My Evil Brain-Toddler Says I Can Cheat On My Diet ‘Cos Coronavirus.’
Does my diet get a get-out-of-jail-free card during the Coronavirus pandemic? My brain says yes but I’m fighting back.
We’re under a self-imposed lockdown due to the pandemic.
When COVID-19 initially hit, just like many others, we stocked up on rice, pasta, noodles, and cheese like many others hoping to ride out the apocalypse.
With my pantry now well-stocked with this good stuff, a voice in my head has gotten louder. I call this voice my brain-toddler.
It’s really sweet to me at first, until I try and ignore it. It’s got three stages of “persuasion” and will stop at nothing to get what it wants.
Stage 1: Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies
Here are some of brain-toddler’s stage 1 tricks:
It’s such a stressful time. Eat something sweet. You’ll feel better.
You’ve been a marvelous pandemic rule-obeyer. Go ahead. Treat yourself.
If you’re making it at home, it’s healthy right? What’s the big deal?
You have work. You have chores. You don’t have time to eat healthy.
If I ignore it, it moves to the next stage.
Stage 2: Please please me
This stage is so easy for brain-toddler. There’s literally no creativity involved but it’s annoyingly effective. This is usually where I just give in.
Here’s what this stage sounds like in my head.
Can I have it?
One minute later:
Can I have it now?
A minute and a half later:
Is it time yet?
Two minutes later:
Now? It’s now, right?
You get the drift.
This can go on for a while depending on my mood and the level of Coronavirus-related panic, boredom, or how hard I’m trying to procrastinate writing something for work.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to give in and live to fight another day. But other times, I try to adult. And it’s not pretty.
Brain-toddler then shifts into high gear.
Stage 3: I want it all, I want it all, I want it NOW!
This stage is a full-blown meltdown.
I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU. YOU MEANIE. YOU MEANIE. IT’S NOT FAIR! I HOPE YOU DIE.
At this stage, nothing I say or do can distract it from what it wants.
What’s a girl gotta do?
Some context for you
Two years ago, or 2 years B.C (“Before Corona” according to incredible comedian, David Spade), I revamped my diet. I did it with the help of some wonderful books, videos, and people. I’ve listed them at the end of this article if you’re interested.
I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I wasn’t planning to ruin it all on a few months (I hope) of being housebound.
I needed good strategies to help me manage.
Strategies to handle brain-toddler’s shenanigans
I owe a lot to bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin. I set off on a road to better habits reading her non-judgmental, breezy, research-based approach to habit formation.
- One of her tips is the strategy of loophole-spotting — how to handle brain-toddler. She tells you to spot each excuse or loophole that your brain comes up with and have a plan to combat it in advance.
- She also says, “what I do every day matters more than what I do every once in a while”.
Armed with this knowledge, here’s how I tackle brain-toddler or BT for short.
Pro Tip: I’ve had the best luck with heading off BT at stage 1 because I haven’t really conquered stages 2 and 3 yet.
BT and Me
BT: It’s a pandemic. Who can diet at a time like this?
- It’s worse for people with immuno-compromised situations, so maybe you can shift the odds in your favor with better lifestyle choices.
- Let’s eat less so you reduce the number of times you have to go to the grocery store and restock.
BT: You’re so stressed out. Eat something sweet. You’ll feel better.
- Sure thing. But first, let’s drink two glasses of water, eat some lunch and then figure it out.
- Also, before we go to the kitchen, let’s watch a funny video on YouTube or an episode of The Office.
BT: You’ve been a marvelous pandemic rule-obeyer. Go ahead. Treat yourself.
- Oh yeah, I have. Thank you for noticing. Pizza on the weekend?
- Aww, thanks. I have been great, haven’t I? Let’s binge-watch that show we’ve been meaning to — on the weekend.
- For being so good, let’s watch an hour (or two) of random videos on Youtube at the end of the day.
BT: If you’re making it at home, it’s healthy right? What’s the big deal?
Me: Let’s do a pizza and a pastry on the weekend. But meanwhile, I’ve got a weekday treat. We can have:
- a delicious, ripe mango/banana for you to enjoy after dinner,
- morning coffee with whole milk, or
- some guava with chili powder and salt (It’s the best).
BT: You have work. You have chores. You don’t have time to eat healthy.
- You’re right! I have dishes to do. Why don’t we go do that now while you tell me all about how I’m too awesome to eat healthy.
- Let’s do 20 minutes of uninterrupted work and then get something to eat?
- Let’s write a silly “easy breezy” Medium article without overthinking it (See what I did here? This was me fighting off some sugar cravings).
These are not perfect solutions. However, as Gretchen Rubin puts it:
“Nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing.”
So, here’s to a good start and just trying to be “Better than Before”.
Resources I used to help me create better habits and eat better
Please note: I am not diabetic, do not suffer from hypertension, or have other pre-existing conditions (I checked). If you do, please consult a doctor before you try a new diet regimen.
- Gretchen Rubin was very influential in getting me started. I used several tips from her books on habit formation: The Happiness Project and Better Than Before to create rules that work for me. Also, here’s her video on the strategy of loophole-spotting.
Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.
I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation. Habits are the…
- “The Obesity Code” by the brilliant Dr. Jason Fung. It’s fascinating, well-researched information about the world of Type II diabetes, recommended to me by my dad’s cardiologist. Learn how your hungry hormone works, how insulin resistance develops, what you can do about it, and how to reset your internal ‘weight thermostat.’
- The Gut by Guilia Enders taught me about how inflammatory foods might hurt the incredible organ, our gut. I loved both her TED talk and book.
Also, a big shout out to:
Is your brain trying to get you to eat crap when stuck at home during the Coronavirus pandemic? What strategies are you trying to stay on track? Would love to hear them in the comments.