. It’s a lot in a day.
I made the decision to commit to this lifestyle for the time being. I didn’t see my life going this direction but life happened. I had to make changes— and that involved rolling my sleeves up and getting to work.
It’s been a major adjustment for me personally— but it has helped me see people in a new light. Now I can relate to others who live similar lifestyles and understand the unique situations so many people are in.
I realized I can make my work and the topics I’m passionate about much more relatable. Doing the 9-5 routine myself helps me see how the vast majority of my clients actually live. As a result, I’ve done some growing up.
I’ve realized that for many, committing and accepting the reality of a life where a work routine is consistent and will not change— means we are giving up some of our control. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the time we do have free in a given day, is within our control. And if you happen to be a control-freak like me, it poses its challenges.
Enter weight loss into the mix, and all the sudden we see a multi-billion dollar industry ready to offer solutions, diets, pills and workouts to satiate this need for control. We tell ourselves after a 12 hour day that we can’t have cheese with our dinner because this week we’re being healthy, so we can finally lose that 80lbs we’re holding on to.
I did not have cheese that dinner. I felt pretty good about it too. After all, I’m not a fan of dairy, the dairy industry and the thought of cows being factory farmed for it. But at the same time, since childhood, cheese has been a delicious, satiating and addicting comfort to me. It’s no surprise that as adults we gravitate towards it.
After restricting cheese, I felt determined to achieve this health goal. Even though I was going against my own advice, I said no to cheese the next day as well. But then something happened. I tried to be a straight shooter, by setting a target with the intent on hitting it but instead, I experienced a ricochet.
The next day, I was on my way to visit my baby niece, Ava. I had just come out of a yoga class, ran home to shower and left. I was hungry and had not snacked prior to coming over. When I arrived, my brother in law had set out a beautiful platter of wheat crackers, grapes, nuts, dried fruits… and brie cheese.
Without thinking, as it was offered to me, I piled my plate full of the cheese. I ate it so quickly and full of so much shame, that by the time I was done eating I felt like I had committed a crime. I couldn’t stick to my target, in fact, I got hit by my own bullet. And it hurt.
But who’s at fault here? The cheese? My brother in law? Me? It’s hard to assign blame to something destined to fail. When we take these shots, aiming for a weak target, its a miss. Probably because saying no to cheese isn’t really a strong enough reason not to eat it.
Emotionally, we feel in control when we commit to restriction. Restriction is our way of purifying our diets, so we can achieve this arbitrary standard of perfection. The illusion of perfection gets us into trouble, because no one, no diet and no food is truly perfect. Instead of eliminating our authentic comforts, we need to embrace them.
Had I let myself eat a little cheese after a long work day, I would have rationed it out in an honest way, savored the taste and enjoyed. Instead I restricted and then over ate. If our goal is to eliminate dairy, we need to get real about the role dairy plays in our lives. How emotionally attached are we? Do we risk another ricochet? Are there suitable non-dairy alternatives? Are those alternatives even much better for us?
We need to ask these questions— because at the root of food restriction is an unmet need for control. What does control feel like to you? For me, it feels like assurance, certainty and like I’m good. These are fundamental emotional needs of mine— and frankly, they’re non-negotiable. So the question is, how can I eat the cheese in a way that will meet those needs?
I tell myself that it’s just food. I’m allowed to enjoy it and let myself indulge in comfort once in awhile. I can have it both ways. I can lose weight and also love what I eat.
Tonight I’m having a little cheese with my dinner. As I eat it, I’m going to pay attention to how it makes me feel. I’m also going to pair it with a very healthy dinner that I know if fueling and nourishing my body. This is a stronger target, I don’t think this one will ricochet.
Now go out and hit your health targets dead on!