It’s approaching that time of the year….January is here!
You know what that means- time to declare your commitment to your health and how this year is going to be different….again.
Trust me- I get it! I was a health resolutioner for many years.
This will be the year I give up soda...
This will be the year I give up sugar….
This will be the year I eat healthy….
This will be the year I keep the weight off….
It is so frustrating! But that got me curious. Why? Why do we make these declarations and fall short?
The good news is, there’s actually more to why we fail than we are aware of.
Let's dig in.
Let’s start at the greatest pain point- diets!
Personally, in my past, I gained and lost 20lbs 4 times before I said, Enough is enough! There are several problems with diets. And I’m not just saying one specifically; I’m saying all diets don’t work.
The goal of dieting is to lose weight and keep it off, right? OK, true, they can help you lose weight, but the keeping it off part…that’s where they fail.
All diets take into consideration certain factors, but not the factors that lead to lasting change.
They direct you in how to cook your food, the right macro intake, and what times to eat. And we follow along like dutiful children, secretly resenting the whole process.
We find ourselves fantasizing about the food we desire, and getting jealous of what other people can eat. We judge and bully our body for not looking different and we stick with the diet until willpower fails. Sound familiar?
But what about life?
What about holidays?
What about celebrations?
How do you diet, lose weight, and keep the weight off while having a life? The answer is, don’t diet.
That's because the last piece of dieting that screws us is, there’s an end date. Think about it- if you eat a specific way for months and then you stop, what do you think will happen?
So why go through all the deprivation to begin with?
This traps us in an endless cycle of
lose weight ➡️
stop diet ➡️
gain weight ➡️
judge and bully ourselves.
[INCLUDE GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATING THIS]
That’s no way to go through life.
Food is GLORIOUS, once you learn how to think about it differently.
WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT WITH DIETS
Along my health coaching journey there’s a few aspects of being healthy I learned that aren’t regularly spoken about or considered in diets.
They include the power of thought, emotional regulation, and subconscious conditioning. We can focus on being healthy, but with these powerful forces working against us, no wonder we’re stuck on the diet roller coaster.
Let me explain a little more about each one.
POWER OF THOUGHT
Deprivation does not work, and all diets have some component of deprivation.
Deprivation always leads to binging, and there’s a reason: our brain doesn’t like it!
If we are deprived of anything, our brain and body shift into a mode where we get whatever we’re depriving ourselves of and then we need to store it and consume it in greater amounts. I think we've all been there, right?
What this highlights is, how we think about food influences the choices we make around food.
We give food power based on deprivation and linked thought patterns. That means we crave what we “can’t” have even more. Thoughts that include 'I can’t,' 'I shouldn't, or, 'I need to' are Red Flag Thoughts.
They will land you on the same ride you’re trying to get off of. Our thoughts are powerful! They influence our feelings and actions which give us certain outcomes. Thus, if you want to change your outcome, you need to change your thoughts. Focusing on the action, which is what most people do, works until will power is drained. Changing your thoughts, which are mostly subconscious and automatic, will set you up for success. What better way to be healthy, then not actually having to think about it!
EMOTIONAL REGULATION & OUR CONDITIONING
From the day we are born we are programmable. We are soaking up information, processing it and making meaning of our world. No single human has the exact same experience because everyone's previous life experience is unique and different to that person. The messages around food you were exposed to as a kid influence you to this very day.
Reflect for a moment, what were the hidden rules around food in your household? Were you allowed to leave the table if your plate wasn’t clean? Did you have to finish your veggies if you wanted dessert? Was it considered rude to not try the host’s food? When you were sad or bored, were you given food? When you celebrated, what role did food play? How did you hear your parents or friends and family speak about their body and their health?
All of these factors influence us at a subconscious level. Making our primitive automatic conditioning run the show. It doesn’t care if you’re on a diet or insecure, what matters to the brain is that it is safe. Thus, if you want to really change your nutritional lifestyle you NEED to do the internal work and rewire your conditioning to establish emotional regulation that doesn’t include food.
Below you will find a few examples from my clients and myself of what this looks like so you can start to investigate your own conditioning and emotional regulation.
Having my own business means I work long hours. There was a day last year I’d worked 17 hours and I had 45 min left of work I really wanted to get done, but I was exhausted. I found myself fantasizing about what sweets my husband had in the house. But thanks to coaching I used my tool kit, checked in with my hunger and fullness and realized I wasn’t hungry. Then I asked what was I, the answer…..exhausted. It became clear, at some point in my life I was conditioned to understand that eating gives me energy. Instead I went to youtube and watched some bloopers, laughed my butt off. That energized me to work for another two hours.
If you’ve been conditioned to understand that food gives you energy, it’s true and false. It is fuel and does provide energy, however the initial response/desire is to rest so you can digest. That’s the trap! With how our nervous system works, we need to be in our rest and digest response (parasympathetic nervous system) in order to assimilate nutrients, which is required for the desired energy. HOWEVER, in today’s society most of us are stuck in the go-go-go, overwhelmed, overstressed mindset. This takes us to our fight or flight system (sympathetic nervous system). If you’re spending more time in that system, especially after eating, you’re eating empty calories. Therefore it won’t give you the desired energy.
Instead make a list of the different people, places and activities that give you energy. For me laughter and movement always do the trick. Sometimes I need a quick rest reset. That is where meditation fits in perfectly!
I have a client who had a big presentation she was very nervous about. She didn’t like public speaking but it was important to her that she step outside of her comfort zone and take her company to the next level. That entire week she was indulging in her favorite treats. And every time she felt lethargic and almost sick, but she did it anyways…. Fortunately we met mid week before her presentation and I was able to coach her into a different thinking pattern. You see, she was so focused on how she would screw it up that she was stressing herself out and giving herself anxiety. Her indulgences were to represent a “break.” What it actually did was make her more insecure because she felt bloated now too. She was stuck thinking of herself as being bloated, stressed and failing. I asked her why she wanted to present at the conference to begin with. In that moment her passion broke through her conditioning. Her why was so powerful, to help make a better world for her children! I asked her to focus on that, because that’s what matters. You can’t make a better world for your kids, if you don’t try. It worked! She stopped her indulgences and her new thought pattern alleviated her stress and anxiety. We realized that she was conditioned to believe sweet treats make stress and anxiety better. But if you take a closer look, it does so by feeding another insecurity for you to focus on!
Whether you’re bored, stressed, anxious, exhausted or any other emotion, food is NOT meant to be the solution. Honestly, when we think like that it’s very similar to addiction. Addicts turn to their substance of choice because they want relief from what they are experiencing. Are you addicted to food? Do you use it to numb out emotions or achieve a specific feeling?
We’ve been conditioned to believe our emotions are bad, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Life is about balance, our body is about balance and emotions require the same exact balance. The truth is, emotions aren’t bad, they just suck to feel sometimes. When we escape those sucky emotions, that’s when we create a repetitive problem. Our brain loves patterns and if it knows you feel better when you eat a sweet if you’re feeling stressed, guess what you’re going to crave every time you feel stressed….I’m sure you see the problem.
Now the part you’ve all been waiting for, or scrolled ahead to 😊…..solutions! When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle it’s about embodying a healthy state of being. There’s no deadline or end, it’s just who you are. But that means you can’t try to change EVERYTHING at once. You have to recognize being healthy isn’t going anywhere, there’s no need to rush! Pick 1-3 healthy habits that you know you can do successfully and focus on progress.
When it comes to how to think….LISTEN!! If you don’t know how you’re currently thinking about your food choices how will you know what to change? If you hear thoughts like I can’t, I shouldn’t or I need to get curious…..who says so? Probably you…why are you telling yourself that! Under every criticism is a veiled wish, even the ones we speak within ourselves. When you hear those thoughts CHOOSE to revise the thoughts. Take back the power and decide what you want and what will empower you. Try to switch needs, shoulds and have to’s into I want to and I choose to.
You are wired to eat when you feel _________ (insert YOUR driving emotion). If you are serious about your health you need to reprogram yourself and give yourself different options. If you lean towards food when you’re stressed, start by learning to recognize the first signals you’re feeling stress. Then ask yourself in that moment (because it’ll change day to day) how do you want to feel instead. Gather the emotion and then think of activities you could do to generate that feeling.
It helps if you create a menu of different activities and how they make you feel ahead of time. Our brain is wired to repeat the same patterns. That makes it hard to implement new ones. Having a premade list will make it easier for you to follow through with a new behavior.
Do the work to start recognizing your conditioning and what you believe. What you believe shapes the world you live in. When it comes to being healthy, if you believe it will be hard, it will be. Revise that belief to it’s a process that builds dedication, discipline and character. If you are tired of the same ride, dig deeper than just eat this and don’t eat that. Give yourself space to understand the subconscious patternings that work against you if you aren't aware.
If you are ready to change, but you're afraid or you want support, I encourage you to CLICK HERE and join the Stress-Free Healthy Me TEAM!