In the diet world, before and afters are all about how you look. This one is different: it’s about how you feel.
A healthy relationship with food isn’t just about what you’re eating; it’s about what you’re thinking and feeling while you’re eating. And the spectacular thing about food sanity is that it silences all the noise — the shame, the guilt, the compulsion to binge — and allows you to truly focus and concentrate in other facets of your life.
When someone asked me recently what changed after my own six-month reset, all I could think was “well…….everything!” I feel the difference every single day, from the moment I wake up till the moment I go to bed. So I decided to write down what life was like, then vs. now, on a typical day. It’s strange, but even the things that are the same feel completely different.
Before: Wake up, inevitably thinking of breakfast. Meals are little daily milestones to look forward to. Reach for key lime yogurt, wishing it were actual key lime pie. Add four packets of Splenda to a cup of black coffee for a little guilt-free sweet treat that makes you feel full for a little while. Fantasize about pancakes. Pack a pre-portioned lunch to help you stay on track and resist temptation throughout the day. Wonder to yourself, “Am I packing too much food?” Better to have less so you won’t feel tempted to overeat.
After: Wake up, maybe hungry, maybe not. When your body is hungry, you’ll know. Quick mental check-in on what sounds good: “Sweet or savory? Pancakes and yogurt? Eggs and toast? One egg or two or three?” Breakfast is different every day because hunger is different every day. Add whole milk to a cup of coffee because that’s the way you like it. Pack lunch, thinking about the day ahead. “Do I have a long day ahead? How hungry have I been lately?” Wonder to yourself, “Am I packing enough food?” Better to have more in case you get hungry.
Before: Sit at your desk, thinking about food. Just 37 minutes until your morning 100-calorie snack. It’s all you can think about. But if you eat it early, you’ll ruin your whole food schedule and be starving all afternoon. Drink another cup of coffee to distract from the ache. Get nothing done on your to-do list.
After: Sit at your desk, thinking about food. Definitely time for a snack! Grab something from your stash, and maybe even dip into your lunch early if you’re still hungry. No problem, thank goodness you brought a little extra today. Eat until you’re satisfied. Focus on your to-do list.
Before: Lunchtime!!!! Best part of the day — a few minutes of respite from obsessing over food. Eat your salad so frantically you don’t even taste it. Not that it’s particularly tasty anyway. Iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, raw carrots, fat free ranch dressing that tastes like watery milk. Lunch leaves you unsatisfied, but that’s normal. When’s the last time you felt satisfied?
After: Lunchtime!!!! Best part of the day — a few minutes of respite from work to clear your head and enjoy the food you made. Maybe a bowl of pasta, maybe some soup, maybe a really good salad with delicious dressing. Eat at your own pace. Eat until you’re satisfied.
Before: This is the hardest time of day to stay on track. You start craving bad things…cookies, brownies, chips. Thank goodness for Diet Coke. Guilt-free, no calories, no consequences, a sweet treat that won’t derail your progress. You’re doing so great today, keep it going. Wait…are those cupcakes? Oh crap it’s someone’s birthday. No no no no no why didn’t anyone warn you??? You didn’t plan for this. You don’t want anyone to ask why you’re not eating, so you just have one and try to seem casual about it. Go back to your desk, and keep obsessing over the leftover cupcakes. Sneak back when no one’s looking and eat three more. Spend the rest of the day feeling like shit.
After: This is the hardest time of day to power through, but your deadlines will not wait. Put your head down and get to work. You’re doing so great today, keep it going. Wait…are those cupcakes? Oh cool it’s someone’s birthday. Have a cupcake, or don’t, or eat half and leave the rest on your desk for later, or go back for a second one. Depends on your mood. Spend the rest of the day getting shit done.
Before: It’s nice to be out of work, but the stress follows you home. The temptations are everywhere. Cereal in the cabinet. A loaf of bread on the counter. Cheese. Butter. Chips. Your roommate’s cookies. You can name every halfway-delicious thing in the kitchen. But you need to make up for the cupcake incident. You pick a safe food for dinner, but your whole head is filled with food noise. Still hungry. Still hungry. Still hungry. You decide to allow yourself 10 potato chips. There’s nothing wrong with a few potato chips, right? They’re gone in two seconds. Your body is screaming for the rest of the stupid bag. You allow yourself 10 more. Then 10 more. Then 10 more. You can’t stop. Hell, you might as well just finish it, at least it will be out of your kitchen. Now your brain has moved on to your roommate’s cookies…you can totally replace them before she notices they’re gone. Right? Your stomach and face and jaw hurt from eating so much. The night is ruined.
After: It’s nice to be out of work. You can catch up on some personal emails. Watch a movie. Work on a project you enjoy in your spare time. Call your mom. Check in with your hunger and mood and decide what to make for dinner. Whatever you want. The night is yours.