As part of healthy eating, we can all enjoy any food we want on any given day, as long as we’re intentional and honest about our choices, making sure they’re a reflection of our true wants, needs, and goals. Of course this is much easier in writing than in practice … because like it or not, we all have ‘baggage’ around food. Some of us have carpet bags and some of us have suitcases. You didn’t ask for your baggage, and it’s not your fault that it’s accumulated. Long-standing assumptions are difficult to change (e.g. good food/bad food/I should/I shouldn’t, I’m on/I’m off, doing all/doing nothing, with no in-between). If this is a struggle for you, know that it takes a lot of patience and practice to alter your mindset and relationship with food. This is a skill you build over time – by staying open to possibility, identifying and testing those assumptions, and experimenting with doing different to get different. By practicing a healthy mix of curiosity and skepticism about your own food beliefs, and being willing – not afraid – to learn new things about yourself, you allow your mindset to flex and evolve over time.
So, what can you do? How about starting a friendly dialogue with yourself. Without realizing it, you may have been stuck in monologue mode for years, allowing one voice to be the end all and be all truth, bossing around your brain and body without ever being challenged. It’s time to speak up! The best way to open a dialogue is simply to start asking questions. Here are a few initial questions that are helpful to ask when you’re making decisions about what or when or how much to eat or planning ahead for special occasions… instead of assuming you should or shouldn’t do anything, or can’t, or won’t want to, or won’t be able to do something, ask yourself:
What do I really want?
How will doing/not doing this make me feel?
What assumptions am I making?
Are they true?
It’s important to consider both the present moment & the big picture when answering these questions, as sometimes the responses are different depending on that context – in which case, the follow up question should compare your answers, e.g. ‘which do I want more?’ or ‘which feeling do I prefer?’) For example:
What do I really want?
I really want to not have to think about how much I eat or drink at the party (in the moment).
I also really want to feel successful the next day, rather than regretful (big picture)….which do I want more?
Is there a compromise that gives me a little bit of both? How will ‘not thinking about it’ at the party make me feel?
Liberated! (In the moment)
Maybe a little overwhelmed by choices (in the moment)
-Helpless / like a failure (big picture)
Which feeling do I prefer? Do they have to go together?
What assumptions am I making?
I will feel deprived if I limit my food & drink choices
The party won’t be AS fun if I set boundaries around my choices
I will feel great/enjoy myself MORE if I let loose
Are my assumptions true?
Honestly, I don’t know!
I think I would feel deprived if I didn’t let myself have any treats… but maybe not if I just set a limit on how many.
I have never done this so I can’t say whether or not it will be less fun.
I might feel more empowered by setting limits and knowing I’m not undoing my successes from the week.
I also might feel out of control and disappointed if I let loose.
So in a way, the opposite of the assumptions I’m making could also be true.
It’s important to keep in mind that success with an exercise like the one above lies not in the outcome of the exercise, but the fact that you do it at all.
The honest dialogue is the big win, not the decisions that follow. Balanced eating and living is not about a pre-determined right or wrong decision or plan, it’s about making conscious choices with your best interests and true self care in mind. When this is the philosophy with which you approach your daily decisions, you do not need to “cheat,” because flexibility is built into your process. You meet your needs without excess or deprivation… most of the time. Some days are healthier than others. You know there is no such thing as perfect. You are balanced in the true and fluid sense of the word.

Courtesy of Judy Griffith/Jazzercise