In the first article in this series, I shared the powerful strategy of re-framing, or changing the meaning you associate with a particular fact. If you missed it, you can find it here.
Today we’ll cover a nutrition coaching strategy that can dissolve your resistance to change. Once you are tethered by less resistance, you can be freer to to let your old habits go and forge the new ones you need to achieve your goals. Doesn’t that sound good? Let’s go.
Recognize that everything you eat is your own choice. Take responsibility.
That’s a two edged sword, my friends. On one hand, that means you have chosen to eat the things that got you to the body you have right now. If you aren’t happy with your body, that realization can cause some blunt force trauma to the ego. But on the other hand – the fact that you have the unencumbered, absolutely final say in what you eat is liberating. No one will pin you down and force Doritos down your gullet. You have the power to choose what and how much you eat, and with the right choices you can change your body.
Those may seem obvious, but we often don’t accept responsibility for our food choices. Sometimes we want to give our power away. We can blame others, or slough the responsibility from our shoulders with an excuse along the lines of “I had to eat _______, it’s all that was available there/I was starving/I didn’t have time to eat lunch“, etc. The truth is, you had the option to not eat _____, to make time for a real meal, or to bring food with you and not rely on someone else to provide food for you. Accepting responsibility for every bite that goes in your mouth is a big step forward. On to the next big idea:
You can eat anything you want. Anything.
Are you attempting to lose weight by declaring certain foods as off-limits, things like candy, fried foods, or cookies? Or do you tell yourself you “should not” or “must not” eat them? You’ll want to rethink that.
By restricting yourself, you will ignite your natural, inborn resistance in two ways. That’s like adding a headwind and dragging a parachute on an already uphill journey; who needs that? Here’s where coaching comes in: we can decrease your own resistance, making it easier for you to progress.
Eating a cookie on occasion does not make someone overweight. What makes someone overeat cookies, not stopping at one or two but get caught in a slippery slope of a dozen, several times a week? Restriction. Restrict anything and you create an environment of scarcity in your mind. That’s Economics 101. A commodity which is scarce becomes more valuable. So now the forbidden item looks even better to you. You might think about it more often, put in on a pedestal in your mind, associating it with fun times and joy and love and relaxation… You might even envy those who “can” eat the forbidden foodstuff.
In addition to inflating the perceived value of the forbidden food, there’s a little rebellious streak in all of us. Even you. You may not think of yourself as the rebellious type, but it’s innate to push back a little at rules. Even if you are a lifetime people-pleaser who actually drives the speed limit, and you DID clean your room when your parents demanded that you do so, your brain gets a reward from breaking a rule. It’s invigorating, exhilarating even, to break a rule, even if it’s your own. To your brain, it feels oh so good to be a little bad. Restaurant menus use descriptions like sinfully delicious cheesecake…. because it appeals to that part of your mind to be a little naughty and rebellious.
So now you’ve doubled the prize of eating the forbidden food: it’s built up in your mind to be the Best Stuff Ever and it makes you feel a little badass for doing it. I hope you see where this is going: A restrictive mindset will not only make you fixate on and eventually eat the very items you’re trying to reduce, but when you do eat them, you’re likely to go headfirst into a massive quantity. Because after all, it’s rare and valuable and you won’t allow yourself to have it again for a long long time so you better get a lot in…
If you’ve ever had an experience with binge eating, recall it. Did it follow a time period of restriction or sticking to a very regimented diet? For many people, it does. The more drastic the restriction, the more binge-triggering it is. And the worst thing we can do after a binge is the most common response: following it up with another period of restriction to “make up for it”. If you’d like to break this cycle, it is a worthy challenge to not view any food as off limits.
What’s the alternative if nothing is off limits? What would keep me from eating junk all day?
If you think you only want to eat candy and chips, it may be because you aren’t allowing yourself to eat candy and chips.
My advice is to experiment: allow yourself to eat whatever you want, chicken or carrots or carrot cake, just eat it mindfully, and savor it. When you know you’ll still be free tomorrow to have whatever you want, you may be shocked to find you don’t in fact want the whole quart of ice cream or cake for every meal. More than 90% of the time you’ll probably want healthy food that nourishes you and tastes good, that gives you energy and not indigestion. When you aren’t attributing an artificial value to sweets by restricting them, you can let yourself discover that you actually only want them every now and then. And then, a small portion enjoyed mindfully is satisfying. You’ll find that what you want most are meals that align with your values, and generally feeding yourself with care and love, not abusing your body by withholding food then gorging in shame.
Time and time again my clients have had success with this technique. Yes, some of them did eat epic amounts of crap for a few days. And then…they came out the other side. They wanted healthy stuff again, they wanted to get leaner and feel better about themselves more than they wanted hot dogs. The spell had been broken. It’s not as if they never wanted a brownie forever after, but a brownie was just….a brownie. A food. One they could choose to eat or not. No more siren song.
Think of a food right now that you know distances you from your goals, perhaps one that you have told yourself you “must not” or “cannot” eat. Could you instead accept that you are allowed to eat that food, yet you choose not to because you want your goals more? The action (not eating the food) is exactly the same as if you had just declared it off limits and stuck to it – but the mindset is different.
Catch yourself feeling restricted? Remind yourself you are free to choose, and simply evaluate what you want most.
Example: I allow myself to order anything on the menu when I go into a restaurant. No matter the cost, no matter how fatty or sugary, I allow myself to be free. What I want most is virtually always something that appeals to my values of caring for my body and also my personal tastes, so something healthy, not expensive, like a salad with protein. But I enjoy it, it’s what I’ve picked, out of everything I could possibly choose. I picked the best one, the one I wanted most, and that feels great! The experience is one of abundance.
This would be a very different experience if I were to make certain things off limits. If before I even went in, I said, “Okay Georgie, no meals over 22 dollars, and no cheese and no fried stuff and no meats that aren’t organic. You’re not allowed to have any of those.” Then, looking at the menu isn’t such an experience of abundance, it’s one of limitation and restriction. Feeling that way would make me likely to fight back in some way, and sooner or later “give in” and break those rules.
I made this mistake not long ago when I was dining out with Roland early on in our dairy-free, grain-free, bean-free experiment. I felt myself getting grumpy looking at the menu. One thing would look good, and then I’d see it had goat cheese. Dang. Then I’d see another that sounded good…but it had chickpeas. Dang, can’t have that. And on it went, can’t have that, can’t have that, can’t have that…and I could feel my mood going downward in a fast spiral. I had to close the menu and get my head on straight. This is not how I normally feel. Why am I so suddenly and severely cranky from trying to find something to eat?
I noticed I was using a mindset of rules and limitation on myself. But I didn’t need to. I was free to choose any of those items. I had made a choice to avoid certain foods for a period of time to observe how they affected my body, but I wasn’t forced to do it. I reminded myself it was my choosing, there was a reason I had chosen that. I checked in, is that still a valuable experiment to me? Or would I rather choose the salad with goat cheese? Because I am free to do either. I reconnected with my values of why I was doing this, and I wanted to choose to know how those foods affected my body more than I wanted a salad with cheese. So, now that I remembered the abundance I actually have, the total freedom I have to choose anything to eat, I elected to continue my experiment. I reopened the menu, feeling a ton better, selected my salad and asked the waitress to sub avocado for the goat cheese. And I enjoyed the meal immensely.
I hope that armed with this technique, you can start feeling a lot more freedom with regard to food.
What you can do today:
- Take responsibility for your food choices. Start with the past if you need to forgive yourself or stop blaming your parents – do it – or just start right now.
- Rather than telling yourself that you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat certain things, acknowledge that you could in fact eat any of them, but you CHOOSE to eat more of some and less of others.
- If you think this article might help someone you know, spread the word. Share it.