Even though you are trying to let go of diets and befriend your body, you still want to lose weight so badly.
This is normal and in this article I explain why.
I often tell my clients it’s perfectly normal to be swaying between the two opposites of wanting food freedom and wanting food control (something often expressed through the wish of wanting to lose weight).
It’s important to acknowledge and normalise the fact that if you have a disordered relationship with food right now, the path to make peace with food will take time and commitment and you might experience some discomfort, at least initially…and for a while.
Very often the discomfort comes in the form of feeling like you are constantly moving between these two opposites below:
- A part of you wants to eat without restriction, to practice unconditional permission to eat the food you like.
- It’s the one part saying “Enough of dieting. I’m done with it!”.
- The other part wants to control your eating to lose or maintain weight. A part that appreciates the safe refuge coming from the good auld rules of dieting.
- This is the one that thinks “A diet will sort this out!”.
The brain dislikes incongruence
Experiencing this incongruence is never easy.
Our brain doesn’t like incongruence at all.
In fact, our brain is always looking for harmony, congruence, straight and simple direction (You can read more about this by googling the words “cognitive dissonance” — this is what it’s called it from a psychological perspective).
The brain doesn’t particularly enjoy entertaining two opposites. It despises contradictions.
Because it takes more energy to process conflicting inputs.
It means we need to question ourselves more, before taking actions. Like, for example, before deciding whether we put bread or not on the plate with our meal.
Because it doesn’t like when our actions don’t always line up with what we think to be true and right — both about ourselves and the world.
Additionally, we are raised in a culture that expects us to follow very specific rules and truths when it comes to food and taking care of our body.
The “good eaters” club
Many of us grow up often believing there’s only one right way to eat.
We want to be among that group of human beings who are the “good eaters”, those who seem to have it so easy with food that they can control it all the time.
When we realise how hard it is for us to follow this so called “healhy eating” model, we can feel quite disappointed.
The first and immediate response is to think:
“I must straighten out the way I think about food and then I’ll be fine”.
Diets and rules come in handy in that scenario, giving the false hope that we can “straighten” the way we eat and think about food for good.
What happens next you probably know if you’re part of this community and you’re reading this know.
For me, what happened at every attempt to gain control on food was always this big, relentless binge eating reaction. A wave of intense, neverending desire to eat.
I know for sure I’m not the only one.
Diets don’t work for most of us. They push us towards disordered eating, the binges, the excessive control over food.
At some point we get sick and tired of going around in circles.
We want to stop the constant fight with food.
BUT…at the same time, it’s so hard to believe that unconditional permission to eat what we want is the right thing to do.
It is so in contradiction with what we’ve learnt about food up until now.
After all, are we not supposed to be the “good eaters”?
Moving through the swaying between these two opposites
How can we entertain still wanting to be the “good eater” and at the same time the idea of eating what we feel like eating?
See, when you embark on this path to make peace with food, the swaying between opposites might feel uncomfortable.
This is because the new beliefs you are trying to build around food freedom will contradict your existing beliefs and that will cause friction, frustration…for a while.
It’s a perfectly normal place to be in, especially if you’re only starting your journey and the new beliefs around food you’re trying to build feel so off and just ‘not right’.
If you’re in this space right now, if you’re at the beginning or well into this journey of finding a more peaceful approach to food I’d like you to pause and reflect on this:
No meaningful and profound change ever happens without a period where old and new coexist, creating some conflict and, at the same time, paving the way for something new and better to be born.
Does it make the discomfort from the work you are doing on yourself more worthwhile?
I believe so. Because it helps understand that change, after all, involves some level of discomfort for a good cause.
But most importantly, what do you think?
Two things to help you with the swaying
The attitute and the intention we bring to this phase of changing our relationship with food will have a significant impact on our ability to support new and empowering food beliefs to settle and become normality in our lives.
I believe that Compassion and Practicing tunnel vision are very supportive in this journey and something I often explore in the sessions with my clients.
Compassion is where acceptance and a friendly response to the incongruence can happen.
You become aware of still wanting to lose weight and change the shape of your body while you are practicing unconditional permission to eat dessert after dinner.
Except you don’t fight against it.
You observe that desire still being there. You shower that with your compassion and remind yourself of what you want to matter most in your life.
Chances are that if you have embarked in the food freedom journey (or you are considering doing it), what you want to matter the most is something different than appearance, being a certain size and you’re probably aiming more for something like liberation from needing to look a certain way and from strict food rules.
Whatever that is, get clear on what you want to matter the most for you in your life and, with compassion, go back to that baseline any time the incongruence creates discomfort.
Literally, remind yourself what you want to be here on this earth for.
Some clients even find helpful reminding themselves of what they’d like to be remembered for when they won’t be there anymore. Rarely a small waist or a being a size 10, in case you’re wondering.
2. Practice tunnel vision
Somewhere within you, there is your unique way you want to live your life when it comes to food and body…and all the rest.
But you’ll probably never discover that if all the time you keep looking at what everyone else is eating or at how they are taking care of their own body.
That’s why it’s important to make some silence and space to reflect on what you want to value from now on, on what your unique definition of health and food choices you want to honor.
It’s inevitable and unavoidable.
You will be surrounded by people on diets, people talking about weight-loss, or complimenting others on their weigh-loss.
Chances are your mother, sister, cousin or a friend of yours has recently joined slimming world and/or invited you to join with them.
Maybe they keep going on sharing about their new food plan and its miraculous effects. They might even comment (in good faith) on what you eat.
There are going to be moments where you think “I shouldn’t eat this.”, or where you will want to follow your friends at the restaurant not ordering the dessert even though you’d like to.
To help minimise the impact of these experiences it’s important to practice tunnel vision.
Every time you get triggered by some old message you’re trying to move on from in your life, go back to your new baseline of what your unique definition of health and food choices you want to honor.
Keep being curious as to why it’s important for you to build new beliefs about food and your body. What’s at stake?
Remind yourself your plate is your place. It doesn’t need to look like other’s.
Remind yourself there’s not one unique way to eat that’s morally better than the others.
Example of what your new baseline (your new beliefs) could look like are:
- I don’t want to measure my health by what I put on your plate each single meal.
- I no longer believe that controlling food is a measure of how much I care about yourself.
- It’s normal if I still think sometimes about joining a slimming club. However I don’t have to act on that.
- There are days I eat exactly the way I want to eat and others where that’s not the case. And it’s fine.
- I don’t have to eat the way my partner eats if that doesn’t reflect my new health and food values.
What would you add/change in this list yourself?
Make a list of what new and nourishing values/beliefs you want to honor when it comes to food and to yourself in general.
Keep coming back to them consciously, until this new set of beliefs is created and feels solid and supportive.
Until that swaying between opposites becomes less and less noticable…even conscious it might always be there, somewhere in the background.
You will know how to compassionately deal with it though.
It can takes months, or years..or an entire life to do this type of work.
However, the important thing is to be on the path more that reaching a specific destination.
And along the way you might end up reaping beautiful fruits of freedom such as:
- The freedom from fearing gain weight.
- The freedom from constantly obsessing about food.
- The freedom from believing you’re putting your health at risk any time you eat something “off the plan”.
- The freedom to finally choose for yourself and not let someone else decide what you should or shouldn’t eat.
- The freedom from thinking that you can’t accept your body because of the way you eat.
How refreshing and inspiring is that?
If you have read all the way to the end of this long article, thank you very much. That means a lot to me.
Your presence here is important. I cherish that so much you can’t even imagine.
Any thoughts or realisations from reading this are always welcome, if you’d like to share them in the comments or in private to email@example.com.
I firmly believe that together, one day and one meal at a time we can create a different culture surrounding food and body.
Always with kindness,
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