Don’t reward yourself with food…

… you are not a dog.

I was having lunch with a girlfriend and her one-year old daughter last week. Her daughter wasn’t having a good day. They’d had a busy morning, and she’d had enough. We made faces at her, tickled her, spoke in silly voices, tried distracting her with car keys and spoons… all the regular stuff. Eventually we got her a baby-chino and some hot chips. It kept her happy long enough for us to have lunch and a gossip, and then they went home so she could have a sleep.

My friend commented at one point that she was probably setting her daughter up a dysfunctional relationship with food. I responded that I thought it would take more than one lunch. And I’m pretty sure I’m right. Plenty of kids have been feed a bowl of chips to keep them quiet without developing eating disorders.

My own certainly developed and was reinforced through a mix of circumstances and over a period of time. It is something I am still unraveling, and I still struggle with. I manage to be in control most of the time now, but I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered it. I’ve struggled the last week because I haven’t been able to workout – doctor’s orders! – so that has made me even more conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth. I wonder if I will ever be able to relax with how I eat, or whether I will always have to be uber-aware of what I consume, and how it fits with the plan.

The behaviours are so practiced that they’re almost hard-wired in. This reward one has got me thinking today. A couple of weeks ago I hit a goal and I bought a cake – a very good flourless chocolate cake – to share with my team at work to celebrate. Today I got some good news from the doctor – I’m allowed to workout again – and I was walking home, wondering what I could grab for dessert to celebrate. My automatic response to celebration is to eat something… something off-plan, with sugar, salt or fat, or all three – salted caramel and white chocolate gelato anyone?!?

Sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. Stressed? Eat. There really isn’t an emotion I haven’t stuffed down my throat, and I’ve been doing it for years.

So much of this journey is about learning new responses and behaviours. I’ve learnt to get out of bed in the mornings to workout – I now miss it when I’m not allowed! I’ve learnt to plan my meals at the beginning of the week – and I now feel disorganised if I don’t. As I walked home today, arguing with myself about rewarding myself with food – and remembering this little meme above – I realised this was just another behaviour I needed to change. So I started thinking of other ways to celebrate or reward myself. Rewards that don’t make me a dog. And that brought up some far more interesting options!

So – I’ve had my dinner, written my blog, and I’m about to have some strawberries (on special at Harris Farms this week!) and yoghurt for dessert. It fits with the plan, it isn’t a reward, it’s just part of my nutrition for the day – it’s the new normal.

And what did I do to celebrate? I put the celebration off til tomorrow… I’m off running with the Ladies Running Club in the morning – and really, that’s celebration enough.

I’m also on twitter.

Don’t let the weekends ruin your progress…

… fight hard towards self control.

It can’t just be me. Weekends make it harder to stay on track. Something about the lack of routine… and so many opportunities for brunches, lunches, dinners, parties, each with their own traps and pitfalls.

I try and keep some routine in my weekends, because I know I do better that way. Saturday I head out to an 8am Pilates class, I stay on for the TRX class – so by 10am, I’ve burnt a few calories. Then brunch, catch up with friends… sometimes a massage or a trip to the hairdresser. The rest of Saturday is usually taken up with weekend chores – shopping, cleaning, washing – all the regular stuff.

Sunday is harder – I try and get in an early run, but I’m more likely to stick to it if I’ve organised someone else to go with.  Catch up with some friends, recreational shopping. Sunday afternoon I try to reserve for food prep and planning for the week ahead. Sunday night I sometimes have friends over for an early dinner before we plunge back into another week.

But even with a bit of a routine, there are little traps. Like brunch. I love coffee. Really, really love it. One brunch date with good conversation could easily cost me 500 calories in coffee if I’m not careful. I have to be constantly vigilant. Moderation in all things. Including milky lattes. Even when it’s skim!

But then there are nights like Saturday. A friend’s birthday drinks. I don’t drink alcohol all that much any more, so I volunteered to be the driver. The fact we had to get a cab home probably tells you some of what you need to know here.

We walk in. “Would you like a lemon martini?” Martinis are a particular weakness of mine. Start the night off with a kick, I think, why not? Then there was the first top up. Still time to stop, I think, we’re using small glasses. You can finish up here and still drive home, I think. At the second top up logic and experience told me I was in trouble. Then we shifted to the French champagne, and I knew I’d lost the battle for the evening. Enjoy yourself and grab a cab, I think. Shortly after, I pretty much just stopped thinking for the rest of the night…

And that’s ok – it doesn’t happen often, and it was a great party.

Not so long ago, a night like that would have thrown me right off track. I tend towards “all or nothing” in my thinking, so a big night would have meant I’d fallen off the wagon, and I would definitely have written Sunday off too, maybe longer. But Sunday I got up (late and seedy, I admit), and gave myself permission to skip the run. But I had an egg white omlette with micro greens salad (and a couple of small skim lattes) for brunch, went for a walk into the city with a friend, and spent the early afternoon trying on a few frocks (and buying a couple), then I cooked a healthy dinner and had an early night. And this morning, I got up in the dark and went and trained.  Right back into it. The new normal.

I guess what I’ve learned over time is it’s OK to have a night off, it’s OK to have a few drinks every now and then, it’s even OK to skip the Sunday run occasionally. This is about the long game. It’s about getting most of the meals right, and getting most of the workouts done. It’s about having enough of a routine to cover me most weekends, so they don’t ruin my progress. And even though it still makes me nervous, and more than a little anxious, I can breathe deep and know that the work I’ve put in last week before the party, and the work I will put in this week after it, covers me.

And the biggest thing to remember is it’s not how I do every weekend anymore. Because doing it that way all the time can stall my progress – and I work too hard the rest of the week to do that.

I’m also on twitter.