I'm convinced that one of the main character traits of overweight people, as a group, is that we are slow deliberative decision makers. We tend to ponder...waffle...dawdle...debate over our food choices, and then after all that deliberation often make a bad choice. If we think 10 minutes about whether we're going to eat the cookie, we probably will end up eating it. However, if we think only a few seconds about the cookie, we are more likely to say "No."
My library book dilemma was an example of poor decision making.
My decision making problem came clear to me when deciding to return library books...or not. The problem was that I liked certain books but I hadn't finished them. So should I pay the extra 15 cents per day until I read them...or not?
Well, what ended up happening was that invariably I did not finish reading the books that I kept overly long. 90% of the time I didn't even touch those books again. And after having a few books out for an extra month, the fines added up to dollars. And this bothered me.
The next time I got to the library book-drop, I asked my middle daughter whether I should keep any of the books longer and she said, "Mom, you know how this works. You want to read them, but for whatever reason you don't. Now, don't think another minute about this. You need to make an executive decision, and dump them in." I did. And it was so easy!
Quick thinking is powerful.
I made a new rule for myself: If I wonder whether or not to dump the overdue book, I immediately dump it. They all get dumped. It's a clean thinking rule that feels light in my mind. It saves my brain from pointless pondering.
Then I saw myself having this same slow deliberative thinking about other unimportant decisions. Should I order a dark gray t-shirt or a navy t-shirt? The question sat in my mind too long. Both are basic colors that would be equally useful, so I told myself that this should be a quick decision, not a slow one. Then I can quickly move forward to the next daily task I have to accomplish.
When my daughter asked if I'd do better if I was in a weight-loss group or by myself, I easily answered, "Group." Then, she told me to quickly act before I talked myself out of it. I went to a TOPS meeting that very week and I'm so glad I did.
We have all analyzed the cause-and-effect in our lives.
We have analyzed the cause-and-effect in our lives. We already know what decisions cause bad results. We know our triggers and we know our destructive patterns. (If you haven't figured this out, write up the list of foods eaten on your last destructive food day, and then connect each food eaten by a food trigger or a thought/mood trigger. Keep doing this analysis until you recognize your triggers and patterns.) Because of this, we can make simple food rules that save us from a bunch of stupid brain debates that lead to bad decisions.
Heuristic rules steer us in the right direction.
The name for this premise in math and science is "heuristic rules." Heuristic rules are rules that turn out to be true time after time. People in math and science use these rules to automatically steer them in the right direction with as little thought wasted as possible.
Here are my bright-line food rules that never steer me wrong:
1) Refined carbs make my body doughy.
This rule is based upon my years of experience that when I ate a diet high in refined carbs I looked like a big bowl of lumpy dough poured into a shirt and blue jeans. This rule makes me want to reject the bread, bagel, bakery roll, noodles, pancakes, muffin, etc... (If you put immerse any of these foods in water for a while, they bloat up like a chubby lump on a person.) Do I really want to go back to the size 18 doughy person I used to be? No!
2) Crackers lead to binges.
This rule is based upon my experience that if I start eating crackers that it opens the flood gates to eating all sorts of high calorie foods. If I don't eat the crackers, I don't get those binges. Those crackers are scary, so I need this rule to automatically say, "No!"
3) If I want to be a slim girl, I have to eat like a slim girl.
This rule is based upon my experience of being with my size 6 daughter for several days in a row. She does not eat very often during the day. When she does, she eats small servings of healthy food and never eats second helpings. She has about one special treat per week. Day after day, slim girls are slim because they eat less calories. So whenever I feel like a binge, I say this rule because slim girls rarely binge. If I want to be slim, I have to follow their example.
(For guys: This rule could be changed into, "If I want to be a lean guy, I have to eat like a lean guy." I have asked many lean weightlifter guys in their 30's, 40's, and 50's if they watch their weight/calories, and they all do.)
4) No carbs before noon.
This rule is based upon my experience that eating carbs during morning hours invariably causes me to eat many more calories during that day. Time after time, the pattern of morning carbs resulted in a bad eating day. When I switched to mainly proteins during morning hours, the opposite happened, resulting in very good eating days.
5) No eating in the evening.
This rule is based upon my experience that I am tired when I eat in the evening. That tiredness results in poor decision making about what foods to eat. I am highly likely to eat high calorie foods that I regret, in the hours right before bed.
6) Food journalers lose weight.
This rule is based upon research, seeing the food journalers of my weight loss group lose weight while the other non-journaling members struggled more, and my own experience that when I food journaled I lost weight faster and more consistently. When I don't feel like food journaling, I repeat this to myself.
7) Quick forgiveness.
This rule is based upon my years of experience that many of my binges were extended for days due to me mentally kicking myself over and over about overeating--therefore I kept overeating to sedate that feeling of being so out of control. We need to be like a professional football quarterback who quickly forgives himself for throwing an interception (pass that accidentally went to a player on the other team) and then immediately gets his head back in the game to win. What's done is done now. I forgive myself for lapses in judgment and quickly "get my head back in the game" to move forward.
8) Keep emotions out of the equation.
This rule is based upon my experience that when I start pondering how I feel about eating, I tend to choose food that are high caloric bad choices. Losing weight is most easily accomplished by doing cold-hearted calculations about what food choices to eat, the precise portion size, and precisely how many calories were consumed that day. Channel the emotions toward favorite songs, terrific friends, pretty flowers, great movies, and furry puppies.
Less Mental Debate = Longer Weight Management
These are my main food rules that come to mind. They really help me make better less-stressful decisions about food all day long, day after day. This is important because less mental debate about food each day allows me to reserve some energy for the next day of weight management. The less mental energy involved per day, the greater the odds that weight management will continue long-term. Accumulated better decisions over days and months equals weight loss and effective weight management.
What do *you* think? Do you have any similar food rules that help you? I'd like to hear about them. And, of course, anything else you want to say.
Have a wonderful day!