“I am fat!”
Have you ever thought or said this sentence to yourself? How often do you say it?
We speak ourselves into the world, and a sentence like this one can tingly determine our experience of being alive. It also has a tremendous, direct impact on the food choices we are making. Even if it seems that we are only using these three little words to describe our current experience of ourselves, the truth is that we are doing much more than that.
Our language, including self-talk, is much more than a simple tool we use to communicate and describe (1).
What we say about ourselves and to ourselves generates and creates our reality. If we declare ourselves to be fat, then our entire emotional and behavioral system will adjust to confirm this declaration (2).
Our deep-rooted negative beliefs lead us into buying unwholesome foods on sale, ordering takeaways that we didn't plan to order. They make us surrender to social pressure, like when we accept the repetitive offer for a piece of cake or that cocktail our friend wanted us to have. This negative self-talk makes us vulnerable and more susceptive to the “f**k it factor” that provokes binges, overeating, food coma, weight gain, body rejection, low self-esteem and many severe health conditions.
Maybe we are already so accustomed to negative self-talk that we don’t even notice when it’s happening, we only become aware of the “negative feelings” that rise as an inevitable result of the “little words”. That is why we need to understand the “full cycle” that plays out every time we make food choices that damage our health, appearance, and self-esteem.
As mentioned in the introduction it all starts with a negative self-belief, an unsupportive, negative thought that we have about ourselves. There is a famous quote by Frank Outlaw that summarises this very well:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
If we allow ourselves to stay passive and unaware of our thoughts than how will we be able to create our destiny? How will we truly be able to choose in this world full of temptation, social influence and pressure to consume?
Luckily we aren’t as helpless as it might seem at first. There are steps we can make to develop and straighten good habits that will in time compensate for the lack of willpower, discipline and common sense when it comes to food.
Step 1: Recognise the triggers.
There are three types of factors that influence our capacity for rational decision making when it comes to food and nutrition (3). They are:
- psychological ( thoughts, words, emotions, beliefs, memories, opinion, expectations, etc.)
- social ( media influence, social pressure/expectations, comments, etc.)
- physiological ( hormones, cravings, health condition, etc.)
In the process of choosing what to eat, all these factors become largely relevant. That is why it’s not enough to simply know what food is good for us, but we need, also, to have the ability to navigate through “a mess” of expectations, desire, deprivation, pressure, fear and lack of perspective. That’s why something as basic as the act of feeding isn’t basic at all.
Because it isn’t the knowledge that we lack no new diet, no miraculous “fat burn” smoothie, no three week fast or the superfood groceries list can fundamentally solve our food problems on the long run. When we decide to focus on “dieting” as an effort to gain control over our eating habits, it’s just a matter of time until a sense of horrible deprivation kicks in and ruins everything.
Have you tried dieting before? What was the outcome of your experience?
By now it’s clear that to be well and eat well, it isn’t enough to restrict and control our behavior around food. What is required is for us to build a positive and supportive relationship firstly with ourselves and then with food so that we can maintain proper nutrition that promotes vitality and wellbeing.
As every good relationship begins with an introduction, the best way to start a “love story” between you and food is to get to know each other a little bit more:
- What kind of food do I consider to be good for me? What food isn’t right for me?
- What kind of thoughts support me to make good food choices?
- What are the most common obstacles I face when I want to eat well?
- Which social circumstances have a positive impact on the way I eat? Which are detrimental and lead to disappointment?
- What kind bodily sensations/experiences show me that I am on the right track with nutrition? What tells me that I have fallen off the wagon?
- In a perfect world, what would my food choices consist of? What could help me make those choices today?
Clarity we gain through this awareness with support us in gaining greater control over our behavior regarding nutrition and will ultimately enable lasting lifestyle changes.
Step 2: Be your biggest support
Even after becoming increasingly aware of ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and all the other factors that influence our eating habits there is still a chance that we will fall victim to temptation. We could still choose something that isn’t healthy or good for us.
This is because as humans we are flawed and imperfect.
Accepting this truth will help us to be more gentle and compassionate with ourselves as we learn how to live our lives with less pain and suffering. The last thing we need here is to blame and shame ourselves (4).
As we are slowly making wiser decisions around food, we will see that our whole lifestyle is changing and adjusting. That's why self-support, self-acceptance, and patience will be our biggest allies in “this battle”.
What is “this battle” about? Why is it so difficult to stay away from bad food?
Our society has become a “food carnival”, it’s not surprising that many of us struggle so much when it comes to weight and food (5). Compulsive eating and obesity aren’t just a personal/individual issue related to self-discipline, willpower, saying no to sugar or carbs, they became much greater than that.
Yes, we are responsible for what kind of food we choose, but we don’t make those choices “in a vacuum”. We are hugely influenced by advertisement, convenience, abundance and low price of junk food, jobs that require no physical labor, etc.
We are faced with temptations of tremendous proportions, and to rise above them, we almost become heroes on a journey to better health and happiness.
Heroes make mistakes too, and we love and admire them, nevertheless.
Step 3: Choose long-term wellbeing over short-term pleasure
When nothing else works; when knowing better fails us, our inner critic destroys our last atom of willingness to eat well- then we are left with one last hope. Our ability to think things thought.
If we stop and take a moment to visualize how our future would look like if we kept making wrong decisions around food, this act will generate enough fear to “ruin” the anticipated pleasure from food (6).
Example: As a compulsive overeater and a food addict I am often in the situation where I stop in front of the frozen pizza /ice-cream aisle in the supermarket thinking to buy something tasty that will make me feel better. In those moments I have two voices in my head. One that is telling me that junk food makes me lose control so I should stay away from it and the other that is trying to convince me that this time it will be different and that indulging in food is a great idea that won't have any negative consequences whatsoever.
It’s very obvious what should the correct decision be, but it isn’t always easy to make it. That’s why I need to take a moment and think things through. How I do this is to imagine that I bought that pizza, and the tub of ice-cream I wanted and ate everything the same evening. Because it felt so good to indulge in fat, sugary, processed food I kept making similar choices each day for the upcoming five years. After five years of irresponsible, compulsive junk food consumption I imagine that I would become ill and miserable to the extent that I wouldn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.
Seeing this image of the consequence of my choice more clearly helps me avoid the trap of short-term pleasure and supports me to seek greater satisfaction in life in the long run.
Sometimes it’s required of us to put things in perspective to be able to escape our default future, and instead build a better, greater life for ourselves.
If you are struggling with overeating or losing control over food, remember that you are not alone. In fact, you are one of many who are on the same journey from “Food Hell” to “ Heaven of Health”. Looking for a little more inspiration? Try here.
To get Intention Inspired and begin your true transformation join our 30 Days of Health Challenge. You won't regret it that decision for sure.