Falling Off the Wagon

Some people mistakenly assume that because I give wellness workshops and lead exercise classes that I am always behaving in healthy ways. It just isn’t so. Like many others, I have my good days and my not-so-good ones. I strive to do most things right but every now and then, I slip up.

If I am mindful of what I’m doing, it’s easier to catch myself going in the wrong direction and to take corrective action. Noticing thoughts about why I can’t do my exercises could easily lead to vegging out in front of the TV. To prevent that, I have a set routine that I go through four days a week. Logging in my miles on the treadmill, hours on the bike, time on the yoga mat, and reps with my weights helps keep me motivated.

While I keep up my physical activity habits pretty well, I can’t say the same for my eating habits. Most of the time I stick with healthy homemade meals and I love making fruit and green smoothies. I avoid salt and sugar and saturated fats and don’t eat red meat or fried food. But I have my weaknesses. When they strike, I usually reach for one of my two biggest forms of Kryptonite: M&Ms peanut candies and Lightly Salted Lays potato chips. Once I allow them inside my house, I seem helpless as Superman with his green rock. I will scarf down a large bag of M&Ms within 24 hours. A large bag of the chips won’t last much longer.

My best defense is paying attention to what triggers the cravings. Typically, it’s when I haven’t had enough sleep or when I binge watch TV. Even fast-forwarding past commercials, images of junk food sink into my mind and push the urge. Another trigger is when I am very emotional. It could be anxiety, fear, sadness, or even joy that drives me to grab an unhealthy snack. In addition to noticing my triggers, I try to focus on the consequences of bingeing.

A gift of aging has been that my body no longer tolerates wolfing down junk food like it did in my youth (I get headaches, swollen ankles, vertigo…not to mention unwanted weight). So I have to find ways to limit unhealthy eating. Things like sipping on a hot cup of green tea can distract me until the urge subsides. Sometimes meditation helps. Going outside, whether to work in the yard or to take a walk, often does the trick. And I’ve learned to enjoy chomping on rice cakes or grabbing a spoonful of peanut butter as a substitute.

I’m never going to be perfect, but I am grateful that I do my body more good than harm. And when I do cause it harm, I strive to keep it to a minimum and not beat myself up about it. Berating myself only pushes me to gorge more. The more I show myself compassion, the faster I can get back on the wagon!

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