Our culture as a whole is obsessed with looking for the “perfect” diet.
Just look at what sells. Celebrities preaching awful nutrition advice, the Food Babe book on cutting out everything that isn’t “good,” restrictive diets that eliminate grains, dairy, meat, fish… or even the “personalized” diets based on your blood time, social security number, or palm reading that is supposed to tell you exactly what NOT to eat.
I understand why these diets are so alluring. We want a solution. We want to look good, we want to feel good. We want to reach our health and fitness goals.
But here’s the thing: as a society, we are barking up the wrong tree. There is no one “perfect” way of eating that will lead to lasting weight loss, and a lot of what we are being sold is total crap.
Often the missing piece to the weight loss equation is not a perfect diet, or strict rules, but a change in mindset and thinking.
In my years of coaching, I’ve discovered that it is rarely what we put into our mouths that determines our fate as eaters, it is more often the thoughts we allow to entertain in our heads. The thoughts we have, the beliefs we hold are the reasons why we do what we do. Once we recognize the beliefs that are holding us back, we can practice a new way of thinking that will allow us to thrive in our bodies and create a happy, healthy relationship with food, and permanently reach our goals.
Here are 4 types of thoughts that are potentially causing bad decisions in what you eat
1. Black or white thinking – If you catch yourself thinking in absolutes, using the words like “never” “always” you are likely limiting yourself and selling yourself short.
For example, if you say “ I always go overboard with sweets on the weekend” or “I never enjoy exercise” you’ve already written off the possibility of doing things a different way.
2. Labeling – another thought pattern similar to black and white thinking is labeling. This is where we put definitive labels on ourselves, our actions, our choices. We label ourselves as “lazy” when we don’t go to the gym, we label ourselves as “weak” when we eat chocolate. The thing is, tell yourself you are something often enough and you will not only believe it, but also make choices based on this belief about yourself.
3. Comparison – Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and I truly believe that. When we focus on the fact that someone else is doing it better, getting better results, happier, fitter…. etc… we short change ourselves and our own progress. Not only are we less satisfied and happy with what we already have, we start thinking that we need what they have in order to be successful or happy.
4. Jumping to conclusions—I see this one happen a lot in my work with clients. We have a rough day or few days, end up making some food choices that aren’t in our best interest, and we assume it means we are doomed to fail. Or we step on the scale, don’t see a change we had hoped for, and assume that it means we will NEVER see any change.
These thought patterns keep us from being able to create a healthy and happy relationship to food because they trick us into thinking that things are much much worse than they are that we have no control over our lives, and that things will never change. Of course, that’s not the truth, but it’s hard to see it when we’ve created habits of thinking this way.
If you find yourself stuck in these thought patterns here’s a simple strategy for creating a healthier way of thinking.
Step 1: Question whether or not the thought is serving you – For example, sometimes having a black and white thought is not a bad thing if it is an empowering thought. If your thought is “I am always an honest person” and it helps you to be that, great. More power to you.
But if the thought is “I am always late” and it causes you to continuously be late and feel powerless to change it, it may be time to change your thoughts to something that will empower you to succeed.
Step 2: Put your thought on trial: Ask yourself to look for the evidence. If your thought were sitting in front of a judge and jury, would you be able to confirm with 100% the truth of that thought? Or is there reasonable doubt.
We as humans are plagued with what is called “confirmation bias’ which is that we look for the evidence to prove what we already believe to be true, and ignore everything else. The goal is to be able to look past this confirmation bias and see through to what the truth really is. By looking for “reasonable doubt” we can see past our own confirmation bias to the truth.
Step 3: Practice thinking differently: Once you recognize that the thought is not true, you have the ability to practice a new way of thinking. One that includes self compassion and kindness. Give yourself as much benefit of the doubt as you would a close friend that you greatly admire.
Instead of clearing out your kitchen of everything some pseudoexpert says is no good to eat, consider first cleaning out your mind and your way of thinking. Because at the end of the day, it’s what’s in your head, not your kitchen that truly determines whether or not you will be successful in the long run.