COMING CLEAN: The Pizza Incident

Pizza! Why do you tempt me so? Senior editor Courtney Lewis Opdahl faces the lure of the stuffed crust.

When I first started working out with trainer Shane, back in the fall of 2010, I was working on major adjustments to my diet. I had completed Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraSimple Detox Diet and discovered that I had intolerances to dairy and gluten, so I had been avoiding both — 99 percent of the time. As convincing as GI trouble can be for not eating certain foods, sometimes the mind feels too powerful. And that autumn, the pull to the pizza place was too strong.

Here’s how our training session started that fall day:

Shane: Here’s your routine. You’ll need the TRX, a 25-pound kettlebell, the rowing machine, and two 15-pound dumbbells for this circuit.

Me: Great! Let’s get started. How are you?

Shane: Good. You? How was the pizza last night?

Me: [flustered, mid row] Whaaat? What pizza?

Shane: The one you bought at Papa Murphy’s last night? I was in my car in the parking lot, about to run into the Radio Shack next door.

Me: [totally busted! lie!] Oh, the pizza. That wasn’t for me…

Shane: Sure. OK.

Me: All right! It was for me and Kyle. I only had a piece or two. Maybe four. OK, four pieces. And two for lunch today. So I ate half of an extra-large pizza.

Shane: Better row faster and harder then.

I rarely get embarrassed — heck, I’m sharing everything from weight gain and loss to excess clutter to fertility issues on this blog. But when it comes to my food, what I eat or don’t eat, I can take great offense. Whether good or bad, my food choices have come to define me: when I eat something unhealthy, I feel physically and emotionally awful. I know I’m not staying true to my intention to get well, and I’m slowing my progress to losing weight.

So while Shane has been working to help me get my physical self in shape, I’ve been working with life coach Lauren Zander of The Handel Group since August 2011 to get my mind in shape. The Handel Group’s model is one of truth, and as I’ve confessed in previous posts, I lie to myself a lot.

One such lie happened this weekend.

Over a glass of wine with my husband, we decided to order a pizza. After my hour-and-a-half Boot Camp Games workout that morning, I spent the afternoon running errands and eating very little, so my judgement was clouded by hunger. Pizza sounded easy, and perhaps I was a bit nostalgic for my pre-food-intolerances lifestyle. I told myself it would be fine to eat it this once, knowing full well that I was being a jerk to myself and would most definitely suffer the consequences of an upset stomach and damaged personal integrity.

This recent pizza incident had been building, however. Each night, I send my “Promises Journal” to Lauren, but hadn’t sent a report since Tuesday. What’s a Promises Journal, you ask? Well, it’s kind of like a food journal, only with the perimeters I set. At the beginning of the week, I decide what I will and won’t eat, when and what exercise I’ll complete, and how much TV time I’ll allow. (As you may recall from an earlier post, I watch a lot of TV, often at the expense of exercise, reading a good book, or other leisure and social activities.)

My Weekly Promises usually look like this:

  • Food: no gluten, no dairy, no sugar save for allowance. Allowances: 3 bites of dessert, 2 glasses wine, 1 vodka + club soda cocktail, 2 oz. dark chocolate.
  • Exercise: 3 Boot Camp classes on T/Th/Sat; 1 Pilates class on Wednesday; 1 walk/run with Chloe for 30-minutes or more on Sunday.
  • TV time: max is 10 hours for the week.

At night, I’ll send off a report to Lauren that looks something like this:

November 8
Food:
10: 1 hard boiled egg, 1 small apple, 1 cup coffee with 2 tsp. coconut milk, 2 cups water
12:30: Southwest Chicken lettuce wrap with no cheese from Life Café, 1 cup side romaine salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, 1 tsp. vinaigrette; Synergy grape chia kombucha
5:30: pre-workout snack of 2 hard-boiled eggs; 2 cups water
8:30: 1 small acorn squash roasted and served with 2 tsp. evoo and sea salt; 4 oz. grilled chicken breast with tomato slices, sea salt, pepper; 1 can La Croix grapefruit
10: 1 tsp. organic peanut butter, 2 cups water

Exercise:
45-minute Boot Camp class

TV time:
2 hours in evening

If I don’t keep a food promise, then I’ll have to skip dessert the following week. If I don’t keep an exercise promise, then I’ll add an extra workout. For TV, I’ll skip a day when I go over my limits. The goal in making these consequences is to find something I really don’t want to do. Love sleeping in on the weekends? Set the alarm and go for an early morning walk. Maybe movie night on Fridays is your treat? Forgo your plans in favor of a new activity. Hate sharing your slips in your diet? Confess on a blog/Facebook/to a coworker!

Some of Lauren’s clients have used financial consequences, say giving your brother $20, and others set a consequence that’s actually beneficial to them, even if they’d rather do something else, such as skipping movie night to visit with a relative. It’s not punishment, per se, but you may dislike it if you’d rather be at the theater or home watching movies as part of your usual routine. The bonus is that you get to deepen connections with family. You can save the new Bond movie as a reward when you’ve kept all your promises to yourself.

Now, the language tends to throw people when I say that I’ve “promised to not eat dessert this week,” but when I explain what I mean, heads start nodding. The theory makes sense: When I’m busy and trying to accomplish a lot, the first to-dos that I take off my list are anything that’s for myself. A workout, a healthy home-cooked meal, meditation, a walk in the park, a hot bath — they don’t seem like priorities in my busy day. Instead, I figure I need to clean my house before company arrives and ordering take-out so I can complete said cleaning while someone else is cooking gives me more time. A hot bath? Showers are faster. And meditation or a walk in the park? Maybe some other day.

But those “some other days” add up, and a week, a month goes by without any “me time.” Eventually I’m worn out and spiraling downward. I’ve kept promises to my family and friends, to my co-workers, but lost sight of what’s important to keeping me healthy and happy. Making and keeping those promises to myself first provides me with a structure to meet my goals. And sending them to Lauren keeps me accountable.

The pizza incident happened because I wasn’t keeping my promises top of mind, because I wasn’t staying true to my goals. I slacked off on sending my reports to Lauren, and used that as an excuse to stray from my planned meals. (The Handel Group would say that it was my “brat” voice taking over.) Right now, I’m still tempted by certain foods, so it’s helped me to keep a food journal and report to someone who will call me out and keep me aligned with my goals.

And, yes, food journaling can be tedious, but knowing that I have to write down that cookie or slice of pizza makes me think twice about my choice. In the end, it makes me a more conscious, mindful eater. So whatever I choose or don’t choose to eat, I’m present and thoughtful in my decision. And the next time pizza is an option, I’m willing to select differently.

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