The BIGGEST mistake I see people make when they’re trying to make healthy food choices consistently is the approach they choose.
With approach, there tends to be 2 big red flags that really increase the likelihood of falling into those on track/off track habits instead, and they are food restriction & body disconnection.
Here’s the problem with that. Think of your favorite food in the world.
Really think about it, picture eating it, how does it taste, how does it smell, what’s the texture like…you should be drooling now basically! Now, what if I were to tell you that food was going to disappear forever starting tomorrow. What would you do today?
You likely said things like: think about it a lot that day, crave it, eat lots of it really fast, feel out of control around it (maybe even guilty after).
Those are awesome examples that showcase exactly what happens when we restrict ourselves with food, and our body feels deprived.
“Restriction” doesn’t just mean physical restriction – like when you’re following a diet and you physically don’t allow yourself to eat certain types of amounts of food. But restriction is also using certain types of words around food like can’t, shouldn’t, bad, wrong, and not allowed.
The body responds to that type of self-talk language the same way as physically restricting ourselves.
Symptoms like what I mentioned earlier, about how you might act if your favorite food was going to disappear like feeling out of control around food – they’re not because you’re weak or have no willpower, those are a bi-product our body’s biological survival mechanisms reacting to feeling deprived which leads to those on track/off track habits.
When we’re little, most of us don’t think twice about what we’re eating. We’re too focused on other things. But for many people, especially women, once we start becoming more aware of our bodies, we also start feeling like we need to control our food intake in order to look and feel a certain way.
I did too! For a decade of my life, I depended on programs, plans, diets, or ‘eat this/not that’ rules to tell me what/when/how much to eat.
I believed that my body couldn’t be trusted to make good choices. So structure and rules helped me feel a sense of control. It worked really well for me…until it didn’t work. Then it worked really well for me again…until it didn’t work. Lots of starting again on Monday.
It felt like things were easy and going along just fine…until my body chimed in and started fighting back my best efforts with cravings & hunger. And in the end, our body always wins!
I finally realized my body was only acting up like that because I was ignoring and overriding its natural cues and signals, and listening to outside sources instead, which lead to those on track/off track habits.
What’s a Better Approach?
Start with cultivating awareness.
We can’t change what we aren’t aware of, so first stay mentally tuned in to 3 things:
- Where are you restricting yourself with food – physically or mentally. Look for self-talk that includes words like: shouldn’t, can’t, bad, wrong, not allowed. Then work to eliminate it so your body doesn’t feel deprived and react to that deprivation by activating those survival mechanisms
- Where are you choosing what/when/how much to eat based on external sources or rules so you can release them to listen to your body’s natural signals so it doesn’t fight back
- How do various foods, types of foods, and amounts of foods feel in your body after you eat them (right away and hours later)
Then, when it comes time to eat, it’s easier to team up with your body to make a mindful, empowered choice about what/how much you WANT to eat.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself to help decide might be:
- What food is available to me right now?
- What am I in the mood for? Something cold? Hot? Crunchy? Creamy?
- How do I want to feel after eating? What foods would help me feel that way?
- What’s in this food? Do I want to put those ingredients in my body?