Friday, May 23, 2014

Don't make an excuse!

Signs of spring are finally beginning to appear all around me. The tulips are now in bloom; the birds are building nests; the days are getting longer and warmer; and invitations are beginning to arrive in my mailbox on a regular basis.

I used to think that the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was the busiest in terms of parties and celebrations, but spring and summer might be even busier. I received three invites this week alone: One for a graduation party; another for a retirement party; and the third for a baby shower. Facebook has been buzzing with pictures of graduations, end of school year picnics and parties, and proms. Wedding season will be here soon and many will be planning summer vacations and camping trips. Memorial Day weekend starts today and some will be going out of town,  attending a parade or cook-out. So many fun things to do….and yet, along with the celebrations comes a challenge: Staying focused and on track while attending a party. 

Sometimes we think that  just because WE are making changes to improve our health and well-being, that the entire world is joining us on our journey. This couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started my journey was the realization that just because  I had made the choice NOT to eat cake, desserts, and special treats, didn’t mean that everyone around me had made the same choice. In fact, unless you are living in some treatment center or diet camp, it’s likely that you are in the minority; perhaps even the ONLY one not indulging or celebrating with food and drink. Just because I am addicted to sugar and potato chips doesn’t mean that everyone else in my life suffers from the same problem. Just because you can’t stop with one or two drinks doesn’t mean that others in the party can’t. It is unrealistic to expect that there won’t be snacks, treats, and good food at every gathering…just because I choose not to indulge.

As a result, we are going to find ourselves surrounded by temptation and the opportunity to stray from our plan, especially when attending all of these parties and celebrations.  So the question is: What are we going to do about it? I can’t speak for you, but I have a few choices. I could avoid the party or celebration altogether at the risk of offending the host or guest of honor. This might create some hard feelings if I turn down an invitation, but in the long run, I need to do what is best for me and avoid situations that could sabotage my efforts to change. If I know that I am not strong enough to resist the temptation, then I need to avoid the situation, and hope that those around me will realize that it won’t always be this way and eventually I will get strong enough to be around others who are eating and drinking. 

OR…I could plan ahead to stay on track by going to the party armed with options to help me get through it. This is typically my choice. If I am invited to a party or a dinner out, I try to find out what might be served so I can make a plan. I bring a small pill container of a very low calorie vinaigrette salad dressing in my purse so that I can eat the salad. I pack a few low calorie snacks, a protein bar, and fruit so that I have things to eat that are on my plan, just in case there isn’t anything at the party that is low calorie. My family will be cooking out this weekend for the holiday and I prepared myself to keep on track by purchasing turkey burger and fat-free hot dogs so that I have an option if they prepare burgers and hot dogs on the grill at some point. I also have a watermelon and other things on hand so that I have options available that don’t include macaroni or potato salad.

If I’m asked to bring a dish to pass or a dessert with me, I bring something that I can eat so I know there is at least one item there that will allow me to keep on track. Sometimes I eat a very light breakfast or lunch before I go to the party and save some calories for some party food, or I eat a bigger, high-protein meal at home before the party so that I’m not famished when I get there and just binge on everything due to extreme hunger. I also keep myself busy talking with people and enjoying the activities of the celebration so that I’m not just sitting there eating when I’m not hungry, just because there is food around. How many times have you eaten the entire cup/dish of candy/mints/peanuts/chips (whatever) that are often put on the tables at a shower or party just because it was there in front of you?

The worst choice I could make is to just do what everyone else is doing; eat what everyone else is eating, and pay the consequences later. I could use the party as an excuse…..and convince myself that I’ll start back on track after the party, wedding, or holiday is over. This has NOT been my choice yet and it is NOT an option for me now either because there will ALWAYS be an excuse. How many times have you decided in the fall that you were going to change your life and had a conversation in your mind that went something like this:  “Well, it doesn’t make sense to start before Thanksgiving because it will be too hard to get through the holidays so I better wait until New Years. Then it becomes.. I’ll start as soon as all the holiday cookies and treats are gone so I don’t have to waste them. Then…well, I always get chocolates for Valentine’s Day and it would be rude not to eat them…Then….well, Easter is here”….etc….. and so forth and eventually years pass and you keep putting it off.
We can come up with all kinds of excuses. I encourage you today to STOP MAKING EXCUSES…..instead MAKE A PLAN.  If you want to change your life bad enough then you will do it. Don’t let a party be an excuse to give up on your dream.  Make a decision that you will make it work….you will make better choices….you will do what you need to do to keep on track….and YOU WILL change your life. 

The choice is ours alone. I can’t tell you what to do. I can’t tell you that your choice is right or wrong. I can’t judge you for your choices. My journey is my journey….and ultimately, our choices are ours alone. I know what I’m going to do; I am going to stay on track. I am going to stay focused. I am going to attend the parties and make it work. Why?  Because I know that the end result is so worth it!  I know that the satisfaction of eating that cupcake pales in comparison to the joy of being able to walk or ride my bike. I know that each time I resist temptation I grow stronger in my commitment and it makes the next temptation easier.  And mostly, I know that you all are counting on me to be strong and keep my weight off. I don’t want to disappoint myself and I don’t want to disappoint you either!

Make it a great day and Happy Memorial Day weekend to my friends here in the States!