What to do when the cake stares you in the face

February 20, 2012

I probably ate the part you don’t see…

Last week I went to see a friend who’d recently lost some weight. The person I was with saw our friend’s smoking new body and said, “Wow! How’d you do it – it never works for me.” I pinched her and thought, “Oof. It’s not about you.” But then I thought “Why hasn’t it worked for you?”

I’m guilty of the same stinking thinking: No matter how hard I tried, for almost tenyears of my life, eating healthy just didn’t seem manageable for me. I’d drive myself demented trying to be consistent, but it still came and went just as a phase. I’d work out, but didn’t get the results I really wanted. ”What gives?!” I thought. ”I’m doing everything but nothing seems to be working.” And this thought process would have continued had it not been for, ironically, a piece of cake.

Last year I was at the office when someone brought in the ultimate chocolate cake - fudgy, gooey, firm. I was over the moon. I love sweets and this was the jackpot, but dessert was also my biggest nemesis. So as it often happened, when this cake from God’s Bakery arrived, I was in my “only eating healthy” phase.

What’s a gal to do?

A little indignant, I ate not only one but two pieces. I didn’t want to deny my body what it naturally craved, right Meanwhile, a colleague typed away but looked at me and smiled. I barely registered. Was she enjoying it too Did she have a slice?

Whatever, I didn’t care. I had cake.

I went home after work and caught up on my blogs, one written by the same friend I worked with. As I read the day’s post, the details of a particular scene she described sounded all too familiar – cake, colleagues, healthy eating efforts. My eyes scanned wildly and I saw that she had relayed my cake escapade to extrapolate a universal lesson on decision making from it! She used the blunder to show the consequences of poor decision-making; that if you caved when it really mattered, could you ever really expect to change She illustrated how a crazy person did the same thing over and over again but expected different results, and supported it with my cake eating! I was mortified. To see my actions in the light of day, not to mention on her blog, was embarrassing! Plus didn’t she realize that I also read her blog?

I kept reading. She said how important it was to redefine our behaviors during the moments that felt okay to cheat or give up on, but which really mattered if we wanted to see results; That despite our hard work, our efforts didn’t matter if in a moment where cake stared us in the face, cake won. She knew how badly I wanted to remain healthy, not just have a health “phase,” so she emphasized that results meant changing habitual patterns in the right moments, moments that really challenged us, like in the office that day. As I kept reading, I still felt disbelief, but started to see why she had written the post, the lesson that was behind it.

I realized that all the Tim Ferriss exercises in the world wouldn’t matter if every chance I got, I chose that piece of chocolate cake. Would anything pay off if the one thing I consistently did was let bad habits get in my way of progress Would I fall into the same trap that had me stuck for years? It was effective to see my behavior reflected through the lens of an honest friend. Right there and then my guilt turned into awareness and I saw her point. I saw how I deluded myself to think, “it never worked for me” when in fact, it did. It 100% worked. I just stopped myself from seeing it. My body responded wonderfully well when I ate healthy, danced, remained active, and controlled my stress. My challenge was to recognize that the pivotal moments, the space I thought didn’t matter, was where I actually got the results I wanted. It was that moment that changed everything.

I’ve stopped saying “It doesn’t work for me” now. Instead, if I want to indulge, I indulge. The big difference is that I know the pumpkin pie contributes to the bottom line just as much as the spinach does, and I don’t delude myself into thinking it doesn’t. That nuance makes all the difference. The universal lesson I take from this is that sometimes, you just can’t have your cake and eat it too.

xx Ishita

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ricardo February 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

to deal with that (, and by coincidence using a technique I learned from Tim Ferriss) I have a cheating day. In that day of the week I eat everything I want, and that helps me stay in the line the rest of the week.

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Ishita February 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Wow – that sounds like some tip! Thanks for sharing Ricardo.

-
Pooja

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Gina February 20, 2012 at 9:47 am

Hello Bullseye! Thank you for the reminder of “the space I thought didn’t matter, was where I actually go the results I wanted”!!! It’s also nice to be reminded we’re not alone — we all have those pivotal moments.

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Ishita February 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Indeed, you’re not alone Gina :)

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Pooja

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Shayla Wright February 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Dear writer of this blog:
Thank you! I am a coach and teacher who is working right now in the area of choice, commitment and clarity..helping people to make choices that come from our basic sanity.

This is a great piece of writing, full of clarity and humility..It landed in my inbox at exactly the right time..

If you give me your name I’d like to pass it along and credit you

Thank you
warmly
Shayla

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Ishita February 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm

We’re glad you liked it Shayla. At Fear.less, we consistently strive to bring out high quality content not found elsewhere.

Keep reading!

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Pooja

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Hungry February 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Ishita, check out the cool graphic that says “If You’re Tired of Starting Over, Stop Giving Up” at http://community.weightwatchers.com/Blogs/ViewPost.aspx?threadID=1580467 I just printed the graphic and propped it on my coffee table to remind me not to eat mindlessly in front of the TV. Thanks for your blogpost.

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Liz February 23, 2012 at 1:55 am

Such a valid point! I always use those ‘pivotal moments’ to talk myself into why I SHOULD be allowed cake. I’ve been good all week. I work hard. Don’t I deserve a treat? Just this once? The answer is sure – but it never is ‘just that once’ is it? No one like to feel like they’re denying themselves deliciousness but when you want the benefit of a healthy, toned, smoking body then the consequence is that sometimes, you’ll have to watch other people eat cake while you don’t.

It reminds me of something Tony Robbins says: “As long as you want the benefit without the consequences of your goal, you end up taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.”
I’ve now learnt that when I set a goal I stop and ask myself what the consequences are, so I’m fully prepared of what I’m giving up and when I need to say no in order to get to the next level.

Thanks for writing this – I’m going to remember this article next time someone brings baking to work!
Liz

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Ishita February 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Liz,

In other words, you’re conscious of the consequences. That’s fantastic! It even works as a positive (or negative) motivator when you remind yourself of your end-results (or consequences of giving up).

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Pooja

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