I’ve never been one to strive for fame and fortune, at least not in the traditional sense.
Here’s the thing. It’s hard enough to keep in shape without seeing your photo on the cover of The National Enquirer with a circle around your belly and a caption, “Baby bump or just gas?”
Don’t need it.
Your every move captured on film. Leaving the house to buy toilet paper makes headlines. Private conversations end up on satirized on Saturday Night Live.
I can’t imagine.
But by far the worst part would be the 24/7 vigilance of your body weight, especially if you’re someone whose weight fluctuates along with the phases of the moon.
If you’re famous and lose a lot of weight, you still can’t win because the public credits your private chef, personal trainer and other pricey accoutrements the average person can’t afford for helping you get there.
“Oh, sure, I could lose weight with that kind of help!”
There is definitely some truth to this, however.
A friend of mine knows a personal trainer who once worked with a famous recording artist known for her weight fluctuations, which, according to my friend, revolved around her addiction to fast food.
She would, allegedly, go to great lengths to sneak out at night to satisfy her cravings. These midnight soirees often led to one of the aforementioned celebrity rag covers.
Her trainer went on tour with this songstress and told my friend she and the body guards spent many sleepless nights keeping an eye out to ensure famous person didn’t sneak out for a burger with large fries at 3 a.m..
Doing so would’ve prevented her from squeezing into her tiny stage outfits. Their efforts were often less than effective.
This brings me to today’s topic.
Being surrounded by people who literally smack unhealthy food out of your hands, wake you up at 6 a.m. to do burpees, and hold a vigil outside your door to keep you from sneaking in contraband burgers in the middle of the night would likely enable nearly anyone to lose weight and shape up.
But, sadly (or not, since that would drive me a little crazy), that’s not real life.
Instead, even when you have a clear plan to follow, all bets are off when you’re thrown out into the wilderness to fend for yourself.
In a recent podcast, the host talked about how people studying for exams or preparing for other major challenges make the mistake of creating the perfect environment for practice.
Problem is, this won’t be the real-life situation when the actual challenge arises.
For example, he told how he prepared for his TED Talk. Instead of practicing in front of his friends and family, who would naturally be supportive, he practiced in front of complete strangers and asked for feedback.
He also practiced after getting only four hours sleep, knowing he’d likely not get more than that amount of sleep the night before his actual presentation. He also jacked himself up on caffeine to mimic the jitters he expected he’d feel on stage.
In other words: He recreated the actual situation as it was likely to happen — not in an ideal situation where the environment and surroundings were all conducive to his success.
Same applies to eating clean, working out, and living a lifestyle that enables you to reach your goals.
One of the most common lament I hear from women who struggle is: “I was doing fine until [vacation/the weekend/relatives visited/a business trip, etc.]. Then it all fell apart and I went back to bad habits.”
Newsflash: That’s what happens when you have a life.
Not only will you run into obstacles, but you can count on them.
If you plan an eating program or workout plan that only works in a vacuum, where all the stars line up perfectly — e.g. you have no junk food in the house, everyone around you supports your efforts, your significant other bought you a year’s worth of home delivered, portioned out food — you will be completely unprepared for what to do when it’s not, which is most of the time.
In fact, not only will many people (yup, family and spouses) not be supportive, but you can count on them to try and sabotage you.
Oh, no, not my honey bunches of oats! You may be thinking.
I’m not talking about out-and-out sabotage, like slipping melted butter into your smoothie or spiking your yogurt with heavy cream, but more subtle things said under the guise of “helping” you.
“You look great! One piece of triple decker chocolate mousse cake won’t kill you!” your significant other says, pushing a plate of cake towards you with the gusto of a heroin pusher.
And no, it won’t.
But unless you develop the self-discipline to turn down such offers most of the time, this can create a tripwire that sends you right back to square one.
Ditto for dining out.
You need to take control of what you eat no matter where you dine, whether your family drags you to a fast-food joint or you’re celebrating Aunt Bertha’s 90th birthday bash at an all-you-can-eat buffet of [insert favorite ethnic food here].
Not only will you encounter these challenges, but you should subject yourself to them on occasion even if they don’t come up organically, so you can be prepared in any situation.
Think of yourself as a Navy SEAL in training, only this may be a lot tougher, since instead of immersing yourself underwater with your arms and legs tied together, you’re under a pile of chocolate mousse and pushy people.
Here are a few tips for your most challenging situations
–Eat ahead of time and order a side salad or whatever’s not topped with melted cheese
— Order something and eat a couple of bites and engage yourself in the captivating conversation instead of the food
— Find new friends
Take a taste and give her a lot of “oohs” and “aahs.” Talk about how she’s “such an amazing cook,” and once she’s all puffed up with pride, go fill up on healthier fare.
When you travel to a country known for its devil-may-care use of cheese, breadcrumbs and olive oil, your best bet is to cut back on calories before you go.
Cut out all desserts, alcohol and other “extra” calories a week or two beforehand. You may even lose a pound or two, which gives you caloric flexibility by the time you take off.
Make the best choices you can but enjoy yourself! Get in as much activity as you can, walking, etc. And, unless it’s a month long trip, it won’t take you long to get back on track when you get home.
Just get back on track ASAP.
I once owned a bakery and worked as a restaurant pastry chef, so I know of what I speak (no, the irony doesn’t escape me).
I had age on my side at the time, which helped (I was in my 30s), but it would still have been easy for me to end up larger than a manatee if I didn’t set some ground rules for myself. You can do the same.
I allowed myself a treat at the end of the day, when I was about to walk out the door. This way I limited myself to a small portion. Or I’d chew gum while I worked. Not only did it keep my jaw busy, but few things taste good on top of spearmint Orbit.
Have a plan. A triathlete I know brings packets of oatmeal and protein powder with him so he can make instant oatmeal in the hotel coffee pot.
Bring protein bars and ready made drinks or buy them once you reach your destination so you don’t go too long without eating and reach for the quickest thing.
The bottom line: Be prepared. Have a plan. Focus on your goals and stop worrying about what anyone else thinks. It’s not your problem.
I’m not saying be rude or mean, but stay true to yourself. Be confident and make light of it, change the subject, whatever works for the situation.
Then move on.
NOW YOU… What’s your challenge when you’re not in your usual environment or situation?
Let me know in the comments section below… and how you handle it.
Other posts you may enjoy:
Got questions? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.