How often have you made a new year’s resolution around health, only to find you have broken it three weeks later? Maybe you’ve decided to go on a diet – let’s use a ‘sugar free diet’ as an example – and, for a few days you do really well, but after that it becomes excruciating – all you can think about is having something sweet to pep you up in the afternoon. Before you know it, you are stuffing the so-called offending item in your mouth, only to chide yourself for not being strong enough to stick with it.
Deciding to remove old eating habits, or addictions from your life, can be tough work, and when you do that it is a courageous step that deserves to be done properly.
That means striking a balance so it is sustainable.
If you have had a particular pattern around food for 30, 40, even 50 years, it’s important you go easy and not expect yourself to be ‘superman/woman’. Because even though you want it to change instantly, it may produce challenges for you.
I want to stop and emphasise this point with an example for a minute. Most of our beliefs and decisions about health and wellbeing were firmly implanted in our minds before the age of seven years old. This means we made decisions about food and eating patterns, as well as ways of approaching our health and dealing with illness, simply by observing role models in our environment.
A classic one, to which you may relate, is that you weren’t allowed a certain treat by your mum, yet you saw mum later ‘sneak’ something sweet when she thought you weren’t looking. So a possible decision you made as a result was maybe, “eating sweet treats is ‘bad for me’ or ‘it should only be done in secret’”, or “I need to hide the fact I eat these things”. As a result, later in life, whenever you eat something that is ‘bad’ for you, you feel ‘bad’ about yourself, and then develop feelings of guilt. And so it goes in a perpetual cycle.
We are ‘addicted’ to this pattern and the feeling it produces, so when we decide to introduce a healthier eating pattern it is so much more than just taking away a food, or introducing a new one.
When you make such a change you are re-programming not just your mind, but your entire physiological and emotional response.
That is why it is so important for your changes to be MANAGEABLE and SUSTAINABLE. I recommend a three-step process for changing an eating pattern.
1. Your Beliefs. When you look at your patterns around food, one of the first things to investigate is your relationship with food and how you use it in relation to your body. Some questions to ask yourself are:
What beliefs do I have around my body image and food?
Do I believe I am worthy of having energy or nourishment?
Do I criticize my body?
Once you have answered these questions, you have admitted that you are holding on to some outdated beliefs around your body and food. This is where the real power lies. Because you can’t get out of the mud until you admit you’re stuck in it, right? So now you know you have the power to shift how you treat your body you can allow yourself the vision of what your body would look like if you gave up these behaviours and beliefs.
2. Your Choices. The next question is now a matter of choice. Once you start to question your old, outdated beliefs, you become aware of new choices available to you. Previously were too stuck in your old belief pattern to be aware of them. Ask yourself:
What would be available to me if I decided to change my beliefs around
my body and food?
Notice you have not yet removed anything from your diet. This step, which is so often the first one we jump in to, doesn’t come until we question our beliefs, and formulate SUSTAINABLE new choices.
3. The Desired Changes. The next question naturally becomes:
What am I ready to change?
Make it a small step, and make it measurable. Maybe you want to cut back on caffeine, but if you are used to drinking five cups a day, is it really fair to expect yourself to cut it out completely and think you will not go crazy from the caffeine headache after about 72 hours?
A more realistic option would be to decide that, for the next week, you will cut back to three cups a day, at least three or four times a week. That way, you are giving yourself a break.
I want to get another thing straight – you’re not copping out when you do it this way. You’re not taking the easy option. Remember the discussion about the fact that you’ve had this emotional pattern for 30, 40, 50 years? When you cut back on your caffeine intake you are not just cutting coffee out of your diet. You are changing your physiological responses. You are making change! And there is no cop-out about that.
Give yourself a break.
After a week of sticking to your new coffee-drinking habit, introduce another small step AFTER you have patted yourself on the back for sticking to it for a week. Give yourself credit. You have just implemented positive change, and you have done what it takes to make it work. Don’t move on until you have celebrated your success in some small way.
Now, doesn’t that sound much more manageable and sustainable?
I’m sure you understand how this way of changing your eating habits can have a much more profound effect on your body and your life.
In all that you do, create balance and harmony, not trauma and chaos, when it comes to your body. Most of all. ENJOY THE PROCESS.
Creating A Sustainable You – Let’s Start With What You Put In Your Mouth!