Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Get Those Dirty Diet-Culture Thoughts Out of Your Head Once and For All
Spring is my favorite time of year. Living in Connecticut, I'm lucky to enjoy all four seasons. However, after enduring a few cold, snowy months, it really makes you appreciate the sunshine, the warmer weather and the flowers. It upsets me to hear many people say that they dread the upcoming spring and summer seasons due to the fact that "beach season is approaching". So, what's the best way to fix this impending doom? Well, it's not a juice cleanse or a crash diet. Keep reading to find out how shifting your mindset can help you to reach your goals - and how to begin to make changes in your mind.
Our Attitude Affects Our Behaviors
Have you ever told yourself, "I'm going to start doing [insert activity that you hate here] because it's good for me"? While it's great that someone may want to make changes purely because they think they should, there is a problem with this outlook. See, if you don't enjoy something, you are not likely to stick with it. Research suggests intrinsic motivation - meaning that you do something purely because you enjoy it and it's important to you - enhances the likelihood of continuing a specific behavior and forming a habit. This can be extrapolated to any behavior, whether it's doing a specific activity, eating certain foods or any other behavior. If you force yourself to eat salad because you want to incorporate more vegetables, you will likely feel negatively toward the salad that you "should" eat, rather than feeling excited about vegetables prepared in a way that you do enjoy. If you force yourself to run because you think running is the best exercise (but you hate it), it will become very easy to blow it off as soon as any one conflict presents itself (a busy work schedule, personal conflicts, weather, you name it).
As soon as we shift our attitude about the why - why are we doing a particular behavior - it becomes easier and more enjoyable to create healthy, sustainable habits. So, if you don't like salad - don't eat it! Consider other ways that you can enjoy vegetables - whether it's in a smoothie, cooked in eggs, roasted as a side dish, you name it. In terms of activity, you are more likely to reap benefits from engaging in an activity that you enjoy regularly, rather than forcing yourself to do an activity that you dread sporadically. If you haven't found activities that you currently enjoy - I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and think outside the box in order to try a variety of activities - you may surprise yourself. For example, I love barre. I genuinely get excited to go and if I need to cancel a class, I actually feel like I'm missing out. I do not feel the same about running - I used to force myself to run regularly as a part of an active lifestyle, until I realized that I truly didn't love it. Now, I occasionally want to go for a run because I don't force myself to go and I genuinely look forward to a nice run on beautiful day. I run on my terms, when I want to and I enjoy it because I don't force it. However, most of the time, I do barre, yoga, go on long walks or do a spin class - all of which I love and look forward to doing! Wouldn't it feel great to wake up and feel excited about the exercise you're going to do? You can! It just takes some trial and error to find the activities that you enjoy and shifting your mindset from "I should do this" to "I want to do this".
Restriction Isn't Healthy For The Mind or The Body
My clients are often surprised when I explain that we are going to go about reaching their goals in the least restrictive way possible. People often fear that when they "let themselves" eat their favorite foods, they will lose control and delve into an eternity of binging on pizza. However, the reality is the complete opposite. I often ask my clients, "what is your favorite food?" and they usually answer with something like pizza, ice cream or french fries. I then say, "what if I told you that you couldn't eat [insert favorite food here] for the next 3 months - what would you be thinking about as soon as you leave my office"? The answer is always that food. That's because restriction doesn't work - it isn't sustainable and it sets you up for a negative relationship with food. So what if this year, we thought differently about the upcoming summer "slip-ups"? For me, summer conjures memories of ice cream, lobster rolls (I am from New England, after all), sweet fruit, the best tomatoes and seafood - including fried seafood. The key is listening to your body and your mind and allowing yourself permission to eat foods that you want and foods that you need. Many people fear that if they allow themselves to eat whatever they want and do whatever they want, they will sit around eating cookies all day. However, finding that intersection between your mind and your body allows you to tune into want you want, how you feel and how you function when you engage in each behavior. This is more likely to lead to choosing a variety of foods and activities that make you happy and are likely to improve your health. If this is a concept that seems difficult to grasp, I encourage you to reach out to a dietitian who can help you to unlearn diet culture and rediscover how to tune into your body and your mind!
It Starts With Acceptance and Appreciation
Acceptance and appreciation for your body does not mean you need to love how your body looks every second of every day. It means that you respect your body.
You respect your body enough to understand how hard it works for you.
You respect your body enough to appreciate it.
You respect your body enough to nourish it with nutritious food.
You respect your body enough to make time for mindful movement.
You respect your body enough to treat it with kindness.
Respect is NOT depriving yourself of food or sleep. Respect is NOT eliminating entire food groups for no reason. Respect is NOT ignoring other aspects of physical and mental health (such as rest, time with friends, time to complete other tasks you need to do) in order to spend hours at the gym. What if this year, you entered beach season with a pure respect and appreciation for what it is? A time to enjoy longer days, perhaps take some time to soak in nature's beauty, spend the extra hours in the day with family and friends. The only way to kick diet culture to the curb is to take away its power - and that is something that you have all the power to do!
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