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Monday, August 2, 2010

Tip: Leave Food on Your Plate

I've talked about “If not now, when,” and how staying in the moment when I prepare a meal allows me to prepare a meal of the right substances and right portions. I also told about my childhood and how I learned to clean my plate. From my parents, aunt, and grandparents, I heard all the things that could possibly said to make me eat: “Eat! An empty plate is a happy plate! The children in Europe are starving! Try it; you’ll like it! Eat one more mouthful. You can do it!” I internalized the belief that a good girl cleans her plate. I mentally congratulated myself when I polished off every last morsel that could be picked up, scraped off, or even licked from the plate. “Good girl,” my internal dialogue told me. “Good girl. Only a bad girl wastes food, and you don’t want to be a bad girl.” I took that dialogue from my childhood right into my adulthood.

Yesterday I watched a movie titled Beyond Belief, wherein many types of therapists give snippets of information on how our belief system holds us back from achieving our goals. When we find ways to change our belief system, these therapists said, we can achieve anything we want.

How right they are! For years I believed I could not lose more than nineteen pounds. Where did I get that figure? All my adult life my weight hovered heavier than recommended for my height, so I tried many a diet in an attempt to look better and feel better. You name the diet, and I tried it; the Scarsdale diet, grapefruit diet, cabbage-and-tomato-soup diet, apple diet, and so forth. Every diet I ever tried worked—for a while. I could lose five, ten, fifteen pounds easily. Almost every limiting diet, though, has to be temporary. You can’t stay on them forever; they are not sensible eating plans. Not only that, they all required vast changes to my normal food choices, and when I had a family to feed, I had to eat something different from what I fed my family, which made sticking to the diet even harder. I had more weight to lose than most people, and with all the complications a diet created, I always gave up after a few weeks or a month and went back to my regular eating habits. As a result, no matter what diet I tried, the most I’d lost was nineteen pounds. Naturally I internalized the belief that I could lose only nineteen pounds. Anything more was impossible. Another belief: I can’t lose weight without endangering my health. The most devious of all, perhaps, was my original belief: Good girls clean their plates. Bad girls waste food.

What is your internal dialogue, your internal belief about food, about losing weight, about meeting your weight goal?

For me, when I realized my beliefs—that I could not lose more than nineteen pounds, that I endangered my health if I tried to lose more, and that I should not waste food, lest I be wasteful and therefore bad—I could scoff at them. Pooh! In truth I had never even tried to push past my mental limit of nineteen pounds of weight lost. I consciously knew my health was endangered not by losing the weight, but by not losing it, and I could find ways to avoid wasting food, if that issue continued to come up. By canceling out all the beliefs that limited me and kept me from losing weight in my past, I was able to lose sixty pounds and maintain my health, even improve it. My blood pressure went down to acceptable levels, and I avoided going on blood-pressure medicine for five years or more.

Unfortunately new beliefs undermined me. Once I lost the weight, I believed I could easily lose it again, and today, right now, I would eat whatever I wanted, because I’d eat better tomorrow. I did not think of the “If not now, when?” concept and kept putting off eating properly. I even let the “Good girl; clean your plate” belief creep back in, and the pounds crept back on. I kept waiting for something to click in my head, and when that click happened, I would go back on the sensible food plan that had worked so well for me.

I forgot that my food plan is not a diet; it's not temporary; it should last a lifetime. It’s a healthy way to eat; it’s not a punishment.

The only way to change a belief is to recognize it, face it, scoff at it, and replace it with another belief. When I think, “If not now, when,” I am able to stop eating when I’m satisfied (not full; that’s a different matter entirely!) and even leave food on my plate. I admit that leaving food uneaten is one of the hardest things I can do, but it’s something I deserve to do for myself. I ask for a to-go box at restaurants if the portions are too large; in that way, I’m not wasting food. It can make another meal for me, and sometimes two more. If something isn’t cooked perfectly, I find it even easier to leave it, now. At a restaurant yesterday, for example, I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The outside edges of the chicken were overcooked and dry, so I ate only the three middle strips and left the two outer strips of chicken on my plate. As an afterthought, I offered them to my friend, but I admitted they weren’t very good, and he declined. When the waitress took away the plate with food still left on it, I cheered silently. I was a good girl for leaving food on my plate!

I look for excuses to leave food, now. I have changed my belief system. I believe that leaving food uneaten is something to be celebrated. A good girl doesn’t overeat. A good girl knows when to stop eating. A good girl can reach her goal weight, no matter how many pounds away it seems.

Oh, I weigh myself on Mondays, so here’s this week’s take:

Original weight: 245
Weight last week: 234
Goal weight for this week: 233
Actual weight this week: 230
Goal weight for next week: 229

Total pounds lost: 15

Final goal weight: 150

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