Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted that toy, game or snack, but Mum said "No", and instantly you wanted it more than ever?
We know that denying ourselves something we want is one sure way to want it even more. So why, I ask you, do we keep doing it within our diets?
Last winter, for the very first time in my life, I put myself on a super strict diet.
It was an anti-fungal diet, involving practically zero sugars/carbohydrates - not even fruit or natural sugars. This was all in an attempt to rebuild my gut that was destroyed by antibiotics (VERY reluctantly) taken that summer.
SO - months of no starchy carbs, no grains, no refined sugars, no fruit, no juices, no root vegetables, no alcohol...
How was it?
Sure, it did the world of good to my digestive system and Gerty Guzzle was restored to her former glory. (Gerty Guzzle FYI is my Dad's nickname for 'the lady in your tummy who sorts through your food, keeping the good and getting rid of the bad.' Dad - I love you!)
So Gerty and gut were thankfully happy again, but my relationship with food was not left on good grounds.
You see, there's a big difference between saying 'I CAN'T have that' and 'I DON'T WANT that', and that is where I went wrong...
Rather than framing my mindset with the strong grounds that 'I don't want to eat that because I want to have a healthy, functional Gerty Guzzle', I just went with the straight forward 'I can't have that because the diet says so.'
Framing your choices the first way takes effort. It requires you to be aware of the thoughts driving your food choices and adapt them when necessary i.e. most of the time. The other way; the simpler way, doesn't require that - you know the rules - you stick to them. Simple.
But does that simpler way really make it easier on us?
By some will-power-fuelled miracle, I followed the rules and I managed to reach the end of the 'diet'. That my friends, is when it all went rapidly down hill.
A beast was unleashed!
For the first time in years I found myself eating unhealthy foods everyday and excessively. Often it was foods I DON'T EVEN LIKE!
Was it because my body was craving them?
My mind was.
For the first time in months I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted and I, for some reason, felt the need to assert that authority. And so I ate!
I felt the need to stop controlling what I was eating and let myself be free from the miserable constraint of the previous few months 'rules'.
"See - I can eat whatever I want now. I'll show you!!"
Totally coo-coo or make sense? I'll be honest, it was liberating, but I knew it couldn't last, and nor did I want it to.
Gradually, The Beast's need to assert itself calmed and I felt ready to address things. I started revisiting, revising and brushing up on all the nutritional knowledge that fuels my healthy choices. I started acknowledging and addressing other emotional stressors surrounding recent times. I reminded myself of why, for so long I have made the food choices I have. Why I've adopted the culinary habits I have. Why I juice everyday. Why I generally avoid refined sugars, preservative packed, nutrient-poor, calorie-rich 'fake-food'.
Slowly but surely my habits got back on track, my mind was at peace and Gerty thankfully was still happy.
So what's my point?
Is it that everyone falls off the wagon once in a while? NO!
My point is that THERE SHOULDN'T BE A WAGON!
By creating a 'wagon', you create something for yourself to fall off! You create a rigid boundary of CAN'TS and DON'TS that only lead to us wanting what's on the other side. A nasty space of miserable self-deprivation that is practically pushing us off the wagon!
THIS DOES NOT WORK AND IT IS NOT A HEALTHY APPROACH TO DIETARY AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES.
Diets that insist 'You can't eat this', 'You have to cut out that', 'You must exclude all X/Y/Z', are setting you up for misery or inevitable failure if that's how you follow them.
If we set such harsh parameters purely because that's what we're told to do we will feel belittled in our power of choice and free will. Disempowering yourself, is never a good thing. Eventually the beast will be unleashed!
Instead we need to EMPOWER our choices with knowledge, education, emotional awareness, honest truths and seal it with our personal stamp.
Change your habits because you want to and because you understand and are excited by what that can bring....not just because some diet/Doctor/book has told you to.
I do not believe that one 'diet' works for everyone. We are all different. We are all unique; chemically, biologically and emotionally. What is a perfect fit for one person will feel to another like squeezing their foot into Cinderella's glass slipper .
Sure, there are some basic guidelines to healthy eating that are fundamental. Yes I think if you have certain health goals in life then you can guarantee you'll have to make some changes to get there. But how we frame our mindset to make those changes is what's so important.
We need to stop making decisions because we have to and start making informed choices guided by healthy motivations and desires so that we want to.
It's time we get off, or over, the wagon once and for all and move beyond it.
We need to exclude exclusions and put the power back in choice!
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