On Sunday, after cleaning house for six hours straight, I was ready to settle in for the evening and watch the Golden Globe Awards show on TV. It was amazing how quickly the thoughts of snacks started popping up in my mind.
You worked hard today; you deserve some treats.
Trader Joe’s is just down the street.
You can get chips & dip. Ooh, and maybe some cookies!
Within a split second, I imagined myself going up and down the aisles, mentally selecting the treats I would eat while watching the show.
But then something interesting happened. Since I was already imagining my evening of selecting treats and eating them in front of the TV, I then chose to take it all the way through and mentally fast-forwarded to how I would feel after eating the chips, dip, and cookies. In a word: GROSS. And knowing myself, I would have ultimately wished that I hadn’t eaten that.
Can you relate to this scenario?
If so, then you know all too well that feeling of “Food Regret” that starts to settle in as you lick the crumbs off your fingers as the last bite is consumed. The food is now gone and you’re left there feeling mentally and physically like crap.
Since we already know what the outcome is going to be, why not cut out the middleman and just not eat it in the first place? It truly is the kinder thing to do when we know that certain foods don’t feel good in our bodies. I realize that this is easier said than done—but it is doable—especially when it’s coming from a place of love for our bodies.
Yes, I did work hard today. CORRECTION: My body worked hard today. It did not need to then work even harder to digest those particular food choices. I mentally pictured what my body would have to go through to process food like that and suddenly getting dressed and going to Trader Joe’s didn’t sound so appealing anymore.
Your body works hard for you, too. It helps you get around. It helps you complete the items on your to-do list. It helps you give and receive love. Doesn’t it deserve better than the aftermath of “Food Regret”?
Before you take action on the thought, “I deserve a treat”:
2. Do a mental fast-forward in your mind (based on past experience) and imagine how you are going to feel post-treat.
3. Ask yourself, “Does my body deserve the outcome of this choice?”
If the answer is NO, the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your body is to skip it. Not because you “should,” but because you genuinely want to out of self-love.
You know when you learn a whole new way of looking at something and it totally clicks?
I was listening to a podcast called Happy Ever After, hosted by author and Law of Attraction Coach, Cassie Parks, and in episode #2 she said something that went off like bells in my head. She described how when it comes to money, she doesn’t use the word “spend,” she always uses the word “invest.” She explained that when you invest, you expect a return—which makes you look at spending money in a different way.
“What’s the return on my investment?”
How does this relate to my work in helping women change their relationship with food?
By using the word “invest” any time you purchase food, it makes you think about the return you’ll be getting on that investment—which may change what you decide to put in your cart, and ultimately, what you end up putting in your body.
When you choose high-nutrient foods (protein, vegetables, fruit, etc.), you are investing in your good health. The energy it provides you to run your body, and perhaps even help you release some extra weight, is a return on your investment.
When you are about choose low-nutrient foods (cookies, French fries, ice cream, etc.), you may want to “forecast” your return on investment for that choice before you make it. If you really and truly enjoy consuming that particular food (guilt-free), then maybe the return on investment is worth it to you. If you know from past experience that eating it will leave you feeling physically sick and overstuffed, or it will cause you to gain weight, or you know you’re going to verbally beat yourself up afterward, then you might decide that this type of return on investment is not what you want after all.
As you buy your groceries or as you order in a restaurant, I invite you to think of the money you are about to part with as making an investment in yourself. Which choices are going to give you more of what you want long-term?
Even if there’s no exchange of money, I still invite you to consider your potential “return” prior to making your food choices. Are you about to help yourself to the candy bowl at the office? Unless you are able to slow down and enjoy every single bite, what is the real return you’re about to receive? Feeling guilt and shame for eating it? Feeling physically gross? Potentially stalling your progress on your road to better health?
Each time you make a food choice, stop and ask yourself, “If I choose this, what is the return, and do I want that for myself?” Try this for a week and see if it changes the way you invest in yourself and your health. Who knows? You might even save some money in the process by passing on food you’d rather not invest in. How cool would that be?
Speed eating. Unconscious eating. Eating until whatever you are eating is gone. If you tend to overeat—either often or on occasion—you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s eating so fast, as if to “get rid of the evidence” as one client used to say. It’s getting to the bottom of the potato chip bag and wondering what the heck just happened. It’s eating until not a thing is left on your plate, even though you were physically full seventeen bites ago and now you are stuffed. To overeat, you have to disconnect from your body. Your mind takes a mini-vacation while you’re eating, only to return after the food is gone to commence in the mental beat-down that sounds something like this: “Why did you do that? You’re such a pig! You will never lose weight now. You’re disgusting! I hate you for doing this—again!” Though you are the one doling out the harsh words, you are also on the receiving end of this verbal tirade, and you end up feeling worse, which often fuels even more overeating.
Eating is such an automatic thing. We’ve been doing it our whole lives that the mechanics of eating can be performed unconsciously. Kind of like tying our shoes or brushing our teeth, we’ve been doing it for so long, that it takes no thought to perform these tasks. This morning, I discovered (quite by accident) a way to practice paying attention while you are eating. Let me share the story with you.
I am babysitting two dogs while their family is on vacation for Spring Break. This morning, I found a small puddle next to the refrigerator. As I swiped a paper towel under the fridge to mop up the puddle, I sliced the top of the knuckle of my middle finger on the edge of the metal grill. OUCH! That freaking hurt! And it bled like a mo. Once I got the bleeding to stop, I put ointment on it and one of those fancy knuckle bandages. I thought, “Great, now I have to keep it dry,” and decided against making the breakfast I had planned to make, as that involves a lot of prep and clean up. Since I was hungry, and the Farmers Market didn’t open for another two hours, I foraged in the kitchen for something to eat that didn’t involve dishes.
On the top of my fridge was a bag of BBQ potato chips. Yes, not the best breakfast for my body, but I wasn’t willing to let myself get over-hungry while I waited for the Farmers Market to open. I opened the bag and started eating with my left hand since I didn’t want to get BBQ powder all over my right hand with the bandage. My right hand is my dominant hand, so it was awkward as ass to eat with my left. It took focus and attention to pinch the chips and bring them up to my mouth. I was forced to eat slowly and thoughtfully. Eating that slowly, I could really taste the chips and their texture in my mouth. And then it dawned on me, “I’m done. I don’t want any more of these.” It was so easy to stop eating, and I put the rest of the bag of chips back on top of the fridge. Why was I able to do this? Because I was present.
If you find it hard to slow down or stay present while you eat, I invite you to try eating exclusively with your non-dominant hand for the entire day and see how it impacts you. What do you notice when you slow down? Does the food even taste the same? When you slow down and actually taste it, you might discover that you don’t even like the taste or texture of what you’re eating and decide that you don’t want to keep eating it. For some of you, it might even taste better, because when you are eating so fast, you often miss the experience of actually tasting the food you’re eating. When you slow down and are present with your food, you are likely to find that you are easily satisfied with less.
Try eating with your non-dominant hand for a day. It’s a cool experiment! If you like the new awareness it brings, why not commit to this practice for an entire week and see what happens? Eventually, you will go back to eating your meals with your dominant hand, but maybe you’ll consider making it a practice to only eat fun foods (chips, ice cream, cookies, candy etc.) with your non-dominant hand to maintain that connection with yourself and not slip back into the mindless eating like before. What might your body look like if you did this one practice for a month, or six months, or a year? Any time you do something differently than the way you are doing it now, you will create different results. And then you can applaud yourself with both hands.