Friday, September 23, 2011


It's amazing how much of a role psychology plays in your health.  I'm not talking about just for strength training (the mental aspect of that is fascinating and fodder for another blog), but for your general health habits as well.

One of the fun little things I like my clients to do is send me either a food diary or a photograph of everything they consume.  I like the photograph technique best, as it tends to keep people more honest.  I've found that with food diaries, people tend to "forget" snacks, underestimate portion sizes, practice quite a bit of-- let's call them "creative writing techniques"-- and such. 

Here's the thing-- while fudging your food diary might be good for your creativity, if it doesn't reflect reality, you're lying to yourself.  And if you're lying to yourself, you're the one who suffers for it in the end, as you're not going to reach your goals.

I have one client who, in her food diary each day, would include a fast food-type meal, cake, cookies, etc. and follow it up with, in parenthesis, (treat).  What this comes down to, psychologically, is that by calling these meals "treats," it makes them sound like they're once-in-a-while events when, in fact, she was "treating" herself every single day.  My advice to her was to stop calling them "treats" and admit her diet wasn't as clean as she was leading herself to believe, and then make the necessary steps to clean out the remaining dietary junk.


Another client of mine informed me that she was going on a business trip, and therefore her diet would suffer.  "There will be soda," she said.  My response to this was that she had a choice about the soda, and, for that matter, everything else she eats.  Business trips are not a rare occasion in her life, and using them as an excuse to jump off her fitness plan is simply not an option.  I actually used to be a computer consultant, and I would travel 5 out of 7 days a week.  I managed to eat healthfully no matter where they sent me-- I found out where the supermarkets were and bought veggies, and I perused restaurant menus for healthy options (they do exist, and a lot of places will custom-make a plate for you, too).  Ordering extra steamed vegetables, forgoing fried and/or sugary foods, sodas, juices, pastries, and breads/rice, and making smart entree choices is pretty easy in most towns.  So no, business travel is not an excuse.

I've also noticed a trend in clients prefacing any not-so-good food they eat with "a teeny tiny piece of..." or "just a really small amount of..." but, of course, no exact qualifiers.  How tiny is tiny?  Are you really being honest with yourself?  And, remember-- a lot of "tiny" adds up to one "big."

The fact of the matter is, if you tell yourself that eating junk is OK, you'll eat junk.  If you tell yourself it's OK to stop exercising, you'll stop.  If you give yourself permission to be unhealthy, you'll unhealthify yourself just like that.  On the converse, if you stop giving yourself loopholes and hold yourself accountable for how you treat your body, chances are, you'll be a lot nicer to it, and you'll be very happy with the results.

Think about it.  The choice is yours.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

1 comment:

  1. Being very overweight most of my adult life, I know it would be very easy to "fall" back into that lifestyle-you tend to get a "comfort" feeling for it, BUT on the other hand....I LOVE now how great I feel and how I can do the (athletic) things I now do. The phrase that ALWAYS makes me think about what I'm about to shove into my mouth is:

    "What you eat in private shows in public"

    It's so true that it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up! If I'm not proud of what I put in my mouth-then it shouldn't be going in there!
    Nice post!