Welcome back Ninjas! In Episode I, we identified and observed the enemy, in Episode II, we formulated a Plan of Attack to stop the enemy in his tracks. But what if the enemy surprises you from behind? Or any other angle for that matter. In Episode III, we will discuss your best course of action when the enemy strikes unexpectedly.
Now, I love surprises sometimes. But honestly, I have come to hate ones that bring up my dietary foes. In our plan of attack development, I recommended planning a treat for yourself. Sometimes the surprise attack is in the form of an unplanned treat. Sometimes the attack is a bad feeling brought on by a bad day.
Although some of the forces at work in all of these sorts of situations are beyond your control, you always have control over how you choose to react. In this Episode, your challenge will be to apply what you’ve learned and make the most of your situation as you encounter the unexpected. This will likely be a bit messy, so exercise some patience with yourself.
Think like MacGyver
If my childhood taught me anything, it was that MacGyver was literally “The Man”. No matter how dire his fate seemed, he could make it out of any situation, like a one-man “A-Team”. He was a master of his environment, even though his environment varied significantly week to week. No matter what your surprise attacker looks like, seek to be an opportunist like MacGyver.
Here is my recommended process for “MacGyvering” aka making the most of your situation:
- Pause for a moment. This gives you the opportunity to not immediately choose the first option that comes to mind. The first option that occurs to you as you find yourself thrust into the heat of battle may not be your best one.
- Assess the situation: What are your options? What resources do you have nearby? Perhaps you don’t have duct tape on hand, but it’s likely that may have more options than you think.
- Weigh your options, and make the best choice available to you.
- Reflect on the situation later that day. Ask yourself: “Is there anything I can add to my plan of attack strategy that may make me feel more prepared to deal with a spontaneous attack of this nature in the future?”
This process is pretty simplistic, but effective. Let’s see how it could play in some examples of Surprise Attacks:
Unexpected time crunch
Oh snap, I overslept, had no time to sit down and eat breakfast and now I’m at work and super hungry! Normally I have snacks in my desk, but I gave Eleanor my last few almonds yesterday.
- Grab a donut at the coffee shop across the street with Darla (I’ve been meaning to catch up with her anyway)
- Grab a yogurt and banana from the cafeteria (even though I hate yogurt)
- Go down the street to the grocery store on my break and get a yogurt I like and a snack for later
My Best Choice:
I would definitely choose #3, and go to the grocery store. That way I will feel proud that my tardiness didn’t lead to a donut, but also enjoy what I’m eating.
I can make sure my snack drawer is always stocked. I will make sure to grab some healthy options at the store today to replenish my stock.
My boss is taking our team out to lunch to celebrate. I didn’t choose the restaurant and its likely going to be the Italian place with the really good alfredo.
- Don’t go with my team, even though I really want to.
- Go with my team, and get the alfredo. It’s the only thing on the menu I like. If I eat a huge lunch, maybe I won’t be hungry for dinner.
- Get something lighter on the menu. I could order one of the salads with the dressing on the side.
- Go with my team, get the alfredo, eat ½ and save half to have for dinner with roasted veggies at home tonight.
My Best Choice:
This one is not so cut and dry. How much do you like this alfredo? Do you like it enough to rework your plan of attack and make it your treat for the week? If so, I would choose option #4. #3 allows you to have alfredo, but requires you to possibly skip dinner. Moderation and portion control are your friends in a situation like this. Don’t ever plan to fully skip meals.
Have you already had a lot of trouble sticking to your plan of attack this week? Go with option #3. Even if you don’t love this option, give yourself credit for sticking to your plan today, and remind yourself that you do have a treat planned for yourself later in the week.
While I can’t predict when there will be a surprise food situation at work, I can decide how important each of them is to me. “I can choose to indulge, and I can choose to say “No, thank you”. I can let each instance be its own animal, weigh my options, and make a good choice.
My sister and I got in a big fight today, and I don’t have the energy to even think about making good food choices right now.
My Options (Assuming cheese is one of my weaknesses):
- Eat an entire box of Mac N Cheese by myself (Yes, technically this means cooking but I could make this in my sleep)
- Go to bed hungry and cry myself to sleep
- Call a friend and talk to them while I prep a simple dinner of microwave veggies and a grilled cheese with good cheddar and fiberlicious bread
My Best Choice:
Yup, I chose #3. I made this one obvious for a reason. It’s often easy to give an emotional state of unrest (anger, sadness, guilt) great influence over our decision making, despite logic to the contrary. Yes, it took me longer to make the box of Mac N Cheese, but do I care? I might if I call a friend to remind me that I’m not alone, and that I’m loved.
Emotional upsets can be the most unpredictable of all attacks. I like to think that I am generally a pretty even tempered and pleasant person. However, I have experienced sudden tragedies and arguments that have sent me into that sudden tailspin of unrest. Overeating when I was sad was a huge struggle for me, until I began acknowledging the other choices in front of me. It didn’t happen overnight, but the more often I chose an option that wasn’t overeating, the more I realized it really was a choice, and the more power I had in taking control of that and other areas of my life.
Temptation to Indulge
I’m traveling, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had “Restaurant X”.
- Go to the restaurant, order all of my favorites, leave really stuffed. I mean, who knows if I will ever get to come back here again??
- Go to Subway and get a chicken teriyaki sub because I know that is supposed to be healthyish. Make myself do burpees for thinking about overindulging.
- Order my favorite entrée and either my favorite appetizer or my favorite dessert, and nothing else. Eat slowly and savor every bit. Maybe save the dessert to bring home and share with my spouse/partner/friend. Hey, this place is good! They should experience it too.
My Best Choice:
Again, this is sort of like the Alfredo question. How often do you actually get the opportunity to go to this restaurant? Have you been able to stick to your plan of attack this week? Answering these questions will help you make the best choice for this trip.
Regardless of how much you love any food, I guarantee that this won’t be your last amazing meal in your life. If you have the opportunity to share this sort of experience with someone, do it. Make it a good memory that just happened to have food in it. I recommend making it about the moment you’re in and the people you’re with as much as possible. Those are the food memories that stick out 10 years later. To me, those are the treat meals worth having.
My Roadmap: The Food Journal
So at a couple points in our sample attacks I told you to think about how your eating has gone so far this week, and evaluate how closely you’ve adhered to your plan of attack. Well, here’s the thing. Our brains are pretty inventive. If you always feel like you’re never good enough, you likely won’t recall that you’ve done a great job adhering to your plan, even if you have. Conversely, if you feel you are God’s gift to all of humanity and can do no wrong, you will probably think you’ve done a fabulous job, even when you haven’t. So this is where I challenge you to keep a detailed food journal for the next week and see how it matches up to your perception of yourself.
I started keeping a food journal a few years ago. It was initially extremely detailed. It showed me what I was eating, what I wasn’t eating, and I used it as a tool to adjust my diet. At the time I started it, I had begun to measure oil and sugar, but wasn’t measuring a lot of other things. It helped me get in touch with what 100 calories of food looked like comparatively, and that was a powerful thing. I have continued to use a food journal, because it’s a great roadmap of my wellness journey. It tells me where I’ve been and where I plan to go, and I can adjust my path as needed, and feel satisfied in those choices. Give it a shot this week and let me know what you think.
Nutrition Ninja Graduation aka Pizza Party!
No matter how planned I try to be, there will always be something that catches me off-guard. It doesn’t have to always end catastrophically. Life can feel like a pizza party if I recognize that I have choices and that there is a time to say “No, thank you.” And a time to eat the pizza and shout, “Pizza Party!” Remember, when you do find yourself in the midst of a surprise attack, you’re a Nutrition Ninja. These are the moments you’ve been training for. Perhaps you become constantly on guard like me and always carry at least an apple with you, thinking a surprise attack is possible around any corner. If you come back to your observation training and continue to make tweaks to become a better master of your environment, you will learn what you need in your arsenal to be successful. I will come back in and check on you from time to time, Ninjas. Stay strong, and keep sending me your burning questions.
Nutrition Ninja, out!