You know how sometimes people write crazy titles just to get your attention, and then it turns out the content is either completely unrelated or is only marginally related to the point that you lose all faith in that person? I’m excited to say that this is not one of those cases.
This is a two month follow up from the start of My Daily Pizza project. Admittedly calling it my daily pizza is a bit of an exaggeration. I have actually only been eating pizza three or four times each week. And for full disclosure: there was one week where I had no pizza. I know, shame on me. But it was only one week! I shared some of the details about how I managed to eat pizza that often without increasing my waistline in the above linked post as well as some observations about how it was going two weeks in.
So that’s the pizza part. I also mention beer in the title. Say it with me in your best Homer voice…mmm…beer…Indeed, beer consumption has occurred over the past two months. Real beer; not that low carb or light beer crap. Craft beers mostly. In particular I’m on an IPA kick, so lots of Flying Monkey, Muskoka Detour, and a few varieties of Beau’s.
And not just once a week either. I’m consistently drinking beer or wine three or four times per week. That probably sounds like a lot, and no doubt some of you are getting your judgement faces on. That’s okay, I can take it. But before you finish putting your robes on, let me explain how I came to my four days of alcohol plan, along with the few other habit changes I’ve made, and then you can decide whether this makes sense.
Strangely, the idea for adopting a beer and pizza diet came from following my 8 week Get Lean challenge. Or more specifically, from contemplating how to adopt the get lean challenge principles into my regular life beyond the 8 weeks of the challenge. The 8 week get lean challenge is cool because it gets you thinking and trying a variety of habitual changes in the hopes that some either stick, or they help you to figure out what would stick. The reality is that we have different goals, desires, expectations, and bodies. We also have big differences in how easy or hard certain changes are for us. It only makes sense that the optimal lifestyle plan for each of us is unique. How you can adapt healthier habits in a way that works for you long term is something we address in the challenge.
In my case, I knew that alcohol consumption was something I wanted to reduce as I had reached a point of having a glass of wine or two every day or almost every day. I also realized that I didn’t always stop eating when I’m full, and I sometimes snack for reasons like “I’m bored”. Lastly, I know that I didn’t get enough sleep and that getting at least 7 hours each night was very hard for me. I realized that my success in living well but also living healthily required finding a way to manage those elements. And so for me, the follow-on to the Get Lean challenge was figuring out how to address these. After following the Get Lean challenge for 8 weeks, I came up with the following plan for myself for the long-term:
- Sleep 6.75 hours per night
- Alcohol at most 4 times per week
- When reaching for food ask myself “Am I actually hungry?”, and if not, walk away
- When going to get seconds or something to finish off a meal, wait 15 minutes. If at that point, I still am hungry, then I have it.
I initially created a tracking sheet that I put on my fridge so that I could give myself credit when I met my goals, and also created a plan that helped guide me as to when or whether I should replace or adjust one of my selected actions. My goal was 85% compliance. Using this goal setting and tracking sheet was tremendously helpful to me as it formed a voice in the back of my head reminding me when I was about to break one of these rules. But equally important was arriving at the right set of actions for me. If the actions are too hard, I would fail, and if they were too easy, I wouldn’t change. It was a process.
I spent the first four weeks trying to implement actions that weren’t quite right for me, and so I didn’t succeed enough, but then I made some refinements to arrive at the plan above, and in the month since then have met or exceeded my goals consistently.
The result is that I lost five pounds since starting this process. This is weight that I put on somewhere between one and two years ago, and had not been successful at dropping it again, until undertaking this process. Granted I didn’t try very hard either. I wasn’t motivated to make drastic changes to my eating and exercise habits because, well, I just didn’t want to. I enjoy food and beverages, and I don’t want to exercise more than I already do. Life enjoyment is more important to me right now than losing five or ten pounds.
Interestingly, it was my desire to eat more pizza that led to my new plan that allowed me to lose weight. Bet not many people have claimed that before! As a means to bring more pizza into my life, I figured out how to balance the rest of my lifestyle habits to make room for pizza. As it turns out, I also figured out how to keep the calories down in the pizza itself (without sacrificing deliciousness). And the result was losing five pounds. Cool!
You’ll notice that there is no mention of limiting chocolate, ice cream, chips, or dessert. That’s because I love pizza and beer much more. When I have beer and pizza in my life, I rarely reach for other indulgences. Since it’s so rare, I chose to not put any limits on it. And that worked – I still rarely eat those things, and when I do, it’s okay. What’s particularly cool is not just that the foundation of my diet is beer and pizza, but that I’ve found a balance of lifestyle habits that has long term potential and allows me to be happy and healthy.
The aforementioned four habits seem to be the changes I needed to make to my lifestyle to reach the balance of happy and healthy, but my guess is yours will be different. Hopefully this process has triggered some of you to think differently about what habit changes make sense for you that can improve your health over the long-term. So many people jump straight into “I want to lose weight so I’m going to cut out all junk food, sugar, bread, alcohol and never eat out”. Without a doubt if you do that, you will lose weight. Unfortunately most people who try that fall of the bandwagon fairly quickly, at which point they regain the weight. Sometimes when the weight comes back it brings friends.
Next time you start thinking about cutting out everything “naughty” from your diet, consider instead picking a few small changes to make. It’s true that the initial results from small changes will be smaller, but over time, small changes grow up to become big changes.
Want a little kick-start to help you make changes? We run our Get Lean 8 Week Challenge a few times each year. Head to the registration form here to see when the next one is, and to register.
Elsbeth Vaino is an engineer turned personal trainer who enjoys health, food, and exercise
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