Those who know me know I love analogies. Analogies, in my opinion, are the quickest and most effective way to bring out an important lesson in simple terms. While I use analogies in my personal life such as with my friends and kids, I use them most when speaking with my clients. Here are some of my favorite ones in relation to dieting, health, and fitness.
GAS TANKS, CARS, AND YOUR BODY…
- Why do some people get more food on their food plans than others?
Your body is like a gas tank. The bigger it is, the more “fuel” it needs to run. Big SUV trucks need more fuel than a small sedan.
- Why do I need to eat if I’m not feeling hungry?
Your car always needs gas at a certain point, whether it alerts you about it or not.
Some cars are more advanced and will light up an alert to let you know but some won’t. Either way, your car NEEDS the gas. So too, your body needs fuel every few hours to continue to “drive”.
- Does metabolism really slow down with age?
Well, do cars tend to break more and need more maintenance as they’re older?… you get the drift. BUT… Even shiny beautiful new cars need maintaining which is why EVEN when one reaches their goal weight, it is still important to check in!
You may be tempted to try a new fad diet to lose the weight quickly, but think of it this way… Ever drive and have someone cut you off in a dangerous way, risking everyone’s safety AND a ticket, all to end up at the same red light? So what was the point? This guy did something dangerous and illegal just to get ahead for a minute or two to end up at the same red light as you. Or say he did get ahead and get to his destination a few minutes sooner, was it worth it?
Crash diets are just that. Dangerous, sometimes even illegal, and leave you at no better place than everyone else. Slow weight loss that comes from regular healthy eating and “obeying the traffic rules” ensures that you WILL get where you are going, even if it’s slower. Another analogy for this is the band-aid on your boo boo. Band-aids are temporary and are NOT a real solution or a fix.
Why is breakfast so important?
Well, think of your car in the winter. Can you just get into it, turn it on, and drive? Of course not! You need to warm up the engine. Breakfast for our bodies is just that.
- Speaking of engines… Why are healthy fats important for us? Well, think of a rusty machine that needs to be well oiled to run smoothly. That is the function of healthy fats in our bodies.
- Ever miss an exit on the highway? Don’t we all? Do you keep going for hours and hours or do you reroute ASAP? Of course the latter option! So how come when we cheat on a piece of cake for example, we feel it is ok to keep cheating versus just “rerouting” ASAP?
MORE ANALOGIES ABOUT CHEATING
AND GETTING BACK ON:
- You get home from the grocery, open up the egg carton and see that one egg is broken, do you throw out the whole carton? Of course not!
- You trip and fall down a step or two, do you keep tumbling down the rest of the stairs? Of course not!
- You drop your phone and the screen cracks a bit, do you smash it down and break the rest of the screen? No!
DIETING AND RELIGION
The first day of the diet can be compared to the day after Yom Kippur. Everyone thinks they’re never speaking loshon hora again and calling their grandmother every day. Everyone sits in my office during the first visit claiming they don’t need cake ever again, there is no need to incorporate pizza or sushi, etc. However, when reality sets in, they realize a more realistic approach would have been smarter. “New Year’s resolutions” don’t last. Practical lifestyle changes do.
Food logs can be compared to cheshbon hanefesh in a way. Spending a few minutes at the end of each day accounting for what was and wasn’t good eating-wise helps to keep things in perspective. Having a weekly weigh-in with an objective mentor is comparable to sitting down with your mentor or Rav and assessing your week or month or year.
Just like with religion there are different “madregos”, so too with dieting/healthy eating. You can’t tell a 40-year-old obese man who has never dieted, to cut out diet soda and completely avoid chulent. Even if he agrees, he is bound to fail. This is like telling a woman who doesn’t yet keep Shabbos to stop wearing red polish. Once you accomplish the basics, you can take on “chumras” like cutting out artificial sweeteners and not eating after 7, for example.
When you ask your Rav a Sheila, ideally you trust him and go with his answer. You don’t shop around for a better answer or the one you wanted to hear. Apply the same towards working with your nutritionist. Trust her and listen to her versus bringing in “diet baggage” from other plans or asking others, or even google for a “better” answer.
Speaking of trusting your nutritionist, you also have to tell her the truth. There is probably nothing we haven’t heard and no cheat we haven’t seen. This is no different than going to a dentist and lying about how often you brush your teeth, or not telling your child’s teacher that she really didn’t study and therefore did not do well on her test. Just like the dentist wants to help with your teeth and the teacher wants to help with the grades, we want to help with your food and your results, but we’re going to need 100 percent honesty!
BUDGETING, $, AND DIETS
Perhaps the easiest way to understand dieting is to think of money.
If you’ve ever bought a house (especially in Brooklyn), you know that saving up for the down payment takes a long time and a lot of sacrifices. Yes, there are those lucky ones that have it easy (analogy wise these are the ones with an amazing metabolism), but most people need to save save save. When we were going through this process I sacrificed many things. I had less cleaning help, manicures less often, and even made my own coffee instead of getting my daily $5 Starbucks! However, what kept me going were 2 things:
- I knew that this was only temporary. Yes, we would have a mortgage soon but that’s a lot easier than a huge chunk of money for a down payment.
- There was a prize (AKA house) at the end of all this. I wasn’t doing this for no reason, I was doing it for a real and tangible purpose.
I try to explain this to dieters. Will you have to sacrifice? Yes. Will you have to modify the way you’re currently doing things? Yes. However, remember that this is temporary and once you’re on maintenance versus weight loss you won’t have to work as hard, be as deprived, and sacrifice as much.
Have you ever shopped in a dollar store? How come you end up spending more than you thought you would? Because “small purchases” AKA small cheats, can feel very innocent but are deceiving. When someone gains weight and says “I didn’t even have cake or fries” that doesn’t mean they won’t gain. If we take all their little “purchases” and add them up, they see just why they gained.
Another analogy for this is even if you don’t spend any money all week but then splurge on the weekend, your account may be in the negative after that. You may be shocked at first and wonder how it is that you spent too much when you didn’t even spend any “money” all week but Shabbos calories DO count and this is where you “splurged” so to speak.
Just like with money, you CAN budget and compensate when needed. Say you DID “spend” too much, you can make sure to decrease your “expenses” (calories) for the next few days or weeks. You can also plan ahead. If you know that a big “purchase” is coming (think Pesach or a fancy dinner), you can be extra cautious with your “money” ahead of time to allow for this extra “expense”.
As with any splurge, a planned and calculated one is always better than a spontaneous one. If you ARE going to cheat on your diet, plan and “budget” for it.
Paychecks are important. They show the employee that their work is recognized and rewarded. What happens though when your boss decides to pay you in advance for the next 2 weeks? Do you get upset when you don’t get your check the next week? After all, your boss DID pay you double last week. It often happens that one week a dieter can lose double the normal rate of weight but then they get upset when the following week there is no loss. I call it “getting paid in advance”. On the flip side, say money is tight for your boss or he was away and couldn’t pay you one week. Not only will he pay you as soon as he can, but he may also even pay you a little more to compensate for this. If you have a week where the scale did not move, rest assured that it WILL soon and may even “pay you a little extra”.
DOES IT GET EASIER?
Ask a gym pro about the first time he exercised and he’ll tell you how he went from lifting 5 pound weights to 10 and then 15 and slowly built it up to the high number he easily lifts now. So too with dieting. The more you resist and the more you persevere, you are “flexing” your “resistance” muscle.
WHAT REALLY STOPS YOU???
I often tell people to think of their diet the way they think of their religion or medicine or allergies. If you’re fleishigs and something is milchigs, or if something isn’t kosher, it’s just NOT an option. If you’re allergic to something you wouldn’t eat it AND waiters, friends, and family would be a lot more respectful of your wishes not to be served or cajoled into having that food.
What if you took a bite of something and realized it was a fast day? You would stop. That’s what the mentality with dieting should be as well.
When people tell me they hate drinking water, I tell them to treat it like medicine. Whether you want it, are in the mood for it, or even if it’s annoying and inconvenient, you just have to drink it.
WHY SHOULD YOU NOT GO ON THE SCALE EVERY SINGLE DAY?
There is NOTHING in our life that we assess as often as we do our weight. Do you think about or quantify your parenting skills, marriage, work performance, religious observance, etc. more than once a …. fill in the blank. Maybe a few times a year? People check their scale more than they check their bank accounts! What is the point? So many factors can affect one’s weight. Time of month, sodium, stress, sleep, are all factors, just to name a few. Not only is it not accurate to assess your weight so often, but it can also be discouraging.
WHAT TYPE OF CHEAT WAS IT?
I always get more surprised when someone went through many steps to get to their cheat versus a spontaneous cheat. If you got a sugar craving, got into your car, drove to the bakery, parked the car, fed the meter, walked into the bakery, picked up a danish, walked over to the register, took out your wallet, paid… you get the drift. I compare this to premeditated murder. You had a lot of opportunities to change your mind but went ahead with it anyway. I am less surprised by someone saying there was cake on their counter, it looked good, and they ate it. It doesn’t make it ok but it’s spontaneous as opposed to planned out or “premeditated”.
FOOD AND ADDICTION
It’s no longer a question as to IS food an addiction. Everyone acknowledges it as such. The problem is that food is the hardest addiction in a way. While a recovering alcoholic can stay away from alcohol and a recovering gambler can stay away from casinos, a recovering food addict will always have food around. We need food to live. Everywhere we go, there is food. Food equals social interaction. Food equals family time. However, if we acknowledge it as the addiction that it is, certain actions can be taken without feeling guilty.
- We can throw out tempting items without feeling we are wasting them since it is for the sake of addiction recovery.
- We can ask friends and family to avoid bringing in tempting goodies around us.
- We do not need to feel guilty baking less or filling the cabinets with less junk.
“BUT IT’S NOT FAIR”
How come some people get to eat whatever they want and as much as they want and not gain any weight? In school, there were always those students that could study quickly for a test and still get a 90 or 100 while others studied for days and even had a tutor and at best got an 80. I often use this analogy when 2 sisters come together for their weigh-ins. You would think they have the same genetic makeup, are eating the same food in the same school and same household… So why is one cheating and losing 3 pounds a week while the other, without cheating is losing just half a pound a week? The answer is, life isn’t fair and some are blessed with excellent scholastics while others with great metabolisms. Speaking of fair, the sister who loses slowly is usually the one getting the 100’s in school, so at least there is SOME fairness there.
Speaking of fairness, ever watch a toddler tantrum when they can’t have what they want? They kick and scream and cry. If you tell the toddler an absolute NO to the object of his desire, he will not calm down. However, if you distract him or promise that he’ll have it soon, he is more likely to calm down. We are no different. When we want certain foods, we’re just a “tantruming” toddler. If we think or are told that we can NEVER have a certain food, we will only “tantrum” worse. So what’s the alternative? Distraction or delay. Distraction means doing something ELSE aside from eating that food. Delay means pushing it off to either later that night or when you reach a small goal. After all, “later”, sounds so much better than “never”.
“I FEEL SO BAD FOR YOU”
When people see your new lifestyle, you may hear this a lot. Whether it’s at a wedding where you’re the only one not eating dessert or a friend upset you’re willing to give up lunch out to go to the gym. Think of yourself as a student in medical school. While all his friends are partying, he is sitting alone and studying hard. He may feel isolated, he may even be ridiculed but when all is said and done, he will go on to be a doctor while his friends’ outings remain a distant memory.
All the dessert can’t compare to the amazing feeling of staying on track and reaching your goal. Remember that no one (including yourself) needs to feel bad for you. This is a choice you made. You were not coerced into this, and the results will be well worth it.