A prepper should be mean and lean, right? If the SHTF and you must “bug out” on foot, could you do it? Or, consider a more plausible situation: If your car breaks down and you’re out of cell phone range, could you walk ten miles to get help? If someone kicks in your front door in the wee hours, could you wrestle the intruder to the floor, or will your beer belly get in the way? A prudent prepper won’t neglect his body.
Since many struggle with fitness, I thought I’d share my mistakes. What’s the point of blunders if they only benefit me?
Dieting Mistake #1: Moderate Eating is a matter of will power
Solution #1: Acquiring temperance is a metaphysical battle
Since gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, regulating one’s consumption is a matter of spiritual warfare and not a white knuckled exercise in self-control. The old-guard Catholic teaching about the seven capital vices (official name for the seven deadlies) goes far in explaining myself to myself, and my struggles with consumption. FTR consumption applies to alcohol, spending, binge-watching, or any earthly pleasure.
The Husband told me this sounds harsh, but so what? Take it with a grain of salt. And only a grain of salt, mind you, because too much salt isn’t healthful!
An important battle tactic is to know the enemy. With diets, the enemy is fallen human nature, or to put it in more empathetic tones: human weakness. God’s help is required in overcoming gluttonous habits. Personally, Catholic spirituality fortifies my willpower. I go before God and beg for His help. I ask Holy Mary for her prayers. When I screw up, there’s the confessional.
Telling myself “no” when I’m tempted to abuse food isn’t easy. I’ll be on my deathbed fantasizing about chocolate instead of preparing to meet God. But the fight is worth it. When, with God’s help, I stayed on my diet plan, my self-respect increases. And I don’t feel bloated.
Diets don’t last forever. The banquet in the next life sounds like it’s to die for:
On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
Dieting Mistake #2: Cold turkey rejection of one’s bad habits with no workable plan
Solution #2: Find a plan that works for you and reap self knowledge
Peruse the internet, and you’ll see that many people abandon their resolutions after losing the first battle. Been there, done that. I’d feel sorry for myself at the sacrifices. Or I’d get overwrought at hunger pains. Is the human nervous system hard-wired to panic at a calorie deficit?
Basically, I didn’t have a concrete plan. I didn’t know what I was doing. So I’d quit the diet altogether rather than making smaller, more sustainable changes.
So what’s your plan for dealing with calorie deficits? For one, steel yourself against billboards and commercials featuring food porn. You may also consider taking another route so you avoid a favorite restaurant/bakery on your daily errands.
A big endeavor, like weight loss, needs a concrete plan for success crafted from the collective knowledge of what works, and I found that in the old Weight Watchers (WW) point counting system.
WW is flexible and allows limited amounts of carbs, which easily torpedo a diet, but which I’m unwilling to eliminate altogether. Because WW is well known, I can get strategies from others who’ve used it successfully. I hear the in-person support groups are helpful, but being an introvert I prefer one-on-one dialogue with a successful WW veteran. Thanks Auntie!
Most importantly, WW tells me what and how much I may eat. Using feelings of hunger/ satisfaction to limit my food intake hasn’t worked. If I need to weigh and measure it out for success, so be it.
Some do well with a “cold turkey” approach to change, where they throw out a problem food and never look back. Others, with a temperament like mine, baby step their way into change with a concrete plan for success, rather than cold turkey.
What diet plan works for you?
If you can’t stand counting points / calories / nutritional value, then try my “Three S” method: eliminate snacks, sweets, and seconds. That worked for a long time until I reached middle age.
(More side notes: WW isn’t paying me to write this. And I’m not interested in switching to the updated WW system. It’s easier to follow a plan when one has already memorized point values. For those unfamiliar with WW, a “point” is roughly fifty calories, and it depends on the fat and fiber content of the food in question.)
Dieting Mistake #3: Not eating enough
Solution #3: Adjusting the plan to fit lifestyle changes
Food intakes appropriate for pregnancy and nursing became unsustainable when I’d weaned my youngest. Once I no longer ate for two, it didn’t occur to me to downsize my food intake. With a memory of WW success from the before kid era, I resumed counting points.
After a few weeks, I dropped WW because it added to my stress level. I gave up completely, heaved a sigh of relief, and resumed the unsustainable eating habits. And I regret doing that, believe me.
I failed this WW venture because I was now a stay-home parent with two young children. Being run off one’s feet, doing housework and staying ahead of high-energy kids, required more calories than my desk job. The Husband kept telling me I wasn’t eating enough, but I didn’t believe him. At first.
When I tried WW again, I allowed myself all seven of my “flex points,” which provided roughly 350 additional calories per day. This time, WW was sustainable over the long haul, and I lost twenty five pounds. I’d found a calorie consumption appropriate for an active mom’s lifestyle, but without calories needed by a nursing mom.
After this success, I tripped over another stumbling block.
Dieting Mistake #4: Panic atop the Plateau
Solution #4: Party on the Plateau and Going Down the Other Side
After I’d lost about twenty pounds, the rate of weight loss began to slow. Once I’d lost twenty five pounds, the scale would NOT budge. The dreaded plateau…
WW requires dieters to trim two points from their daily allowance at twenty five pound weight loss intervals. After two months of meeting my point budget only to face a stationery scale, I finally removed two points from my daily allowance. When I tried this, and melted down in the same way as when I restricted myself to a food intake more appropriate to a desk jockey than an active mom. The diet became too stressful so I quit again, and relieved my stress by comfort eating.
Rather than quit WW altogether, I should have added back the two points I’d eliminated. Adding back the two additional points would have been more beneficial than tossing the whole thing overboard and treating the stress with snack foods.
I climbed back on the WW bandwagon last summer, pandemic and political stress notwithstanding. I begged God for help. After months of steady work, I’m re-approaching the twenty five pound loss plateau. Predictably, my weight loss is slowing down. Thanks be to God that the holiday season (and all its goodies!) didn’t throw me off course. Even during a pandemic, our neighborhood has its cookie swap!
When you’re at a loss of what to do, consult a dieting success story. My aunt, who at 78 is healthy, trim, and active, had great advice about plateaus. She suggested taking up a new activity, like gardening. She also suggested learning some new recipes. Her advice rings true; I’ve long had the suspicion that my exercise routine needs a shake-up. I could use more strength and flexibility training. I love my daily walk, but I can’t do a twenty minute workout video “for beginners” featuring squats, lunges, and twists. No wonder I’ve plateaued.
I’ve got a new master plan and am ready for execution. Oh, my aching thighs and abdominals from that workout video. Maybe I need a trainer tell me how to execute the crunches correctly. Look out, the plateau is now a party place, and Jen’s gonna kick some arse. Meaning, her own lazy arse!
Dieting Mistake #5 Perpetual dieting
Solution #5: Fasting, Feasting, Ordinary Time
When I first did WW, I was zealous about it even on weekends. Eventually it caused conflict, as weekends are for parties and special restaurant dates with The Husband. Is a person striving for good health never to touch a dessert ever, ever again?
The Catholic Church divides the year into seasons of fasting (Lent and Advent, and Fridays), feasting (Sundays especially Easter, Christmas Day and other Holy Days of Obligation) and ordinary time (self-explanatory). Bringing the mind of the Church into my eating plan made my humanity feel respected, pampered even.
When one is feasting, one should bless God. One should enjoy the chocolate without apology, in anticipation of the heavenly banquet in the next life. As long as you don’t eat until your stomach explodes, don’t worry about exceeding your point total. I know I’ve overdone it if I get bloated, so while I don’t count points on the weekends and holidays, I enjoy the day.
When one is fasting, one should remember one’s humanity, which flourishes under discipline. Human nature is fallen, and it will overthrow good reason, common sense, and a healthy lifestyle unless managed.
It’s tragic fact of life that many people don’t have enough food. Or they don’t have the right kinds of food. Out of respect for those suffering hunger or malnutrition, one should be willing to embrace the sacrifices inherent in a diet plan. Maybe I need to write a blog about solidarity with the hungry. If you’re eating less, you’ll have something to share!
In Ordinary Time, I typically do WW on weekdays, and embrace with joy the idea that self-discipline is in order as a lifestyle and not as a temporary arrangement. With God’s help I’m okay with that.
Dieting Mistake #6: Emotional Eating
Solution #6: See Your Pain for What It Is
Cold, damp January makes a mug of hot tea a pleasure. Hot summers make watermelon bliss-inducing. But I went overboard, attempting to doctor emotional pain with food. I wager I’m not the only one who does that!
No one should be ashamed of enjoying food. But food can only go so far in reliving the suffering from all the suffering life serves. The distraction of pleasure is temporary. Pain persists.
I can avoid detrimental comfort eating when I view comfort food as the ice pack on one’s headache while the doctor is setting one’s broken ankle. Comfort food can’t set the ankle. This includes “diet-friendly” comfort foods as well.
Food won’t take away life’s pains and frustrations, such as my son’s upcoming surgery. Or my junior high aged daughter who generates enough drama to power a city, because junior high must be the most difficult time of one’s life.
(Another side note: junior high sucks so royally that I’ve written an entire novel about it. I finished editing chapter 33 of 40 last night and the fourth re-write to Scribophile is coming soon!)
I want to share my philosophy of food with any interested parties. I’d urge anyone considering a diet to find one that works and persevere in it. Today was satisfying as I bought new jeans, two sizes smaller than when I started my diet, and NO ELASTIC WAISTBAND. My old jeans are as unwearable as clown pants.
It’s more than downsizing one’s dress size. I feel much better. I feel lighter. I’ve got more energy and mental clarity. Who would have thought fruits and vegetables are ultimately more satisfying than junk foods! Not that chocolate is to be turned rudely away, of course.
For anyone interested in prepping, there’s plenty good YouTube videos about starting your “prepper pantry.” It’s beyond the scope of this post to cover that. But who hasn’t read dystopian novels where people fight over the dandelion greens sprouting from the sidewalk cracks or the squirrels/lapdogs cooking over a campfire. I suspect I’m not the only person for whom reduced calorie intake precipitates panic. If you can’t handle the stress of a diet, what will you do when SHTF? Not to honor Vladimir Lenin by quoting him, but just some “food for thought: I suspect he’s correct when he said, “society is three meals away from chaos.” Get to know your own limits by practicing temperance while the grocery stores are operational.
On a “lighter” note, if you’re lean, mean, and tough, you won’t be eaten by zombies in a SHTF scenario. You’ll be fit enough to outrun them. Should they catch you they won’t find you tasty. I don’t think they’d want to turn a scrap of beef jerky into another zombie, anyway.
Disclaimer: I’m a retired engineer. I’m not a health care professional, a dietician, nor a trainer. You’d best consult a professional before embarking on your journey towards good health. My blog is anecdotal, which means it’s my personal experience. It isn’t based on reliable scientific research. Bodies are unique. Let everyone find a plan that works for him/her. I share this because readers so others can learn from my blunders.