It’s about more than just looking good or being good.
We all know that changing eating habits in a permanent way is difficult.
Can we ever change our eating habits?
Yes! You must first understand why you want to change.
We see in our culture that people are motivated by two things: wanting to be healthy and wanting to appear healthy. In the beginning, both tend to be good motivators. However, they don’t last long. Find out why and what type of motivation will last the longest.
Wanting to Be Good
Eating has become a more moral activity than ever. How often have you heard “sinful indulging” used to describe a particular food? When did chocolate become a moral issue?
Since a long while, foods have been labelled “good” or ‘bad”. This black-and white, good, or evil labeling of foods also extends to those who consume them. Are you dirty if you don’t eat clean? This twisted moral perspective turns eating into a reflection of who you are and not what you eat.
It is particularly true for those who also have to deal with the stigma associated with having a larger body. It is widely believed that living in a body larger than average means you’ve failed. Shame can be a pervasive emotion. You’re seeking acceptance if you want to change your behavior due to shame.
What you really need is to accept yourself.
I’ve never met anyone who cared about themselves enough to spend time taking care of them. Most often, I see individuals punishing themselves by eating (or not eating) when they fail to “be good.”
Shame, whether it’s coming from within or from someone else, is not a motivator. This is because anger is a natural reaction to shame. The powerless can gain strength by getting angry and rebelling. Others call it sabotage, while others call it rebellion. It’s the inner drive which tells you that “you can”, even when others say, “you cannot”.
The 65-billion-dollar diet (or “clean food”) industry has sold us out. They tell us that we cannot trust ourselves to make good food choices and we must pay them for their advice. Faced with these rules that shame us, we often say “I will eat whatever I want!” This is a natural reaction, but it can reinforce the shame spiral.
Wanting to Look Good
People often change their eating habits to “look good” and this is driven by the thin ideal of our society, which says that thinness is beauty and health.
We are all too often tempted to alter our weight or body size. We do it sometimes in the name or health, because we are told to lose weight for good health. Our best laid plans are often made when we’re full or, as in my case, with a hand in a bag. Planning sessions are often held on Sundays, or at the beginning of a month or year. Or the calendar is brought out and we count backwards from an event that we want to be “at our best” for. Then, a formula is created based on points, calories in and out, daily steps, etc.
We start out on our new plan with enthusiasm, and everything goes well–until we reach a point where we are totally stressed.
In difficult situations, our executive brain functions–the parts of the brain that can reason, weigh evidence, and make decisions based on facts–cannot be used effectively. Fear and other emotions set up neural pathways in our brains. We give in because we don’t think about our 12-week goal. Instead, we focus on surviving now. We will restart our new plan …. tomorrow.
When we get back to our “right minds”, we start recalculating. The more we “diet-fatigued”, the longer it will take us to regain enough energy to return to the diet.
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Wanting to Feel Good
What motivates you to be good?
The science of behavior change tells us that the key to motivation is intrinsic motivation, or that which comes from within and is driven by your values.
It took me a long while to figure this out. My health was important to me. When I was asked, “How do you know when you’re healthy?” You know you are healthy when the doctor says so? No, it’s when you feel good.
External motivation is the doctor’s statement. Internal motivation is defined as knowing when you’re feeling good and doing what it takes to stay that way. Shame can make people feel so disconnected from themselves that they are unable to tell when they’re feeling good or bad.
How to reconnect with your body and mind
Mindfulness is the key to connecting with your body and internal motivation. We can find the answer to questions by being present and still in the moment without judgement. Our emotions and thoughts are both indicators of our wellbeing. Next, we need to observe our behavior in daily life and see how it affects us. We find it easier than to repeat behaviors that make you feel good.
You can observe that certain foods, when eaten in certain quantities, combinations, and times, make you feel good. We can observe that we are in control of what and when we eat. No one else is telling us how to eat.
We can start to move more and feel more energetic when we start feeling better. We can start to feel better.
Simply noticing and pausing can help create new reward pathways for our brains. Mindfulness practice focuses on the moment-by-moment experience of daily life. Instead of waiting until the end of the week to reward ourselves with a floodlight, we reward ourselves by enjoying the little twinkling lights of a well-lived life moment by moment. Floodlights of rewards, such as overeating for example, are not sustainable.
We begin to feel better and more joyful as we become aware of our clarity of mind and the energy that comes from balanced blood sugar.
Trusting Yourself and Food Again
When people are satisfied with their basic needs, they feel good. When we feel competent and autonomous in our eating decisions, we eat to make us happy. Here, we can make decisions that are based on competence and not shame. We also have access to executive functioning which allows us to make decisions instead of acting out of habit.