I am a native New Yorker and lifelong food lover whose waistline and hip measurements no longer conceal my secret overeating now that Im years past her thirtieth birthday. Desperate for change - and accepting I would need help to cement a new eating lifestyle - I signed up to be a 7 Years Younger panelist. And if the pressure to regularly report my progress to the plan experts wasnt incentive enough, Ive been tagged to participate in the program blog and now hopes this added visibility and accountability will help me finally break her bad habits and live into the body shes been dreaming of - or coveting -her whole life.
The rest of the world lives to eat, while I eat to live. - Socrates
You love food - maybe a couple dozen pounds too much. And, lets face it - you havent checked the 18 - 24 box in about a dozen years. So why not try this 7 Years Younger thing? Can you afford to turn down a chance to work with Good Housekeepings experts and test-drive their new anti-aging, weight-loss plan? This could be your shot at a biggest loser transformation - the body youve always wanted. You sign up full of hope and enthusiasm.
You review the plan: delicious foods (bread and cheese - check!); challenging but manageable exercise (with a fun resistance band) - this almost seems too good to be true. And then the hitch: Week one. Jump start. Limit yourself to 1,200 calories per day.
You start scouring the Internet for nutrition info - 1,200 calories equals two McDonalds egg and cheese biscuits with a large chocolate milk; or a Five Guys cheeseburger and only half the fries; or two slices of pizza with a tall, cold glass of Coca-Cola. Its not even one slice of brownie sundae cheesecake!
You suck your teeth, roll your eyes like a bratty teen. You could eat all those meals in one day. This plan is going to cut you to the core, and in order to succeed youll have to learn what to do without food as the centerpiece of your life.
My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people. - Orson Welles
The days before week one, on the eve of what youre calling binge eating rehab, you behave like the addicts you see on TV before they head on to Passages - one final bash to get high on Crumbs and Combos and Krispy Kreme, to get every unapproved delicacy out of the house and get urges for white flour and refined sugars out of your system. As it turns out, thats not the most effective way to prepare for a diet - if refined carbohydrate addiction is real (and it is), then all you really did was just intensify the inevitable withdrawal.
So, the first few days dont go quite as written - you end up following a modified week-two plan, allowing for low-calorie snacks (read: KIND Bars) on occasion. And you excuse it, now convinced your body needs time to adjust to the plans requirements. But the glory of this plan quickly reveals itself: the withdrawal isnt that bad. A 300-calorie breakfast isnt dramatically different from what youd been having, maybe measuring slightly smaller portions (one slice of seven grain toast, one egg, instead of doubling up on both). A turkey sandwich on seven-grain bread with spinach and onions doesnt really miss the cheese or the mayonnaise. A 500-calorie dinner that includes whole-grain pasta and protein and reduced-fat mozzarella IS a fine substitute as youre weaning yourself off the hard stuff.
Maybe this wont be that difficult. After all, plenty of people live fulfilling - if not successful - lives without gorging on food whenever they fancy. But after your first stressful moment at work, defiance mews, pecking away at your premature self-confidence. At only 1,200 calories per day, where do I turn for comfort when I cant have comfort foods?
Yoga is touted as a stress-buster and theres no better remedy [than exercise] for stress or a blue mood. 7 Years Younger
The 7 Years Younger team recommends exercise - they even have a 20-minute stress-busting walk - in place of downing a box of Cheez-Its. Thats nice, but right now, exercise equals discipline, and discipline feels like punishment (we all know exactly what it means to discipline unruly children). Not helping.
As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Psalm 119:143
Spiritual wisdom says to turn to Scripture or meditating, but, if youre not in the mood, it can be hard to focus on the Om.
Good Housekeeping articles suggest you call a friend, or smooch spontaneously, or take the cuddle cure, but at work, that could be hard to do. So now what? Not to be trite about something as serious as the economic food deserts too many people live in, but your life feels like a food desert right now, and thats only because you cant eat outside of prescribed mealtimes and calorie guidelines - for one week.
Terrible, aint it?
Whatever your triggers, part of breaking the emotional-eating habit is finding out what commonly makes you turn to food In that moment, ask yourself if you are really, truly hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually; emotional hunger is more immediate. 7 Years Younger
Well, the plan offers a surprising oasis: the food journal. Go on obsessing about food, think about it as often as ever, look at foodie words and daydream foodie thoughts. But instead of just scarfing down a Twix bar (or two), now, youre contemplating your hunger level. Are you 1) full, 2) not hungry, 3) hungry, or 4) very hungry? You quickly find out youre making it through the day at about level 2 - slightly shocking, considering youve spent days at level 1, especially around feast holidays. You laugh, thinking maybe you should have two levels to check: the hunger level and a craving level, so you know exactly what to write when your stomach is full but wants a Twinkie STAT.
We never repent of having eaten too little. Thomas Jefferson
Repent, maybe not, but youve certainly gotten a bit agitated and crabby over it.
Until you look through your food journal and see those days when youve had 1-1/4 cups of Multigrain Cheerios with 1/2-cup of almond milk for breakfast (hunger level 2), a Chipotle salad bowl for lunch (hunger level still 2), and an Amys Light & Lean pasta meal for dinner (hunger level still at 2). Surprisingly satisfied and ready to start another day. And after the first weigh-in, youre shocked at your progress and resolve to spend the next six weeks improving.
Now that you understand what life is like on the underside of a 1,200-calorie daily intake (instead of a 1,500 calorie snack on the way home), youre ready take it further. Youre learning more productive things to do with your time. You find refuge in online chats with other 7 Years Younger panelists - just logging in and sharing a note with others going through this is comforting and occupies your fingers when theyd rather be wrapped around a Coke bottle.
The journey is underway: Letting accountability start with you, instead of waiting for someone to call you out before fessing up. Paying attention to feelings of fullness. Not being too afraid to discuss what for so long has been a very private struggle (despite its very visible manifestations). And of course, as soon as your resolve is set, heres an invitation to an open-bar, gala dinner at a top chefs fabulous soul-food restaurant on Tuesday night.
Isnt that always the way?
You decline, take a few sips of water and some deep breaths. This is your moment to kickstart change.
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