How many times have you eaten something and felt bad about yourself afterwards? You grab that second piece of cake, wing of fried chicken, donut, half of a bagel, scoop of ice cream, etc and within minutes you say to yourself or the person next to you, "I really shouldn't have eaten that." I've been there. I know that feeling so well.
It feels terrible. What often follows is a slew of emotions that make it feel even worse. The guilt. You promised yourself you wouldn't overindulge or eat sugar or gluten or whatever the rule of the day/week/year (ahem, resolution?) was and you've transgressed. You give into the craving or desire to say "screw it!" and then you're riddled with guilt. You care the most about achieving your goal and now you have disappointed yourself. If you can't keep a promise to yourself, what does that say about you? You've also told friends, family and coworkers what you're trying to achieve and now they see you eating the very foods you said you wouldn't. Now what? Will they think you're weak? There he/she goes again...
Sound familiar? Oh yeah. I measured how good or how bad I was by my ability to keep to my restrictions. If I went to bed that night feeling a bit hungry and knowing I limited myself, it was a good day. I could go to sleep feeling like a success. But what about tomorrow? I knew it would start all over. The momentary feeling of success was quickly replaced by a twinge of anxiety.
The next morning I'd get on the scale to find out the truth! Was it really a success? Will I go down? The scale will give me measurable feedback. But, what if I don't go down? What I stay the same or... go up? I'll feel worse. And I know it will dictate how I feel about myself and my food all day.
This whole performance was on repeat for years. I was sick of it. Aren't you? Aren't you sick of feeling this way about your food and yourself?
Reality check time!
Here's what is actually happening:
First, you likely set a goal, created a restriction or started a diet that you're not completely behind. You don't really know why you've decided to make this change. "Lose weight" or "get healthier" are not specific enough. Maybe you read an article or heard a bit about a health trend and you decided this is the ticket, so you say, "Starting tomorrow, I am going to do X." There are a few key breakdowns here.
- You are an adult. Adults do not, generally, do well with hard and fast rules. We need to understand why a rule exists and can only embrace it if we are truly behind it.
- You are smart. Again, you need to understand THE WHY. You're not giving yourself enough credit. Smart people need explanations and examples and you need to know that it will really benefit YOU.
- You haven't decided to do this because of your specific bio-individuality, but because of a generalization about health and because others do it. You are unique and your need to lose weight, get more energy, reduce bloat or heartburn and/or sleep better is different from others. Sure there are some common denominators, but being able to follow through with a decision to make a change is a whole lot easier and has a much higher likelihood of success if you understand why you will benefit. Notice how "WHY" and "YOU" seem to be coming up a lot here?
Second, you probably didn't even really enjoy the food. The first second the food hit your lips, you were thinking about the calories, fat grams, what it will mean for the scale tomorrow, what others think of you right now, that you don't think very highly of yourself right now and why, oh why, didn't you just go for the carrot sticks instead of the cheese?
Enjoying your food means looking at it, smelling it, anticipating eating it, truly tasting all of the flavors, feeling the textures in your mouth, chewing your food, putting your fork down between bites and loving that you are eating something delicious. Enjoying your food means savoring it rather than scarfing it down. When you eat food quickly, your body doesn't even have time to get the signal that you ate.
Ever wondered what on earth is going on when you reach for a forbidden food again even after making the "I shouldn't have eaten that" declaration? Seriously! What the!? As Marc David explains in his book, "Nourishing Wisdom: A mind-body approach to nutrition and well-being (and hands-down my favorite book on the psychology of eating), "Ironically, any benefits of the diet are often outweighed by the tension and anxiety built up in maintaining it. The guilt experienced when eating forbidden food creates more toxins in the system than the actual food. Furthermore, the tension caused by resisting forbidden food can be equally toxic."
Think you lack willpower when you go back for more of a "forbidden food?" It's not about willpower. You've created tension and stress inside your body with the first "transgression" and one of the things that you know will numb that pain a bit is more bad food. Truth. It's psychological AND physiological. We're dealing with hormones and neurotransmitters here, not your inability to stick to a diet and it's time to stop punishing yourself.
Next time you're tempted to say "I shouldn't have eaten that." Challenge it. Ask yourself: "Why should I not have eaten that? What are the reasons for avoiding it that apply to me? Do I really believe those reasons? Do I understand them? Are they true? What am I feeling in my body right now?"
If you want to get a handle on any of this, check out Renew You. It's time for a renewed way of looking at food, diet, you, the punishment... the whole thing and I'd be honored to guide you.