4 Ways to Increase Control

May 9, 2018

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blog_staysteady2 (1)You bounce out of bed at 6am and head off to the gym for an hour-long sweat. After a good workout, you have a nutritious, veggie omelet with juicy ripe tomatoes you picked from your garden. The kids are already up and dressed, eager to get to school. You hit all of the green lights on the way to work, where you breeze through morning meetings and then have a fresh tossed salad with just the perfect amount of flavor. After a fun, productive afternoon you head home where a delicious, healthy dinner is already served on the kitchen table. Feeling satisfied, you play some board games with the family and head off to a peaceful slumber before doing it all again the next day.

Does this sound familiar? Sure, maybe in a dream. But then there’s reality…

Everyone wishes they could feel that level of control each day to achieve and sustain a healthy weight and vitality, but the truth is having total control over everything is an illusion. However, achieving a certain level of control is not impossible with the right mindset.

If you learn how to anticipate, prepare, and react to uncontrollable life situations, you should be able to improve your overall weight management and achieve a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Here are some common “control thieves” and how you can fight back to stay on course.

Control Thief #1: You get taken out of your routine.

Having a structured routine is one of the best ways to achieve a sense of control, but it’s not uncommon in today’s fast-paced world for routine to be tossed out the window. For instance, cooking at home is one of the best routines for healthy weight management, but what happens if you have to travel for work to a new destination? Or better yet, you’re traveling to that destination and late for your meeting? What do you choose to eat? That fast food court is looking pretty good about now, right? Likewise, you might be accustomed to spending your Tuesday afternoons in spin class, but have to miss it this week. It’s not the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it. Missing out on this opportunity to get a sweat going can feel like you are reversing every healthy choice you’ve ever made. By being taken out of your routine, you feel you have lost control of your weight loss goals.

How to get it back: Plan ahead. Life won’t always go as planned, and you will sometimes be knocked from your routine, but if you can take preemptive steps, you can prevent yourself from feeling out of control. For example, if you know your flight could be delayed or that you will be waiting around in an airport for an extended period of time, do an internet search on the food options close to the gate to scope out healthy choices. If you know you’ll be working late on Tuesday and won’t be able to make your spin class, try to find another class that fits your schedule. You won’t always be surrounded by farmers markets and have free time for exercise, but this doesn’t mean your only choice is unhealthy food and inactivity. Adapting in advance is better than retroactively dealing with the negative effects of a broken routine.

Control Thief #2: You suffer a personal loss.

Whether we like it or not, loss is just a part of life, and can certainly make the ground beneath our feet feel unstable. It often leads to depression, which causes us to lose motivation to do anything, let alone make healthy choices. In times of loss and struggle, we seek comfort. Some may turn to substances, like alcohol or drugs, to numb or avoid the pain. Others may choose “comfort food,” which is often high in fat, sugar, sodium. Your loss of control in a certain part of your life can definitely make you lose control in others. Filling your body with these foods might feel good momentarily, but it doesn’t address the problem and can lead to extended unhappiness later. Your nutrition isn’t always your number one priority, and it shouldn’t be. However, it shouldn’t be completely cast aside because you are facing hardships in other aspects of your life. Personal loss is difficult, but reaching for unhealthy comfort food every time you get sad doesn’t solve the problem and can increase the negative feelings you have.

How to get it back: Think about why you are reacting in this way. While food can give you comfort in the moment, it often doesn’t solve the larger problem at hand. If you recognize every time you face hardship, you run to the kitchen, you should try to understand why. Is it because eating distracts you from the emotions you are feeling? Is this the best approach in the long-run? What will the negative outcomes be once the sadness subsides? Digging deeper into the reasons behind your actions will help you shape your behavior in a way that is effective in the both the short and long term. You can shift your reaction from seeking out comfort food to finding comfort in others by building a solid social support system. Surrounding yourself with people who can watch over your wellbeing will allow you avoid coping with food.

Control Thief #3: You lose your confidence.

One moment you feel unstoppable, the next you feel stuck in the mud. Maybe you compared yourself to a friend who never gains a pound, even after eating a double cheeseburger. Or maybe someone criticized your work performance. Anything can trigger a crisis of confidence without warning. The natural reaction is internal disappointment or to give up on your goals altogether. Giving up means losing that drive to go for your evening power walk or make a salad. Without confidence, controlling your weight and health feels further out of reach.

How to get it back: Understand that losing weight is a personal journey. This doesn’t just include the food you eat, but also the mindset with which you approach life. Comparing your journey to others doesn’t benefit you, because their results aren’t your results. Furthermore, failing to find accomplishments in one aspect of life doesn’t mean you can’t have accomplishments in others. You may be great at flamenco while your cheeseburger eating friend has two left feet. Discover your natural talents and build on those to feel that confidence rise inside you. No matter what your goals in life, including weight loss, it must start with belief in yourself. You already have what it takes to do the work and see results. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Most of all, don’t let your own negative self-talk erode your confidence.

Control Thief #4: You rediscover your taste for junk food.

One of the biggest reasons people lose control of their eating habits is the domino effect. For instance, you may have lost some weight and feel good about it, so you allow yourself to indulge just once. But that “just once” turns into twice. And before you know it, you feel like your taste buds have taken the wheel. You consciously realize that you have the power to decide what goes into your body, but because of the addictive nature of junk and processed foods, it may be easier said than done.

How to get it back: While you can’t go cold turkey on food altogether, it’s best to avoid the foods that cause you to feel out of control. If it’s the Dunkin’ Donuts that tempts you on the way to work, take another route. If it’s the cupcakes at the French bakery next to the gas station, find another place to fuel up. If you can’t remove the temptation from your environment, one of the best ways to satisfy your appetite and wean yourself off the addictive foods is with protein meal replacements. Using them in a structured plan can restore your feelings of control, and they can certainly help you in a pinch if you need them as an alternative to a tempting food.  One “cheat meal” or one outing won’t completely ruin all the good choices you can make, but to get that control back, it’s important to take steps to wean yourself off of empty calories designed to hook you into bad habits.

If there is one thing to remember, none of us can control what happens in life. But we are all in control of the choices we make. It’s worth it to take some time to figure out what triggers your feelings of loss of control when it comes to your weight, and work on better ways to manage your reactions to them.

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