I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the majority of people reading a blog post about food and fitness have at some point in their lives stressed out about food. And I’m going to go further out on that limb and guess that you’ve probably stressed about overeating “unhealthy” food and drinks at a party, holiday, celebration, etc. And now let me climb even further on that about-to-break tree branch to assume that at some point, at one of these celebrations (hell, even on a bad day), you “ate something you shouldn’t have” and then you thought to yourself, “screw it. I’ve already messed up. I’ll just keep having fun and then do better tomorrow.”
How’d that work out for ya?
Right now, you might find yourself worried about the Memorial Day picnics and the drinks and party food. Maybe you’re reading this post after the holiday weekend after you indulged more than you wanted and now you’re battling holiday guilt?
How to Get Over the “F*ck it” Food Attitude and Quit Screwing Up Your Healthy Progress
Summer is around the corner and for many of us, the warm weather and beach trips are already in full swing. Every woman I know…well, probably all of them…is worried about that thing called “bikini season.” Must build perfect body. Must not eat junk. Must diet for months. Must refuse all fun things.
I’ve battled this dreaded season my entire adult life. Heck, I’ve battled “food guilt” every single holiday of my adult life. Because as you probably know, most of my adult life–before learning how to actually be healthy–I tried a lot of diets, deprived myself of the foods I grew up on, and then binged at every celebratory occasion because I allowed myself the splurge–right alongside the “f*ck it” attitude. You know what I’m talking about. Once you screw up, you might as well keep screwing up, right? Once you have the cookie, you should probably have the ice cream too. And once you’ve had one beer, what’s two more?
You work so hard for that perfect bikini bod and then the weekend hits and all progress goes right out the window.
How have I learned to change?
The brain is a freaking phenomenal muscle.
So recently, I’ve gotten addicted to listening to personal growth books on Audible. Actually, I started off with books that were recommended for those who wanted to be successful entrepreneurs and business owners, but I soon realized that all successful entrepreneurs started off by building themselves up first…their businesses second. Without confidence and a healthy mind, success is pretty hard to achieve on your own. So on Audible, I actually began reading “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill. Let me just start out by saying that if any of you reading this want to be successful in ANY area of life, Read.This.Book.
The first couple of chapters are slow. I angrily told Erik one day that I wasted HOURS of my life listening to stupid stories that I couldn’t even pay attention to and that if he thought this book was so great he could just tell me about it later.
But the following day I decided I’d give it one more shot. Soon, I got angry when I had to press pause to go to work, and when I finished the book, I actually felt a wave of sorrow overcome me. The powerful finish left me feeling like I could conquer the world! And then…it was over. I will actually re-listen to it again soon….after I finish re-listening to the book, “Rewire Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior,” by Richard O’Connor, PhD.
The title of this book both intrigued me and scared me when I first downloaded it. “Overcome addictions?” I was curious…and to be honest, I thought it would be a book about how to give up smoking or abusing alcohol or something worse. I at most thought it may give me insight on why I felt addicted to chocolate, donuts, and ice cream. (Or any dessert I suppose.)
But the book has captivated me so much–learning about
what may be, what is our GREATEST muscle–the brain, and what our minds are capable of doing, that I’m listening to it for the second time. I don’t think I’ve ever re-read a book in my life (the ones I taught for 10 years don’t count)–that’s how fascinating this book is.
Let me get to the good stuff:
I’m thinking sometime in the future I’m going to research this a LOT more and maybe put together some webinars and small eBooks, that’s how fascinating this is to me. I desperately feel the need to bring you this information–it may even be the key for those searching for extraordinary health. But so far, what I’ve learned from “Rewire Your Brain,” is that our brains are still constantly learning, changing, growing, adapting, and developing. You can form habits and break habits just by thinking a certain way. You can change your level of success in the world just by rewiring your thinking habits! Telling yourself one positive affirmation each morning can cause you to be more productive during the day. Little things that no one teaches you elsewhere can completely change how you view yourself, how happy you can be, and how successful you can become. I love this! Have you ever heard that your brain only has a certain amount of cells and they’re mostly filled by the time you’re five years old (or something along those lines)? That most of your learning is done before you even go to school? Well I am glad to report that’s a myth. It’s all a myth!
You can train your brain for anything.
Going back to my “f*ck it-food attitude” — while the book is about much more than breaking bad food habits, Dr. O’Connor actually uses food for many of his examples of how the brain works. This is perfect for a reader who loves to write about nutrition. Here’s one of my favorite brain-examples he uses early in the book to teach about how our brains respond to diets and food restrictions:
Two groups of dieters were given a dessert. Group A was given a fruit and yogurt bowl that added up to about 500+ calories. Group B was given a small bowl of ice cream that came to about 250 calories. Both groups were told how many calories were in the bowl.
Guess what happened?
Group A, the group who ate the “healthier” fruit and yogurt ate less throughout the rest of the day.
The group who ate the ice cream said, “f*ck it,” and ate more the rest of the day AND made worse decisions when it came to what they ate.
If Group B had just continued to make healthy decisions after the ice cream, they wouldn’t have blown their diets. They wouldn’t have had food guilt the next day. They would have stayed the course and continued their progress. But because they had ice cream, even KNOWING they had fewer calories than the fruit and yogurt group, they blew it all! They totally said “f*ck it,” even though they were technically ahead of the game — all over a little bowl of ice cream!
This is fascinating to me.
How many times have I done this? You?
A couple nights ago at a function, I had half a beer and a small cookie. In the old days, I would have said, “f*ck it. I screwed up. Give me one of each of those tasty little desserts.” But I didn’t. I didn’t have a “f*ck it” attitude anymore, nor did I make myself avoid the sweets completely out of fear that I may “give in to temptation and screw everything up.” And when I went home, plugged my calories into My Fitness Pal and realized I was still well within my macro goals. I continued to have my healthy dinner that I planned and a protein shake before bed.
I went to a celebration, I ate and drank what I wanted, my goals were not compromised, and I didn’t mess up a thing.
Why? Will Power.
Another part of the book that fascinated me and ultimately led me to ditch the “f*ck it” attitude was the section about will power. I always thought that will power was something you either had or you didn’t. I had no idea that it’s actually something we ALL have and just like a muscle, it gets stronger every time we use it! True fact: Erik tells people all the time that he’s never seen someone with more will power than me. I’m not bragging…I’m just really good at saying “No thank you.” Trust me, the more you say it, the easier it is. But the old me…even the one Erik thought so powerful against temptation…would eventually cave to temptation when I couldn’t stand it any longer. The “f*ck it” attitude would eventually emerge. How could I be so strong for so long and then…fail? I thought my will power was just coming and going at any random time. I couldn’t control the chocolate craving. I had to give in.
Dr. O’Connor explains that will power is actually a muscle within our brains. A muscle?! My first thought was “building muscle is what I do. I got this.” So Dr. O’Connor explains that we are constantly making decisions. From what to wear, what to eat, what to do first at work, etc., we are CONSTANTLY making choices. Think about how many decisions you make each day.
- What should I wear today?
- Should I clean the kitchen or work on a blog post?
- Should I delete Pet Rescue from my phone so I don’t take so many breaks while cleaning?
- Should I have my breakfast now or wait a bit?
- Should I do laundry or wait til the weekend?
- Should I food prep before or after I clean the kitchen?
- Should I put the dogs out while I food prep?
- I need to vacuum, will I have the energy for that this evening after work?
- Probably not, today’s a deadlift day, I’ll probably be too tired.
- Vacuuming will have to wait til the weekend.
- But I want to work on the book this weekend and I don’t want to spend ten hours cleaning.
These are thoughts that run through my head on a typical morning between 7:05 and 7:07 am. Did you get tired reading that? I did. Our minds make decisions ALL DAY LONG. Mine constantly runs on choices. This or that? Now or later? What or when? Decision making is using your will. So whether you use your will power to say, “I will have a healthy breakfast instead of the donut,” or “I will clean the kitchen instead of playing candy crush,” you just used your will power. Unfortunately, you’re going to be using your will power all day long. So what happens at the end of the day?
Think about it this way: If you were going to do push-ups all day long, how long would it take before your arms, chest, and shoulders were exhausted?
Probably not very long.
Your power of decision making is the same. I tell Erik all the time that I HATE making decisions. And I think it’s because I am CONSTANTLY making decisions in my head. As I’m writing this right now at this very moment, I’m battling the guilt of the decision I made to skip the horribly challenging CrossFit workout at my box this morning so that I can sit here and type and get some work done so I can go lift later instead. When he asks me in a few hours what I want for dinner, making that decision is the last thing I want to do because my brain is already tired from the constant back-and-forth decision making it’s doing right now.
- When should I actually go to the gym today?
- When are we going to Costco? We’re out of Coconut oil.
- What will my lunches be this week? I think I need more spaghetti squash.
- Am I happy with my powerlifting routine or should I switch things up for a few weeks
- Stop switching up your workouts, you switch too often
These are the things that are going through my mind as I type this blog post. My brain feels like a pin ball machine with thoughts flying every which way possible.
Do you know what’s likely to happen when Erik asks what I want for dinner tonight after my brain is too tired to make yet another decision? I’ll say, “I don’t care, just pick something.” And he’ll say, “Fine” which really means, I wish just once you’d make the decision. And I’ll say “I hate decisions and it would just be easy if you pick.” Because that’s what it feels like when someone else picks: relief. I didn’t have to make one more decision.
Later tonight when we go out to my friend’s birthday party, if I’ve made too many decisions today, my brain will be tired when it comes to choosing the food I eat and the beverages I drink. Because my will-power has been in overdrive all day long, I’m likely to say “f*ck it. It’s a party. Eat what you want. Drink what you want.” My muscle that makes my best decisions for me, will be exhausted. And there I will be with a fatigued brain that doesn’t care to help me any longer, and I may just head right to the dessert table. (Notice I said dessert before bar. Ha!) But that’s what happens with will power. We use it all day and let it crash when it’s too exhausted to stop us from the second helping, the third drink, or whatever other bad decisions we tend to make.
(Note: I’m not saying you should never go out and have a drink and a good time. I’m just explaining why we sometimes go out with great intentions to “stay the course” but end up saying “f*ck it” when we’ve stressed out our brains all day.)
A while back, I got into a on-going conversation with one of my ambassadors about my tendency to give into severe chocolate cravings at night. I couldn’t figure out why all day long, I had zero desire to eat chocolate, but around 10pm, when I was physically and mentally exhausted, I WANTED and typically gave into the chocolate. I had ZERO will power left.
I totally get it now.
Dr. O’Connor says to try and make fewer and less important decisions during the day. I shouldn’t worry too much about things that don’t matter or why I didn’t go to the gym this morning vs going to lift later. I’m still exercising so isn’t that what counts? If I want chocolate or something sweet, I should have a small bit so I don’t eat a ton of it later. And if I don’t make so many decisions right now, I can probably make better ones tonight at the party.
It’s all about taking care of the muscles…both physical and mental muscles.
Two nights ago I really wanted a piece of chocolate before bed. But I did what Dr. O’Connor said: I told myself that my decision-making abilities were not good, I was tired, and that if I just went to bed, I’d have a better shot the next day and the next and the next, at doing the same. So that’s what I did. It felt powerful. I overcame a lack of will because I knew why I felt that way.
I freaking love this.
I almost feel like I’m cheating you out of information with this post because there is SO MUCH more I want to tell you about what I’ve learned from this book about our brains. I’ve only given you two examples from a 10-hour period of listening to fascinating information. From how to change your self esteem, teach yourself positive thought, the importance of self-reflection, even how to meditate…there’s so much about the mind that goes hand in hand with all we’re doing every single day!
I promise I will bring you more information, but for now, keep your mind focused on mental strength as you’re working to increase your physical strength as well. Having a strong, and well-rested healthy mind, is just as important–if not more!–as a strong, healthy and well-rested body. And just like a muscle, with exercise and training you can make your brain stronger too. Having stronger will power at any time of day is something you can exercise to make better!
One more note on will power:
For the past 3-4 years, I’ve always done my holiday baking first thing in the morning. My will-power at 7am ROCKS. Dr. O’Conn0r said that just like any muscle, your will-power restores itself with a good night’s sleep. Again, it makes sense now why I can bake in the morning and am never tempted to lick the spoons or eat the batter or dip my face into the chocolate sauce. Will power is best when fresh–just like your muscles. So keep that in mind! Make the important decisions that you must make and forget the small stuff. Keep your will-power fresh and rested, and always always ALWAYS remember the total body value of a good night’s sleep. Every muscle benefits and makes you stronger than before.
Strongfigure…pursuing total body, total self knowledge, health, and strength: this is what drives me, and THIS is what it’s all about, folks.
Your Strong Figure Conditioning Workouts for the week:
Workout One: Memorial Day HERO Workout
Most CrossFit gyms around the country remember our nation’s heroes by completing the Memorial Day workout, “Murph,” in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, killed in action June 28, 2005. The workout is
- 1 mile run
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 push-ups
- 300 squats
While I’m not saying your SCFW is to do this 100%, I would love to challenge you. Do something today that will force you to mentally push limits. Complete half of the above workout. Run a mile without stopping. Complete 300 squats over the course of the day. Maybe all you can do is 75 squats and 25 push-ups. Whatever you can do to challenge yourself, make yourself a better, stronger person in honor of someone who died for your right to do so.
Workout Two: 5 Rounds for time–
- 10 burpees
- 15 goblet squats
- 200 meter run
Workout three: 3 Rounds for time–
- 50 double unders (or 100 singles with a jump rope)
- 25 wall balls
- 20 weighted lunges
- 15 sit-ups
- 10 handstand (or regular) push-ups
If you don’t have equipment, sub an appropriate body-weight movement (air squats, push-ups, any core exercise, burpees, lunges, etc.)
Don’t forget to exercise your mind this week (and always)! Practice your power of decision making and strengthening your will. Do you have strategies for doing so? Comment below!
Feature image courtesy of www.ironmanmag.com.au.