We’re coming to that time of year where we loosen the reins, indulging in all of the festive deliciousness that this season brings. Then comes the lure of “starting fresh” on January 1st and making that infamous resolution: “Time to go on a diet.”
We live in an age where we have all of the knowledge in the world at our fingertips. Our Instagram and Facebook feeds, television and magazines are inundating us daily with the latest and greatest diets, recipes and exercise regimes that promise amazing weight loss, health benefits and abs like Kayla Itsines.
Eleven years ago, I was studying to become a personal trainer, worked in a boutique gym providing nutrition and exercise guidance to female clients, I was reading countless books and spending I don’t even want to admit how much money on health and fitness magazines which essentially were telling me the same things over and over again. That was me on the left..
Armed with all of that information and knowing all that I knew, I was still living a seriously unhealthy lifestyle. Being stuck in a cycle of yo yo dieting, unable to pull it all together, making big exercise plans for the week and not following through, reaching for sugary treats and binge drinking on weekends - my lifestyle was a far cry from what I was learning about in my courses and magazines, and even further away from the life I had in mind for myself. So knowing full well that my actions were not serving me well, why did I continue to make those decisions?
It’s the exact same reason that the thousands of people making that new years resolution to ‘go on a diet’ get to February 1st (or sooner) and find themselves back in the same bad habits, stuck in a rut and feeling more frustrated than ever before.
I don’t doubt that most of us know exactly what we should be doing. I certainly did. Despite the fact that every second person you speak to is either on a diet or going on a diet, we aren’t getting healthier or thinner. We are getting more obsessed with food, weight loss, and the perfect body than ever before. Yet, statistics show that as a society we’re an obese nation that's getting bigger!
We are looking in the wrong places to solve our problem.
We are looking in the mirror, criticising every lump and jiggle instead of looking at what’s going on deep down inside. As with most things in life, the answer lies in our minds. Your mind got your body to where it is now, and it is your mind that will get your body to where you want it to be. Until we address why we are overeating or reaching for foods that don’t nourish us we will not break the cycle.
When I made the decision and took the steps to change my mindset; focussing on treating my body with respect, doing what made me feel great long term and not just for the fleeting second that I dunked my tim tam in to my hot milo, I finally saw lasting results. Results that have remained consistent for the past ten years.
I could spend my time telling you how to cut food groups and give yourself that instant gratification of losing those few kilos that you have been frantically trying to get rid of. But when they pile back on, you still won’t have the tools to catch yourself when you’re reaching for food to serve yourself emotionally. Or, when you still feel like food consumes your life, you won’t be any better off than before.
The mind is unfortunately programmed to look to the negative. When asked what would be more likely to lead to success, 50% of men and a huge 75% of women responded that focussing on weaknesses rather than focussing on strengths would achieve the best results. The unfortunate thing about this is if we continue to focus on what is ‘wrong’ with us, we send ourselves in to a downward spiral of despair. What does that mean for our health? We fall back in to that cycle of eating to fill an emotional need, adding to the problem that we were actually wanting to fix!
Because diets are based on the negative – “what is wrong with my body shape and what do I need to give up to fix it?” - they don’t work with our minds to address what needs to be addressed. If we can turn this completely around and start focussing on the positive, asking questions like - What’s going to make me feel good long term? What do I love to do? What is going to give me a lift when I fall in to a slump? What foods do I love that nourish me? We can start to see real and lasting results. We are creating a way of thinking and a lifestyle change that is manageable and sustainable.
We can offer ourselves a gentler road, treating ourselves with compassion, nurturing ourselves in a way that releases us from our dietary imprisonment. We can begin to use awareness rather than deprivation to lose weight, a holistic approach where rather than just focusing on the physical body we tend to our physical and emotional well being.
So, how do we get there? We focus on these three things.
1. Ask 'Why'?
What is it that you want to achieve? Why do you want to eat better food, exercise, live a healthier life? Is there a reason greater than having Kayla’s abs? I’m sure there is, and it’s going to be far more powerful in keeping you on track to achieving your goals.
Taking a bigger picture approach means that if you have that piece of cake at an office birthday you’re less likely to let it completely derail you for the rest of the day or week.
2. Look back.
In order to make a change we need to understand how your relationship with food has come about. How am I feeling on those days when I can’t pull it together? Usually I’m tired, stressed, sad, lonely, bored or any combination of those factors. Why do I reach for chocolate when I need comfort? How long have these habits been with me? How often do I reinforce them? Don’t use this as a vehicle to blame and ridicule yourself. Simply make the observation, accept it and shift to a solution based focus.
By asking these questions and understanding why we make the choices we make, what works for us and what doesn’t, we can start to work with the information to unwind behaviours and habits to achieve lasting results.
3. Plan to nourish
Changing the way we think about food can be extremely powerful. If we use food to nourish our body, rather than to serve an emotional purpose or to lose weight it will stop having such power over us.
A great way to remove emotion from your food decisions is to plan your week of eating in advance. Sit down and think about your week while you’re in a clear headspace, not hungry, with your calendar in front of you so that you can prepare for any potential hurdles in advance. If you know you’re meeting a friend for coffee and you usually have cake – allow for it or go somewhere you know has healthy treats. If on Friday nights you like to have pizza night, buy things to make your own at home. When the thinking is done prior to the event the emotion is removed.
Taking time to tune in to your body and what it needs to feel nourished and healthy means that you are no longer eating from your emotional, thought-ridden, compulsive mind. You are regaining control
As we shift away from the negative self talk and dieting cycle into a kinder, calmer approach to nourishing our bodies our world changes. This contentment and peace around food is what we really need to make lasting changes to our lifestyle.
I’ve chosen to address this now rather than toward the New Year when it becomes extremely topical. Why? Because I’m about changing habits. Instead of getting to NYE and feeling the need to go on a diet, I really hope that you can develop a positive relationship with food and with your body over the coming month so that you can cruise in to the New Year with renewed vision. What else can you shift that energy to now? Time to set new goals.
Which mindset shift can you make to feel more freedom around your relationship with food? Comment below!