Bovine or Bust: Cows and Your Diet

"One decision [does] not stand on its own. Each one is laying neural groundwork that will bias future decisions and eventually you [become] the summary of your habits." - Craig Weller, Barefoot Fitness

We've all said it..."This has been a super hard week, I deserve this beer/cupcake/pizza/Starbucks."  I know I said it nearly every day of teaching...or, well, to be honest, probably adult life.  It was just more true the days I was teaching.  The days I didn't "deserve it" because of how rough life's been, I deserved it because it was  special occasion.  You know: my birthday, Christmas, the day before Friday, Friday, the day after Friday.  Sadly, this one justification, "I deserve ______", has been the downfall of nearly all of my health-related goals.  The knee injury to my box jumps.  The dial up to my Internet.  The empty bank account to my to-do list of international destinations.  You get the idea.  But here's the truth: you deserve to feel great, to look awesome, to be insanely healthy, and to function the best you can for as long as possible.

Brain cow - so cute...but dangerous!
I've read some wisdom-ous words (yes, I make up words when I can't find the perfect one) recently.  Craig Weller, a guy I used to train with and learn from writes a brilliant blog about life, fitness, nutrition, and other topics.  He describes a concept called self-herding in one of his blogs (originally written about by Dan Ariely...author of fascinating books about human behavior and decision making).  Self-herding is basically the tendency humans have to make the same choice they have in the past when facing a similar situation, even when the past choice was made emotionally, irrationally, or under diress.  Basically, your choice is the lead cow part of your brain and the subsequent choices are the herd cows that brainlessly and forcefully mosey on in the same direction unless you really fight them.  Mooooo.

Case in point:  On a Monday, I drag my weary bum up the stairs to my apartment and think to myself, "It's been such a long day, I'm so tired, I'm gonna skip my workout, order pizza and drink a beer or three to relax.  I deserve it."  Come Wednesday, on my way home and feeling super tired again, my human nature has already laid the microscopic brain groundwork for me to follow that very same path again: junk food and alcohol (likely followed by a gallon of coffee the next morning after I stay up too late watching The Real World...yes, I know I'm 31 and no, I do not know how to dougie). 

I bedazzled this shirt myself.  Don't be jealous.
The answer?  Simple.  Quit tomorrow.  Especially in the adaptation period during a dietary change, for me around 3 weeks, it's inevitable to encounter some wicked cravings...especially in situations where you have turned to no-no foods in the past.  Don't give in!  Find a substitute, divert your attention, treat yourself in a different way like massage or hot tub soak...but make it through that intense period of time without caving.  Tell yourself, you can cheat tomorrow.  If you're anything like me, you'll wake up the next day feeling awesome and proud of yourself and won't even want what you were dying for yesterday.

Eventually, the self-herding concept plays in your favor.  For me, almost to the minute of the three week mark of my challenge, my life became so much easier.  Caffeine headaches disappeared, sugar cravings became nearly nonexistant, workouts started to get faster and heavier, and my energy and moods were at a much elevated baseline.  If you stick it out for that first period, self-herding transforms your life into pie (as in "easy as..."), making your daily healthy decisions more habit than struggle.  Make those brain cows do the grunt work for you!  Because what you deserve is not a cupcake and a hangover, but rather a long, healthy, energetic, tight-butt, disease-free life.

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