The other night I was out to dinner with dear friends. We went to one of my new favorite local restaurants. I was running a little late because I was shooting out of town and drove directly to the restaurant. When I arrived, my husband had already ordered me some shrimp cocktail with lemon. He knew I would be hungry from a long day. I did my usual scan of the menu, then split a chopped salad with one of my friends.
The special for the evening sounded very good, until I realized that it was breaded. Two of the others decided to order it. I paused for a moment. A thought in my brain: Why don’t I just go for it? It’s not a big deal. But then I scanned the menu again. The salmon entree sounded delicious and already came with a side of vegetables versus starch. Before I could change my mind, I ordered it. Done. I could feel a little release. I had made my choice, and I was happy with it.
My friends are very supportive, so I didn’t have to explain nor did I feel the need to lecture on why sugar and flour are two things most of us should delete from our list of acceptable food. There are moments when I feel like the born again foodie. I want to shout from on high how my new ‘religion’ has truly saved my mind and body. This would not make me a very popular party guest. However, I don’t hide under a barrel. I will answer questions. But I don’t preach. I have found a happy medium. I simply own it.
Owning it for me means I am religious about eating meals on time. At social gatherings I don’t shy away from being direct. Of course I am polite. But I am direct. I don’t apologize. If offered something I don’t eat, I simply say I don’t eat flour or sugar. I no longer say I’m on a diet, or feel weird that I make different choices. I don’t feel arrogant that I’ve discover the way, the truth, or the light. I own it. I no longer feel awkward asking questions about a menu, or, in a work situation, making sure whatever restaurant the crew is ordering from is also one where I can find something that works for me.
Of course, if someone is curious, I don’t shy away from telling my story. I don’t shy away from talking about how, for me, flour and sugar were the reason I was never able to stick with weight loss, and that for many like me, most all of the popular diets in the world don’t get to the root cause. By talking about me and what I’ve learned about me, it’s less me trying to convert someone to my new religion and more about simply sharing my story. Having the conversation with someone who is overweight could make for an awkward moment or two. I work very hard to come from a place of empathy, not judgment. And here’s why it’s gotten so easy: I know, with absolute certainty, that everyone must come to these decisions in their own way. And when we’re talking about addiction (and one third of the population can become addicted to sugar and other substances), I believe quite profoundly that we are all on our own journey.
To preach abstinence to an alcoholic will fall on deaf ears, until they’re ready. And the sad truth is, some may never be ready to make that change. Sugar is no different. People fear the change. They fear they’ll fail. They fear deprivation. They fear it won’t be the answer. They don’t trust it. Or in my case, it took going pretty far down the rabbit hole of obesity before I felt like I had no choice BUT to do something radically different. Everyone is on their own journey. And some may never cross into the light. It certainly took me awhile.
So, how did I come to the place of owning it? What was the magic that happened that helped me feel comfortable in my skin, more than ever before? And how can you get there?
- Change Your Speaking. Now, when I’m offered something that isn’t part of my plan, I simply say, “I don’t eat that,” instead of “I can’t…” Changing how you talk about it puts you more squarely in a place of power and choice. “I don’t” is a choice. “I can’t” sounds like someone told you not to do it. It doesn’t come from a place of power. You can do anything you want. You choose to do it differently.
- Acknowledge Where You Are. If you’re just starting out you may not yet be getting the rave reviews on how different you look. You might be self-conscious about drawing attention to your weight or your eating habits. You have a choice here. You can either be pining away for the lighter you, or embrace and accept where you are. Harder than it sounds, I know. But do it. Chances are, you are your biggest critic. Others see you every day exactly how you are. Why not give yourself a break and accept it. You are doing great things to change what you don’t like. So embrace THAT.
- Don’t preach. Share. In the beginning, changing your habits can be all consuming. In the first week or so, you’re undergoing a pretty big change. Chances are, that’s feeling pretty wonderful once you get through the withdrawal. So much so that you may be tempted to talk about it with anyone willing to listen, and in particular, those who may be struggling with their own weight. The best way to show others the way is by example. Be willing to share your story without trying to sell them on this new way. Sure, talk about what you’re doing, but keep it in the context of what’s working for you and the results you’re getting. This is especially true with family members. Avoid the temptation to point how they can fix their issues. If they want to jump on the bandwagon, it needs to be their choice, and in their own time. I’ll admit when it comes to family members, this is one I’m still practicing.
- No Apologies. Don’t apologize for your need to eat only certain things. Yes, you are a picky eater. Yes, you are going against the grain (literally). You can gently but firmly state your preferences without apology. You don’t need to feel bad because you require certain foods and turn down other options. You don’t need to feel bad because you are saying, “No thank you” to sugar or flour. And you don’t need to explain yourself. If someone asks, you simply tell them what you’re doing. It isn’t rude to choose your health.
- Don’t be defensive. I’ve had a few people tell me this way of eating isn’t sustainable. That we’re SUPPOSED to eat a well balanced diet and not be so restrictive, i.e. not limit starch or fat so much. I don’t argue that point. I simply go with what I know, which is this is working for me. I have eliminated intense cravings. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, and I am eating more whole good food than ever before. When you state it’s working for you, no one can debate that, because they’re not YOU. And pretty soon, your physical transformation will reveal just how well your choices are paying off.