”Instead of either being in control while dieting or out of control when not dieting, try choosing. Make a choice, a decision.”
If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know there aren’t many choices. While dieting, you eat what the rules tell you to eat, no thinking required, no decisions to be made.
When you go off (or fall off) a diet, it’s very chaotic. You may overeat as a result of the deprivation you experienced while on the diet. Whether it’s simply overeating, or actual binging, this feels like you’re out of control, right?
New clients often tell me that they just want to “get back in control” of their eating. I have to question this, do they really want control? What does it feel like to be in control?
When you really think about it, being in control is when you are following that diet to the letter. It’s rigid constraint and conformity. You’re also white-knuckling it, trying to keep that grip on yourself so you don’t “cheat,” when both your mind and body are fighting you every step of the way.
When you’re dieting, you’re working against your mind and body, and they fight back because it’s not an optimal state of being – eating less food than your body needs and living in a constant state of fight-or-flight because your body interprets low food intake as a threat to your survival.
Do you really want to be in control, if this is what it takes?
On the other end of the spectrum, hardly anyone enjoys the physical and mental consequences of overeating and being out of control. You feel guilt and shame, and you tell yourself you need more “willpower.”
You believe there’s something wrong with you because you can’t stick to a diet, you’re so out of control!
Experiencing guilt and shame after overeating and thinking you need more willpower are part of the ”diet mentality.” These thoughts and beliefs have no place in a peaceful relationship with food.
Another piece of the diet mentality is “black and white thinking.” The idea that you’re either in control by dieting, or out of control when not dieting, is an example. It’s either this or that, there are no other options in between – no gray areas!
I hope neither being in or out of control are very appealing to you at this point, after showing you what they are really both about, and what they do. Let’s move into the gray zone, which is all about choice, or making decisions.
In the gray zone, all foods are allowed. There are no restrictions, and no “good” or “bad” foods. When you choose what you want to eat, you may decide on something that’s really yummy or that you’ve been craving. But you may just as easily choose something that your body is asking for or a specific food or type of food that supports your health and tastes good at the same time.
Intuitive eaters make decisions about what they want to eat. They have their favorite foods, but they also know how foods with a higher nutrient density feel really good to their bodies and provide the energy to do what they want and need to do each day. Whatever they decide to eat, they never spend time feeling guilty or planning a way to “make up for it.”
You may worry that allowing yourself to choose what to eat will lead you to eat chocolate cake all day, or whatever your favorite treat happens to be. At first, this may be the case. But it won’t be more than a few days (if that long) until you’re tired of the cake and you choose something that better supports your mind, body and energy!
I assure you, the more you make decisions based on what you and your body want, the more you will gravitate towards foods that provide satisfaction, make you feel great and provide consistent energy. This is part of the peace process with food – it begins by rejecting diets and outside rules, so you can make your own decisions about what you really want, each time you eat.
Coaching Question: Does the idea of making your own decisions about what to eat concern you? Do you believe you can’t trust yourself or you won’t be able to stop eating a favorite food once you start?
Imagine for a minute that you can trust yourself. You can stop when you’ve had enough. Visualize this and then ask, “Who do I need to be, what do I need to believe, or what needs to happen so I can trust myself, feel when I’m satisfied and stop eating at that point?”
Just ask the questions and let your mind come up with an answer. It may not be immediate, but it will come to you. When it does, take action on the answer and take your next step towards peace with food!