The diet stories we need to stop telling ourselves
The truth be known, nutrition is actually very simple – calories in vs. calories out; protein, carbs and good fats along with plenty of vegetables. What makes it complicated is our negative self-talk; the voices in our head that tells us it is ok to eat an entire block of chocolate; or since we have blown our diet for the day or week we will just start again next week. These are the voices that justify; demean; punish and distract from what we really should be focusing on – good nutrition; good habits; good health; good food. So here are the most negative things you can say to yourself about diets, food and nutrition and the self-talk that may be holding you back from reaching your health and fitness goals.
I have blown it
Blown what exactly? The mindset that tells us there is a ‘perfect’ way to eat and if we have one extra slice of bread or an extra glass of wine we have completely ruined any dietary regime is extreme, unfounded and has no real meaning in the bigger picture of life. Expecting human beings to follow self-developed rules for dietary purism will only lead to one thing – an endless cycle of restriction, overeating and guilt. It is important to understand that there is no ‘perfect’ diet, there are simply good habits that we maintain most of the time. So next time you think you have ‘blown it’, the best thing to do is get back to your regular habits the very next meal or snack and stop thinking so much about it.
I have been bad
The most common confession from diet clients when they return for review appointments, except ‘being bad’ equates to eating chocolate or drinking wine as opposed to shooting someone or hitting someone’s car and not leaving a courtesy note. There is no such thing as ‘being bad’ on a diet – there is eating more than we need to; or enjoying a few glasses of wine too many but as soon as we mentally equate eating too much to a childlike behaviour, we begin a childlike cycle of punishment and reward for eating the certain types of food. Focus on food habits rather than one off eating occasions to develop better food perspective and focus on what you are doing right rather than what you perceive to be doing wrong to move forward with positive diet changes.
I will start my new diet next week
Why would you do that? If you need to improve your dietary habits, there is no time like the present. Regularly postponing and starting over with good eating habits not only means that we lose much time but in most cases it means we never really get anywhere. Rather Monday and Tuesday become days when we eat well before giving ourselves an excuse not to for the rest of the week. If you are committed to changing your lifestyle for good, just start the very next meal. Small decisions add up and there is no time like the present.
It has been a bad day; I need / deserve this
The late afternoon chocolate binge after a bad meeting; or the ½ packet of chocolate biscuits in front of the TV after a particularly nasty day sets a pattern of satisfying your emotional needs with high calorie, high fat foods that are easy to overeat. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet treat after dinner or a biscuit or two with a cup of tea if you really feel like it, but giving yourself permission to eat when you are sad, bored, tired, lonely or frustrated can being a lifelong pattern of emotional eating. Practice tending to your emotional needs with sleep, the support of good friends, exercise and rest and leave the food for special occasions and your regular meals and snacks.
I am on a ….no carb / sugar / alcohol / wheat / dairy detox this week
While there are some individuals who need to eliminate certain types of food from their diet, for many, regularly banning certain foods and nutrient groups simply fuels the ‘all or nothing’ diet cycle. While some individuals have the mental strength to constantly restrict their diet, self-regulatory studies have shown that extreme restriction requires significant focus from the brain, which is difficult to maintain when other aspects of life too require focus. This may be one of the reasons that individuals are able to remain extremely strict on certain dietary regimes for short periods of time but when life takes over, things fall off the rails. So rather than feeling the need to completely eliminate whole food types or groups, consider a more moderate approach. A little honey in your yoghurt is not the problem, eating an entire bag of red frogs is.
I shouldn’t be eating this
Once we accept that there will always be foods that we should enjoy occasionally, as opposed to thinking that we should never eat them, we then create the freedom to make our food choices based on what we actually feel like eating, rather than playing a mind game over what theoretically we should or should not be eating. Often we eat what is served or available without even considering if we like, want or feel that particular food. Work towards eating what you like and feel like in controlled portions rather than creating mental rules that distract you from your natural food preferences which can also shift your food intake to one of ongoing mental management rather than a physical and enjoyment driven need