Losing weight is difficult.
Let me rephrase that. Losing weight itself is easy, but maintaining the discipline required to lose the weight and keep it off permanently is quite challenging. Cheat meals are okay, but they can snowball. Gradually, over the last month or so, my cheat days evolved into cheat weekends, and then I found myself eating crap food in the middle of the week.
That wasn’t the worst part, though. Where I really failed was in giving in to sugar cravings. It started with a cookie at the grocery store, or going out for ice cream on the weekend. That rather quickly spiraled out of control, and within two weeks, I was buying a box of cookies, and a gallon of ice cream, and just housing them throughout the weekend.
The thing about refined sugars is that the body doesn’t quite register it as food in the same way that it does with foods that have naturally occurring sugars, like fruit. It bypasses the parts of the brain that trigger hormones which tell you that you are full, and in fact tend to make you hungrier.
So, while a peanut butter cup cookie or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is undeniably delicious, it’s not something you should be indulging in even once a week. Monthly is probably the limit, and even that might be too much.
I found myself re-addicted to sugar after 10 weeks of clean eating (I began this journey during the first week of January). I was getting sick more often, I was sleeping poorly, and I was depressed for what felt like no reason. And the cravings; good lord, I had forgotten how all-consuming they could be.
In an effort to wean myself back to a diet with minimal added sugar, this last weekend I bought two bars of 60% cacao dark chocolate. That’s actually more sugary than I would recommend, but the idea was that I would keep a bar in my desk at work, and one in my cupboard at home. When the craving hit, I would allow myself a single square of dark chocolate, a mere 60 calories, and only 5 grams of sugar. On Tuesday, I was desperately craving a Snickers bar. I almost caved in, but then I remembered my stash in the overhead cabinet. One square, and I was sated. My sugar fix was satisfied, and my intense craving for chocolate was gone.
This morning I bought a cup of coffee and had them put a teaspoon of coconut oil and a teaspoon of cocoa powder in it; I highly recommend this for several reasons:
- Coconut oil is rich in healthy saturated fats (not all fats are created equal, and this included saturated fats). It’s by no means a magic bullet, but you could do worse. I wouldn’t recommend buying into the hype surrounding it; most of it is bad info at best, and dangerous bunk science at worst. Better to do a little research.
- Cocoa is not only rich in antioxidants, and can lower blood-pressure, cholesterol, and boost cognitive performance, it also triggers a part of your brain that is triggered when eating regular sweetened chocolate, only without at of the added sugar.
- Coconuts are naturally sweet. With a teaspoon or two of coconut oil and a teaspoon of cocoa mixed into black, unsweetened coffee, you end up with something a little like hot chocolate. It’s just sweet enough to hit that craving without doing unnecessary harm to yourself due to the insulin spike you get from regular chocolate or other added sugars.
And guess what? Even though I’ve spent the last ten minutes writing about chocolate, and actually took my bar of chocolate out of my desk to consult the nutrition label, I have absolutely no desire to eat any (actually, a few hours after I wrote this, I did end up eating a little dark chocolate, just a fourth of a square). And I feel better this morning than I have in two weeks, despite having gotten less sleep than I should have; hey, I was on a really good chapter in the book I’m reading, I couldn’t just stop!
Now, let me stress that I did not go so overboard that I gained any weight back. I maintained an average of around 282 (my lowest weight in five years) since the 17th of March. However, I didn’t lose any weight either. By now, I was hoping to be between 279 and 277. I have delayed my goal weight of 200 by as much as a full month.
But that’s one of the reasons people plateau. You become complacent, you start to make compromises, and suddenly, you lose momentum. You fall back on old, bad habits. This makes you feel lazy and depressed, which only makes you want to continue those habits. It’s cyclical, and it’s extremely self-destructive.
The point is not to let it derail you completely. You’re going to stumble. You’re going to fall. It’s absolutely inevitable. But getting back up is a choice, one that you can make at any time. Don’t let a setback allow you to return to your previous state of apathy and bad habits. You can overcome nearly anything with enough will, discipline, and practice. And sometimes, it’s important to fall. It was for me; becoming crushingly depressed reminded me of how much of an emotional benefit a good diet and regular exercise gives me.
Don’t give up. You got this.