I was recently listening to one of Greg O’ Gallagher’s podcast episodes where he talks about ending binge eating. He was discussing the reasons that people go on and off diets. I had been meaning to listen to this episode for a long time as I figured he would have some good information on the topic. If you follow Greg at all he has some really unique insights on training and nutrition. I figured he would get pretty deep into the mindset behind successful dieting.
What I found was Greg and his co-host Tom Ness discussing some of the more esoteric aspects of failure and success in general. They applied the idea of being content with where you are in life to the persuit of a great physique. Specifically, they talked about how being desperate to get away from who you are, or your current physique was a recipe for disaster. Both Tom and Greg insisted that you need to be content with where you are in life, and with your physique to move forward.
Some of the highlights of the discussion:
“That’s something people bring with themselves 24 fucking 7, 24 / 7 there unhappy with where they are right now. They want to be at their goal like right this instance. They want to be slim fit like right now. That’s how the diet industry works,
its all quick pills, quick fast results, their trying to give them like that instant solution and it doesn’t fucking work, everyone knows it, they’ve spun their wheels time and time again. They’ve bought countless diet books, they’ve done it again and again and again, it never fucking works, because they sell you what you want, not what actually works.”
“the fundamental problem on the deepest core level, if you like pull everything away, strip everything away, on the deepest core level, what is there, its a lack of self acceptance. It’s not being happy with where you are right now, and that, that lack of acceptance is what propels you to do those extreme diets, to do the extreme exercise protocol. It propels you till finally your so stressed because your not happy where you are, because you want to be there, and your not there, and so your so deeply stressed, you can’t take it, so you know what, you might as well just eat some food, and you just kind of, during that time you just feel guilty. Your like yep, I messed up my goal. So really this is why people get stressed from fitness it’s because of that time gap, because of that lack of self acceptance and, you know what not only when someone’s binge eating do they not accept themselves, but they also don’t accept the fact that they binge eat.”
This podcast was dead on in recommending people slow down and accept where they are at. Greg goes on in the podcast to make the point that acknowledging where you are at allows you to gain some perspective on your situation. He brings up the point that where you are on your journey to the physique you want is all relative. Someone might need to lose 20 more pounds to get to their ideal physique, while someone who needs to loose 100 lbs would be happy to be 20 lbs away from their ideal.
In terms of solid recommendations Greg has many. He goes on to say that he advises his clients to do the following:
1) Tell themselves that they are enough. Whether this mean repeating it as an affirmation, or to yourself in the mirror. The point is to acknowledge the truth of the statement and understand that where you are physique was has nothing to do with you as a person.
2) Learn to enjoy moments regardless of where you are in relation to your goals. Greg takes a realistic approach by acknowledging that this might only be for an instance or two. Even if only for a second, learn to enjoy the present.
3) Learn to accept that you are binge eating, or eating off track. Don’t ignore what your behaviors are telling you. Acknowledge what you are doing to help you alter your approach in the future.
4) Listen to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now to gain perspective on time and the pursuit of goals.
I think these are some awesome insights into the power of mindset in achieving goals. In line with his recommendations to accept where you are and what you are doing I believe it is necessary to keep track of your diet good and bad. Just as people track their food when they are on a strict diet, I think it is important to track what you eat when you are off of your “diet”.
Tracking what you eat when you are having a cheat meal, a cheat day, or just binge eating forces you to come to terms with your behaviors. While some people might react negatively to this thinking it is only for people with way to much expendable time on their hands I think it can be worthwhile. If you are going to track your diet at all, tracking how you go off your diet, and what you do when you mess up is some of the most valuable information you can have.
I like to use a simple excel to track macronutrients and calories. This allows you to see roughly how much and what type of food you can eat.
One thing you will notice is that even the worst things you end up eating usually are not as bad as you initially image. Even if they are as bad as you imagine in terms of calories you will see that your body is actually somewhat resistant to getting out of shape. Regardless of the change your body is making, changing for the better or worse, your body does not change fast.
Its like fitness trainer Scott Abel says “your body does not get fat in a day”.
The simplest method to track your food is the below excel setup:
In the above excel the cells B27, C27, D27 and E27 show the totals for kcal, fat, carbohydrates and protein respectively. Cells C28, D28 and E28 show the percentages for fat, carbohydrate and protein. The types of foods along with their individual contributions to kcal and macronutirents are shown in the main body of the chart. Along with a scale such as the perfect portions food scale this method of food tracking is real simple. On one thing to keep in mind is that you should have a few meals you are making regularly. This means that the many foods you are making on a regular basis will be very easy to enter into a chart such as the above. At some point it will start to become second nature. If You have never tracked food in this manner, use the method I describe in Excel Food Tracking.
Once you have a grasp on how to do this you should be tracking your good and bad days. The reasons for this are mentioned above, but it helps you gain perspective on your eating. Perhaps there is one food that you need to work into your diet to keep yourself from wanting to go of your diet. Maybe their is one food that you though could never be fit into your normal diet, that upon closer inspection, actually can. Maybe you thought that your crazy cheat days were throwing your efforts off by a week or more. Often times when people think they are doing irrevocable damage, they are only setting themselves back a few days. Often times the idea that you are setting yourself back too far to go on is just an excuse used to further slack or quit altogether.
One of the best perspectives you can gain is that even your best attempts to sabotage your own progress probably are not that monumental. The human body is extremely resilient, even in regards to your intermittent attempts at self sabotage.
As Greg says, you need to be ok with where you are. Tracking what you do, diet wise, at your worst moments gives you a ton of perspective. You will be able to see that even at your worst, everything is fine. It takes most of the excitement out of going off your diet. Instead of being some irreversible event, binge eating is just another set of macros and kcal, just like any other day. This is not to say you should be comfortable with eating like a crazy person, just that you should maintain a methodical approach to monitoring your behavior in good times and bad.