“Instead of either being in control over food 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 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 over food.”
I have to question this, do they really want control? What does it feel like to be in control?
Control or Out of Control?
Think about it – being in control is following that diet to the letter. It’s rigid constraint and conformity. You’re trying to keep that grip on yourself so you don’t “cheat.” But your mind and body are fighting you the whole time, keeping you white-knuckling through it.
When you diet, you’re working against your mind and body. They fight back because it’s not an optimal state of being. Restricting food creates a constant state of fight-or-flight because your body is fighting for survival.
Do you really want to be in control, if this is what it takes?
On the other hand, no one enjoys the physical and mental consequences of being out of control over food. It brings on guilt and shame, and you tell yourself you need more “willpower.”
Experiencing guilt and shame after overeating and thinking you need more willpower are both 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.” You’re either in control by dieting, or out of control and overeating. It’s either this or that, there are no other options in between – no gray areas!
I hope at this point neither being in or out of control are very appealing. Let’s move into the gray zone, which is all about choice, or making decisions.
Choices Live in the Gray Area
In the gray zone, all foods are allowed. There is no restriction, and no “good” or “bad” foods. When you choose what you want to eat, you may decide on something yummy or that you’ve been craving. But you may just as easily choose something that your body is asking for. You may feel a craving for a specific type of food your body is wanting.
Intuitive eaters make decisions about what they want to eat. They have their favorite foods, but they are also aware of how different foods make them feel and they often choose those that physically feel good. 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. At first, this may be the case. But after a few days (if that long) you’ll be tired of the cake and craving something else. Chances are, you’ll choose something that your body is asking for!
The more decisions based on what you and your body want, the more you’ll want foods that provide satisfaction and consistent energy. This is part of making peace with food. As you let go of control and allow for choice, you’ll make satisfying decisions and feel great for it!