22 April 2010

The Eating Game and our quest to win at it!

Perhaps 1 in 100 people are truly successful on any given diet.  It's big business, and quite frankly "they" want you to keep coming back to try something else,  so understand that most people will fail beyond their control.  People are not losing weight, but actually failing to lose.  The object of the game is to keep you in "their" game.  Don't play it.   You have to make your own game and realize that you can win it. 

We all have that one friend, the one naturally slim friend who does not stress about weight, does not exercise, eats big ham and cheese heros with extra mayonnaise and extra cheese for lunch and chases it with a regular Coke.   They can even run 10 mile races with such nutrition.  You love to hate him or her!  It's not their fault.  Your mind juggles all these thoughts, "What's wrong with me why I can't eat like normal people?"  or "Life is so unfair that I can't just live and eat what I like and not worry!"

The fact of the matter is we all have different bodies, different lives, different stressors, different metabolisms and so we all experience different results based on all that we do during our daily lives.  Some people can omit one or two "bad" foods from their diets, and instantly lose weight.   Others simply think about a certain food, like yours truly, and we feel our clothing suddenly get tighter.   We have to be realistic and accept the fact that healthy, nutritious food is better for us, and it is important to eat wisely as much as possible. 

All of these thoughts ran through my mind last night as I had to banish my 11 year old son from the kitchen at 8:30 pm.   Not only was it too late for him to be eating (anything), but I remembered exactly what he ate for the entire day.  I am one of those parents who does indeed monitor what my children eat so that they can learn why making wise food choices does matter. 

At this stage of his life, I try to dish out mini-lessons daily as we encounter certain things.  In 4th grade, he learned about the food pyramid and the basic 4 food groups, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fiber.   I certainly don't expect him to understand, nor to even focus on whether or not he has had too many carbs for the day, but I do expect him to start to realize what food consumption is doing to his mind and body.

What does food consumption have to do with the mind?  A lot.  This is where I can admit that I am still learning the Eating Game myself (not how to play, but how to win) and I recommend that all who want to win should start with a journal.  Record what you eat each day as well as how you behaved during that day.  What were your thoughts like?  Better yet, can you write down what you were thinking BEFORE you decided to eat a certain food?

Back to last night.  When I saw my son scurrying around in the kitchen at 8:30pm, I quickly reflected back to the earlier part of the day, the part when I picked him up from school.   He seemed a bit anxious, a bit consumed with something.  I asked him if he was ok and he said he was, but any parent can acknowledge that preteens are very susceptible to worrying about this and that.  I am certainly not downplaying the "this" or "that," just simply leaving it wide open so you can fill in the blank.  Often times we know that we may not get a straight, truthful answer when we ask them if everything is ok, but we do our job and hope for the best!

He had been running around a lot, getting great exercise, and so it was expected that he would be thirsty and or hungry.  His first request was for an ice pop, which I did not have.  I decided to stop by the organic market which is literally 3 minutes from my house.  On the way there, I started to think about what he had for breakfast and lunch and what he would be having for dinner.   At that point, I decided to get him to understand that an ice pop would not benefit him and so he decided to have a big 20 ounce bottle of water instead and take some extra time to reconsider a different type of snack.

About 5 minutes later, he requested "Almonds!"  Yes! My son is learning how to play the Eating Game!  I love it!  He chose a high-protein, heart friendly snack!  We actually had some together and it made me smile.  When he saw my smile, it made him smile and he felt very proud of himself.  Happy child, happy parent, happy evening!

By the time we got home, before he could even start his homework, he said something to me that made me a little crazy for a split second.  He said, "I am still hungry."  Oh great.  Well, this is what we all do.  We eat and then we want to eat more.  We still feel empty.  I sensed that he was trying to put off doing his homework a little longer, wanting to continue to relax after having been in school for 6 1/2 hours and then running around for 1 hour.   The emptiness could be a true physical depletion, or it could be something more psychological in nature. 

Did those almonds and that big bottle of water not kick in yet?  What was taking so long?  I was preparing dinner and hoped that he would just wait for dinner.  I decided to try to somewhat avoid the situation and I said, "Come on, get started on that homework so you can be finished in time for dinner."  I left the kitchen for a minute and came back to find him sitting in the dining room munching on an apple!

He made me smile... again.   It may be that you can't stop thinking about food and want to eat often, but part of the battle will be to choose foods that will not sabotage your program.   You have to teach your mind that grabbing a bag of potato chips or a soda, will not benefit you at all.  It won't lend any goodness to your body, and it will end up destroying your mind.  The guilts will set in and you will be disappointed that you are still making poor choices on what to eat.  Many times this results in a spiraling down.  It creates a wave of bad choices, back to back.

It is my belief that my son's choice to have almonds and water, led to his great choice to have an apple before dinner.  He did indeed eat all of his dinner which was a lovely creation of roasted chicken, organic seasoned basmati rice, and kale with tomatoes.  Yes.. prepared by Mom!  Why then was my lovely son scurrying around in the kitchen at 8:30 looking for a snack?  Because he was not so happy that I made him sit and watch "Idol gives back" on American Idol.  Well, at first he was not so happy, but he sat and decided to give it a try and after a while, he ended up enjoying the show and forgetting about the snack.

My take on winning this Eating Game is to do the following:

1.  Truly learn which foods are good for you.  Don't worry about what others are eating.  Learn about food and how it affects you.  You have to know if you can consume dairy, meat, processed foods and maintain good health.  If you know you can't, it's time to give up those things that are a menace to your program!

2.  Keep a journal about your daily routine, feelings, thoughts and see how it affects your food choices.  You will probably find that your emotions are guiding your food choices.   You should let your health needs guide your choices instead.

3.  Really think about what you are going to eat before you eat it.  Why that particular food? How will it benefit you?  If you are not making a good choice, think about the results you will have.

4.  Exercise!  Exercise boosts your mood and makes you feel happier, more energetic and empowered!  These feelings usually help you to make better food choices!   

5.  Don't believe the nonsense in the advertisements you read in magazines or the stuff being advertised on tv.  It's all a gimmick to sell food, make money, and keep you hooked on it. 

6.  Teach your children about the Eating Game and play it together!

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