You’ve been there. We all have.
You’ve set out on a plan to get healthy and you’re doing great. You’re making wise choices that feel good to you, and those choices are creating the results you deeply want for yourself.
Then someone offers you a drink or food that’s not on your plan, and you are faced with a choice: Take care of yourself by saying “No, thank you,” or abandon your plan and accept the food or drink being offered.
A high percentage of people faced with this choice will default to the latter.
Why do we abandon ourselves so easily?
It’s a weird form of self-preservation, really.
Here’s how the inner dialogue goes:
“If I refuse, I will hurt their feelings, and then they will think ill of me. I want to be liked, so I will sacrifice my health goals and eat or drink what’s offered.”
“If I refuse, they will think I’m on a diet. I don’t want people to think that, because then it means that there is something wrong with me that I’m trying to change. I want to fit in, so I must join in with the eating and drinking to appear “normal.”
“Well, now I’ve blown it. I may as well eat everything, because tomorrow I’ll go back to being strict again.”
What I invite you to see here is that these are just stories in your mind.
You can’t hurt other people’s feelings—especially by taking care of yourself.
If someone decides to feel hurt because you choose to stay true to your health goals—that would definitely be a friendship worth evaluating.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, and great health is created by small choices made in the moment.
Too many women are worried that the thoughts other people will think about them when they say “No, thank you” are going to be negative—BUT—what if by saying “No, thank you,” you are actually offering inspiration to others because you are providing an example that it’s okay to be totally yourself, which includes taking care of yourself in the moment.
We need more women like this in the world.
I invite you to be one of them.
It is not uncommon when a new client starts working with me, by week two or three she starts feeling frustrated that she has not mastered the concepts she just learned.
“I should have this figured out by now.”
“I just can’t get the hang of this.”
“I’m never going to get this.”
Do you do this, too?
It’s a pretty common way of thinking, but is it really serving you?
Should you be able to master a new concept immediately?
Knowing how the brain works, I think it’s not helpful to put this kind of pressure on yourself. The frustration you create is likely to cause you to quit, which would then provide proof for the thought, “I’m never going to get this.” In this case, you’d be right.
Let’s take the example of chronic overeating, shall we?
Say you’ve been overeating for a significant span of time (for some of you it may be years or even decades). Acknowledging this is not for you to now judge yourself; instead I invite you to look at this through the lens of science. Plain and simple, your brain is well practiced in the skill of overeating. This is the pattern it knows.
Now say you want to stop overeating and set out to quit cold turkey. You try for two days, and by the third day you overeat. You get angry and frustrated with yourself and say, “I totally blew it.”
Listen, you didn’t blow it. All that happened is your brain slipped into the groove it knows very well. If you’ve been overeating for years, it’s going to take weeks, maybe months of practice to carve in the new groove of not overeating.
Do you expect to learn how to play a song on the piano without making mistakes? No, you are going to flub and skip some notes many, many times, right?
Do you expect to learn how to juggle tennis balls perfectly without dropping them right out of the gate? No, dropping balls while learning how to juggle is expected.
It should be the same with practicing your new skill of not overeating.
Expect that it will not be perfect.
And guess what?
You can make mistakes and still succeed.
You do this by not giving up.
So, when your brain happens to slip into the groove it knows and you overeat, remind yourself that this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. All it means is that you need more practice. And you have several opportunities to practice each day. You can try again with your very next meal or snack.
It really helps if you give yourself the time and space to practice. You do this with your thoughts and words. Try these alternative thoughts on for size:
“I haven’t figured this out—yet.”
“I haven’t got the hang of this yet, but I will.”
“I’ve learned how to do many things in my life, and I can learn how to do this, too.”
When trying to change something as sensitive as overeating, you do not need your harsh inner voice reprimanding you along the way. This is not helpful.
Instead, I invite you to treat yourself with kindness and patience, always supporting yourself with your words:
“You can do this.”
“I believe in you.”
If you are a veteran of the diet war, speaking kindly to yourself probably takes practice too, but since you are likely able to say these words to a beloved friend or family member, your brain already knows how to do this. All you’ll have to do is direct those words towards you.
Sometimes you want to overeat.
You want to finish your delicious entrée.
You want to have a slice of the pumpkin pie and a slice of the pecan pie.
You want another helping of your Grandmother’s casserole that she only makes on special occasions.
When you decide to overeat, just like your reason why—and then don’t beat yourself up afterward.
Really savor it.
Be happy that you ate it.
“Be happy that I ate it?”
When you’re happy about your choice to overeat in that moment, you spare yourself the self-punishment that follows when you judge yourself for overeating. That self-punishment usually begins with mean self-talk and then can escalate to either you using that one overeat as a reason to continue overeating (“I blew it! I may as well finish the box/bag/pan.”), or you threaten yourself with restriction (“Absolutely no treats for the next week!”)—which only sets you up for more overeating when you eventually rebel. I know you know what I’m talking about here.
Instead, I invite you to give yourself the space to overeat on occasion if you really, really want to—and when you do, choose to take ownership of it. That puts you in the place of empowerment. There is a difference between saying, “I’m choosing to overeat right now and I’m good with it,” vs. “I don’t have control; I’m such a loser.”
Overeat once and move on.
Overeat, beat yourself up, and overeat some more.
The choice is yours.
Have you ever tasted something and didn’t like it, but then finished it anyway because you paid for it, only to feel unsatisfied and then eat something else on top of it even though you were no longer hungry? I know I have. This can be an unconscious way we overeat because we tend to forget about consuming the food we didn’t like and only register the food we did. But your body knows what you consumed, and it now has to deal with the excess it didn’t need. That excess often gets stored as body fat.
I used to do this a lot until I understood why: Any time you continue eating something you don’t like, it’s because you have a belief driving that action.
The minute you realize you don’t like what you’re eating, do you hear thoughts in your head like these?
“That was expensive.”
“I already bought it, so I might as well finish it.”
“I don’t want to waste my money.”
We believe that we’re somehow “saving money” by consuming the food or drink rather than throwing it away. But here is something to consider: Aren’t you and your health worth more than the cost of that item?
Let’s do some math on a recent experience I had to give you some perspective on what I’m talking about. One Friday night I treated myself to a bottle of wine that cost $15.00. I had one generous glass that was nice, but it didn’t knock my socks off, plus I felt really run down the next morning. Still, there was about three generous glasses left and I contemplated finishing the bottle over the weekend “because I paid for it.”
The next day, I used my free coupon at Peet’s Coffee and tried out a Pumpkin Spice latte for the very first time. After three sips, I found that I didn’t like it at all. I thought about finishing it because I didn’t want to “waste my free coupon,” but then I thought better of myself and decided to pour the latte down the drain. While I was at it, I poured the rest of the bottle of wine down the drain, too. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t like the way I felt after drinking it. I did the math and decided that I was worth more than $11.25.
Do your own math the next time you don’t like what you’re eating or drinking and then really look at that number.
When you hear your mind say, “That was expensive,” tell yourself:“I am worth more than that.”
When you hear your mind say, “I already bought it, so I might as well finish it,” tell yourself: “I am worthy of food and drink that taste awesome to me.”
When you hear your mind say, “I don’t want to waste my money,”tell yourself: “It is never a waste of money to honor myself.”
Not making yourself consume food or drink you don’t like is honoring yourself.
Not overeating is honoring yourself.
Recognizing that you are worth more than $4.99 (or whatever) is honoring yourself.
And if you can’t give the item away to someone who would enjoy it more than you, remember that wasting it in the trash is always better than wasting in your body.