If you want healthy changes to last you need to find a way to like the new and dislike the old. In this post, we share some strategies to help with that.
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing” - Dale Carnegie, Motivational writer. We can always learn to like something. Few people like their first alcoholic drink, but many quickly learn to like it. You can also learn to like healthy food and a healthy lifestyle.
Humans evolved to automatically prefer the easiest and quickest option. This saved precious energy when there was not so much food around. It is therefore not surprising that we find taking the ‘easy’ options comes naturally.
Unfortunately, nowadays we live in a society of next day delivery and ubiquitous easy but unhealthy food options. It can make it very difficult to choose the healthy option, especially when we are busy.
Focusing on the things you like about new healthy changes rather than what you might miss about your old unhealthy ways is incredibly important. If the healthy options are the things you like then they will be the natural choices.
Rather than forcing yourself to eat healthily and exercise, realise the ways you enjoy being healthy. You could try these things:
Add things you like to the experience of healthy food such as herbs, spices, good company or music
Find ways to enjoy exercise like doing it with friends or for mental health, not just for weight loss
Realise the increased sense of power and control you have over your health
Appreciate the physical benefits of stopping bingeing such as increased energy, less pain, and more confidence
Remind yourself that you now have freedom from your old ‘habits’
Connect the old habit with unpleasant (not pleasant) feelings, e.g. pain, lack of confidence, stress and low energy
Remember what it will be like in future if you give up
Use your imagination to make binge-foods seem unpleasant
Let’s face it. However strong your mindset is, it is likely that sometimes, you will still eat something that you wish you hadn’t. I could tell you that you won’t, but it wouldn’t be realistic. One of the most important things about a healthy relationship with food is that you can learn to forgive yourself when it happens.
These three things can help us to forgive ourselves if we eat something we wish we hadn’t:
All is not lost, unless you decide that it is. That is your choice.
Try to accept any ’blips’ as only a temporary setback. It is only an issue if you choose for it to be. You can just as easily choose to get back on track.
Think of any setbacks as a valuable learning experience. Can you find what the triggers were? Can you put in place a plan to prevent it next time? It could end up being a great opportunity to learn from.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies” - Nelson Mandela. When thinking of it this way, would you decide to poison yourself with feeling guilty? Although it is easier said than done, sometimes realizing that we hold resentment towards ourselves is enough to release it. By beating yourself up, or resenting yourself about what you ate, you are fuelling a negative cycle which can lead to more eating to cover up the feelings of guilt. Once you become aware of this, it is easier to step in, take responsibility and choose to change it. You can choose to forgive yourself and get back on track. Only you can do it. You choose whether you succeed or not. Once this idea ‘clicks’, being healthy gets a lot easier.
Try to practice forgiveness towards yourself. You could do this after eating something you wish you hadn’t, you could try these steps:
1. Accept that it happened
2. Accept that you were responsible for what you ate
3. Practice being kind and tell yourself “I am willing to forgive myself”.
4. Think about what triggered the eating
5. What could you have done differently?
6. What could you do differently next time?
7. Make a plan for next time you find yourself in this situation
Next time you regret something you ate, could you choose to forgive yourself. Can you choose to get back on track?
“Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in” – Sebastian Vettel, Formula 1 Racing Driver. Realising control of our choices can take practice, until it becomes natural, we can use pauses to help make healthy choices. If we can notice what feelings lie beneath when we think about reaching for food, we can create a pause. This precious pause allows our adult brain to actively consider and then choose a healthy option. This is how you can stop self-sabotaging yourself. Just this pause can be enough.
It is also important to keep open communication between your adult brain and inner toddler. Remember to keep explaining your healthy choices to your inner toddler. If you explain to your inner toddler why you don’t want to succumb to your food cravings, it gives you time and allows your logical (adult) brain to step in. Then you will be acting with your adult brain and it is more likely that you will make a healthy choice.
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Dr Kirsten Keighley
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Dr Kirsten Keighley Ltd is a registered company in England and Wales (Company number 12673809).
The information in this website is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr Kirsten Keighley on behalf of Dr Kirsten Keighley Ltd. We recommend you make your own health decisions based on your own research and consultation with a qualified health professional. We recommend that you consult your and your child’s doctor and/or dietician before beginning a new diet or exercise programme.