Quite often I lose focus on my eating and good health goals when I’m on the road. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of advanced visualization for me to carry through on a resolve not to mire myself in junk food the moment I leave the metropolitan area. Whether it’s the candy counter at a gas station or a pastry case at the airport, I have gone off the rails any number of times whilte travelling.
While my somewhat perfectionist approach to life can lead to slippery-slope thinking in various aspects of my life, the one area where I notice it most often is in my eating habits. Its that ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ idea, which sometimes has me throwing more calories down the hatch after making some initial ‘bad’ choices. For example “ I didn’t mean to have that cookie, darnit! Guess I’ll just eat the whole box now!”
A friend of mine who has done a lot of research on cognitive distortions (aka fuzzy thinking) has often helped me re-work the negative messages that I sometimes send myself which put me in a downward spiral. My favorite strategy is the ‘helpful and realistic response’ which is a method of identifying new ways of looking at a situation that can propel me in a more positive direction.
At the ski cabin last weekend, I found myself in just such a predicament. Despite a lot of good planning and despite having supplied myself with ample tasty, healthy food, I found myself straying down the wayward path almost the very moment that I had a little slip up (I had about 400 extra, unplanned, junky calories). I immediately started in on that “I’ve blown it” feeling, which made me feel depressed and annoyed and led me to reach for more junk food.
Thinking back to John’s helpful response approach, I stopped for a second and laid out the situation in my head. Earlier in the day I had felt proud of myself for having done so admirably the first leg of the journey. After my unplanned snack, I stopped feeling proud of myself and started feeling like a failure. The solution then, was to tap back into the sense of pride I had been experiencing, then visualizing how great it would be to get back to that feeling, and finally speaking rationally to myself about what was, after all, only a small stumble.
The cabin was filled with junk food (don’t travel with skiiers!) and thinking it over, it made sense that I was tempted to eat mindlessly. But I didn’t have to throw in the towel and just start tearing open candy wrappers, opening cracker boxes and downing pastries (all of which I’ve done on past trips!). It was hard, but injecting a helpful, realistic thought into my head (i.e. “I can have a great time this weekend without overeating, I believe in myself”) was the key.
We’re going skiing again this weekend, and the only slippery slopes I plan to traverse are the ones at the resort. And I’m not going to forget to pack some positive thinking along with my warmest clothes.