I have a history of eating way too healthily for my own good.
You know, when you are trying to be perfect and you get really picky and even maybe judgey?
I’ve done that quite a few times over the years.
There was the time when I was doing “keto” and I was so strict about it I couldn’t even think about eating a carrot, let alone squash or, “gasp”, potatoes!
Other times in the past I couldn’t find anything I “could eat” from the Whole Foods salad bar. I found something wrong with just about every food on the bar; bad oils, not organic, too much sugar, etc….
Take it from me, this is no way to live for the long run.
I am all for doing a short-term cleanse or restricted diet for a specific purpose but I don’t think anyone should strive to live such a restricted life.
That being said, I recognize that some people need to have some dietary restrictions for various reasons.
But to go to an extreme to lose weight or lower your blood sugar or “just because it’s healthy”, is actually unnecessary at best and potentially damaging at worst.
When I work with clients my goal is to help them find a way of eating that makes them happy; a way of eating that is SUSTAINABLE and that doesn’t cause “wacky thoughts”.
The mentality of restriction and that some foods are “bad for you” or “will make you fat” can easily lead to what I call “wacky thoughts”.
This can include becoming obsessed with eating a particular way at all costs, judging others for not eating that way, becoming fearful of breaking the “diet”, and the worst one of all, being really restrictive for a period of time and then suddenly breaking down and gorging on all the “bad” foods.
In the past what this looked like for me was adhering very strictly to particular eating “rules” and being really “good” for a period of time, only to discover myself desperately desiring those very foods after awhile.
The holidays and going on vacation were two triggers for abandoning all of my careful restrictive eating habits.
In the past I would be “perfect” for 6 months and then over the holidays find myself eating large amounts of pasta and ice cream day after day.
The holidays used to be such a struggle because I would gain 5 pounds as I allowed myself to “let loose”, thinking I would get back on track and fix it all after the holidays.
Although this is not extreme bingeing…it definitely is along the same lines.
So how did I fix this problem?
Well, I decided to start saying to myself, “I can eat whatever I want.”
I loosened up all but a few restrictions.
Funny thing was that this quickly evened out into myself eating MOSTLY really nutritious foods.
Wow, I was able to self-regulate without all of those rules and regulations! Amazing!
I discovered that I wanted to eat food that made me feel good before, during, and after eating it.
MOST OF THE TIME I simply desire foods that happen to be good for me.
Now, when I want to eat something that I know is not inherently “good for me” like ice cream or pasta, I just go for it. But there is no urge to overeat these foods anymore.
Once I was given permission to indulge, the desire to go crazy went away!
THIS is the secret to not overindulging over the holidays or on vacation.
To just allow myself to eat what I feel like eating when I want to eat it, takes away all those wacky thoughts and urges.
Now, if you have specific weight loss or health goals you may be thinking that you have to have SOME restrictions!
But those “restrictions” need to slowly trickle into your life. They can’t come crashing down on you like a waterfall.
And the restrictions can’t be super strict or extreme like eliminating an entire food group (like “carbs” or meat or something).
I’ve discovered that there is a fine art to designing a way of eating that makes people happy.
And like a fine work of art it takes time and creativity and it isn’t created overnight in a laboratory or by some diet guru.
Now I prefer to think of my adventures in eating food that makes me happy to be an ongoing process of self-discovery.
I make a small change and wait and see how it goes. Does it make me uptight? Does it appeal to me? Do I feel a sense of loss and grieving? Can I stick to it?
I tweak, observe, and tweak some more.
There is no judgement.
I think mindfulness is key to this whole process.
When I eat, I relish my food. Eating is one of the great pleasures of life, perhaps THE greatest pleasure in life since we do it so often.
Why would I want to rush through it and eat like an animal?
So, in summary, I believe now that the path to stepping off the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster is paved with mindfulness, pleasure, self-love, self-acceptance, curiosity, exploration, forgiveness, and fun.
Let’s stop being so serious about it and have some fun!
Let’s stop judging food and judging ourselves so harshly.
Let’s discover foods that truly nourish our bodies AND our souls.
Let’s be real about why we eat certain foods that make us feel bad…..and forgive ourselves for it.
Let’s experiment with new foods!
Let’s go easy on ourselves and accept that eating foods that are “bad” for us SOME of the time may just be part of life. And move on.
You can always do better tomorrow.
What it comes down to is that extremism leads to failure and moderation leads to consistency and success.