Attitudes Hindering Your SuccessOct 12, 2022
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult, but we really like to overcomplicate things. After years of working with clients, I have found three overarching themes arise when it comes to adopting healthy eating habits: All-or-Nothing thinking; Not listening to our bodies; and Quick fixes. Each of these inhibits our ability to adopt healthy eating practices. Let’s talk about why they are so detrimental to our success and what we can do about them.
Almost ALL of my new clients share some element of all-or-nothing thinking when we start working together. What is it about all-or-nothing that SEEMS so enticing and why do we think applying this to food and eating is a good idea? Honestly, it’s probably because of all the diet-culture programming we have all been so exposed to over the years.
The all-or-nothing line of thinking implies that you are either on or off, good or bad, following something perfectly, or completely “off the rails”. But this isn’t actually true (or even helpful). We are never either doing things perfectly OR absolutely failing.
All-or-Nothing thinking in action sounds like this:
“My kid really wanted to get an ice cream on our mommy-daughter date, so I didn’t have a choice”.
“We were staying in a hotel that didn’t have a gym, so I couldn’t do any exercise this week”.
“That same hotel didn’t have a kitchen either, so I had to eat out all the time and my food choices were really bad”.
Do you feel the need to make a choice between one or the other? Image - Canva
Habits author Gretchen Rubin refers to this type of thinking as “False Choice”.
As in, “I can’t do this, because of that”. We convince ourselves that there are only ever two options. Let’s look at an example:
“I haven’t been able to exercise because I have been way too busy at work.” This statement implies that there are only two choices: busy and therefore no exercise; or not busy and therefore able to exercise. But I think we all know that busy people can (and do) still make time to exercise.
The solution for dealing with this way of thinking is to challenge the idea that there are only two options, and to explore the numerous possibilities in between.
Instead of Option A being 1hr of exercise 6 days/week (when you’re not busy) and Option B being none at all (because you are too busy), maybe Option C could be 15 minutes of exercise every day, Option D could be 45 minutes of working out a couple of times a week and Option E could be a walk around the block every day. There really are a hundred alternatives between most extremes.
If you’re a parent, I’d also encourage you to think in terms of what excuses you would be willing to accept from your child. If they told you they were too busy to clean their room, would you simply accept that as fact and give them a free pass until they were no longer busy? Doubtful. You’d probably come up with some options that they could more easily work into their busy schedule rather than simply accepting that the room would just never ever get tidied.
It’s not all-or-nothing, it’s all-or-something!
Not Listening to Our Own Bodies
It’s not your fault that you may have lost touch with your body. We live in a culture that values certain physical qualities and as such, we have been led to believe that we need to look a certain way to be “enough”.
In an attempt to feel like we are enough and to comply with mainstream society’s definition of what is acceptable, we have turned to fad diets over and over again, learning and sometimes perfecting the practice of overriding our body’s own innate wisdom. We adopt some crazy set of diet rules that dictate when we should eat and what we should eat, even if it’s not what our body actually needs or what we even enjoy.
Our bodies are so much more intelligent than that. We are born with our OWN innate ability to know when it’s time to eat, and when it’s time to stop. We have simply lost trust in our ability to do this.
We have also relinquished our power to food manufacturers, who market packaged food to us with sometimes very misleading information. We overeat food from factories and undereat whole foods from farms.
Incorporating more whole foods does not have to be boring. Unsplash - S O C I A L . C U T
The solution requires a return to eating whole foods over processed foods and slowly working on trusting our bodies again to tell us what they need and when. It’s a process that will take time.
Wanting a Quick-Fix Result
When we decide that we want change, we tend to want it right now. We often give the solution a week or a month, when the problem has developed over years or even decades! This overwhelming desire often leads to fad diets that offer a quick fix. In the moment, we don’t care how unsustainable it is. But the quick fixes aren’t the ones that create transformation in your life, which is ultimately what we are REALLY after.
Quick fixes may temporarily address a symptom, but they certainly don’t address the root cause. They don’t teach you the skills and habits you need to adopt into your life so that you can repeat them easily and consistently.
To address this, we need to dig deep and get really committed to the process. Implement small changes, get really good at them, and then add another. Repeat.
When it comes to healthy eating, a lot of the work we have ahead of us is in deprogramming and challenging our previous patterns of thinking.
If you want to make positive changes to your health and nutrition, I would recommend the following:
- Look non-judgmentally at what has worked for you in the past, and what hasn’t. These are really valuable lessons.
- Exercise self-compassion in your own journey. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves, but guilt and shame are terrible motivators.
- Be patient with yourself and the process. Change can happen in a moment, but transformation takes time.
- Find tools, resources, and people who can support you along the way.
- Keep going, even when you don’t feel like it.
Making positive changes to our nutrition doesn’t have to be so complicated. I know you can do it. Take it one meal at a time!
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