Sunday, February 12, 2012


Last week I asked three of my meat-eating friends if they could know anything at all about being vegan what would they like to know? I thought their response was very interesting because each of them asked me the same thing: “How in the world do you stay disciplined in your eating? Don’t you ever crave meat?”  Now you have to keep in mind that each of these people have some kind of health issues they are working on. For example, one is a diabetic, one deals with elevated cholesterol levels, and the other has some type of heart issue. Each of them wanted to know the source of my self-control and discipline. Seems like they struggle just staying away from foods that they know are bad for them. 
Now I am not trying to convert them to becoming a vegan, although I would love to see their health turn around by eating a low fat plant-based diet.  But, it was at this point that I realized how the lack of self-control or discipline becomes a sure fire equation for failure. In other words, one needs discipline to achieve anything.  You can have the proper motivation but without discipline and self-control you will not be successful. 
Discipline - A rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity
Self-control - Restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires
-Webster Dictionary-
Clearly, people struggle with cutting out foods they are familiar with and love. This is evidenced by the obesity problem in our country. Some people crave meat, sugary foods, or highly processed foods which are low in nutrition and high in fat. The list goes on endlessly. But what makes one person able to overcome these cravings and the other cannot? Well, as I said my post last week you must have a strong conviction or motivation to change. After that, you need discipline and self-control. 
One of the people I was talking with expressed how they try and try, but find themselves giving in to eating things they regret. When I asked them why they think they give in it was apparent to me that there was some kind of emotional reaction going on.  They probably weren’t even aware that it was happening. They simply couldn’t answer.  Maybe it was the first time they had ever asked themselves WHY they felt the needed to eat that food. 
For so many people food is an emotional reaction--not an intellectual decision. Eating is something they’ve done on a sub-conscience level their entire life. Very few people I know actively ask themselves why they are eating the foods they are eating. Very few people ask themselves if what they are eating is the best thing for their body. Conversely, the people I know who do ask themselves these kinds of questions are the most successful over their weight and health issues. 
This action can be termed “mental toughness” and most people don’t want to have anything to do with it. Staying in control of your eating takes mental toughness. If you give in to what’s easily accessible or give in to your emotional attachments you are not exercising discipline, self-control, or mental toughness. You are simply reacting. Overcoming cravings takes self-control and mental toughness. Most of the time it’s not an easy thing to make radical changes to ones diet. But when you do have the right motivation, discipline, and self-control you will be successful. That’s my formula for success. 

"Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It's a state of mind-you could call it character in action." — Vince Lombardi

  1. 1. First find your motivation. 

  1. 2. Ask yourself what you want to achieve - set a goal - be specific. Is your goal to lose weight? To me that is too broad and general, since weight control is literally a life-long process. Instead I have a specific number that I want to achieve in regards to my cholesterol level. This number assures me that I am doing everything in my power to reverse my previous heart disease. Every time someone offers me a food I ask myself, is this beneficial to me and will it raise my lipid levels?

  1. 3. Identify the obstacles that prevents you from achieving your goal. Make a list and know what will “trigger” your cravings. For example, when I first started I realized how I was addicted to chips & salsa. The first thing was for me to not eat at a Mexican restaurant until I felt confident I could go into one without being tempted to eat them.

  1. 4. Cut out the things you love the most. These are usually the items that have gotten you in the predicament you are in and require the most self-control. 

  1. 5. Identify the foods you need to eat and are beneficial to you. Decide to ask yourself each time you put something in your mouth whether you are eating because your body needs it or if you are eating out of an emotional response. Eat intelligently and only beneficial whole foods. 

  1. 6. Evaluate and re-evaluate! Keep on working and making adjustments until you overcome your cravings and achieve the goals you have set. Don’t do too much at one time. Start small and methodically and constantly move forward. 

  1. 7. Food, water, and exercise are your best friends and in that order. Many people focus on exercise as the most important thing they can do for their body--wrong!  Studies have consistently shown that FOOD is the number one thing a person should focus on because food heals & protects your body. Yes exercise is important and will enhance your healthful nutrition but it is not the most important part of the equation. Think of it in terms of 75% food + 25% exercise = 100% health and well being. 

“The solution to losing weight is a whole foods, plant-based diet, coupled with a reasonable amount of exercise. It is a long-term lifestyle change, rather than a quick-fix fad, and it can provide sustained weight loss while minimizing risk of chronic disease.”  T Colin Campbell, The China Study

After all is said and done, it comes back to the discipline it takes.

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