What comes to your mind when you think about dieting?
Take a minute to think about this.
Did you think about fruits, vegetables, low fat, low carb, and small portion sizes? Or did you think about going to the gym, counting calories, diet pills, and being hungry all the time? Maybe you thought about the outcome of dieting – being a slimmer and a healthier you!
Yes, these are the usual things associated with going on a diet.
But I wonder if you ever thought about dieting to be like vacationing.
So let me invite you into my way of thinking.
I think that vacationing and dieting are alike because they both involve a change to the normal and everyday routine. And furthermore dieting and vacationing comes to an end at some point and normal life resumes.
Do you get what I am saying?
Of course one may argue that they are different because going on a vacation is fun and relaxing. There is nothing fun about going on a diet, and it certainly is not relaxing is it?
So what do you do when the dieting ends?
The goal of dieting
People go on diets for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the reasons for dieting are not even rational.
“I’ll be happier if I lose 5 or 10 or 20 pounds.”
Have you heard yourself say that before?
You do know that being thinner does not make you happy or happier. A person’s self-worth is not reflected on the weight of his or her body. Just read stories of celebrities who are slim, gorgeous, and attractive, but yet lack self-worth.
Depriving your body of nutrients, to make you look and feel good or over-stuffing yourself on a regular basis for comfort is not the purpose of food. The purpose of food is to keep us alive not to solve any emotional or psychological problems we may have.
We were not designed to live to eat. We were designed to eat to live. Food should not be used to fill a void, but to keep us fit and healthy to get through the constraints of life.
So before you decide to try out a new diet because it worked for some celebrity or your best friend, be certain about your reasons for dieting. Is it going to be a short term commitment or a long-term life changing venture?
Creating a new habit
I learned a long time ago how to stop myself from being an impulsive buyer. I used to have several store cards and credit cards. And not to mention a huge debt. It took me a while to register that I was buying stuff for the sake of buying. A bit like eating isn’t it? Eating for the sake of eating.
Overspending and overeating are both very bad habits!
I eventually learned to create a new habit. So now I do not overspend. Neither do I deprive myself. I just learned to live within my means. In other words, I have a new habit that works with me and not against me where spending is concerned and it all began with being aware of my self-talk.
Changing a habit through self-talk
We all have this self-talk thing going on in our minds almost every minute while we are a wake. Sometimes this self-talk even prevents us from resting and sleeping at night.
Self-talks are the spontaneous thoughts that come into our heads as a series of statements. Sometimes this happens without us realizing it. We are forever talking to ourselves in our heads, and oftentimes these thoughts are so overpowering that our actions and emotions are related to our thoughts.
The self-talks are the worst thing that can happen to you when you are trying to give up a bad habit to replace it with a good habit. So I guess the first thing to do is to identify your self-destructive self-talks and replace them with rational thoughts.
I still do get the urge to buy what I see. This happens during sales when my self-destructive thoughts would say:
“I want that sweater.” or “I really must have that pair of shoes.”
Now I rationalize with myself. “I don’t need everything I want. It is true that sweater will look good on me, but it is rather expensive. So while I may want it now, I really do not want to be in debt again. It is hard for me to resist this, but I know I will feel better if I did.”
So by the time I am done rationalizing with myself, I really have lost my interest in the sweater. And I walk right by with no regrets.
How we talk our way into overeating
I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that I overeat during these situations because I talk myself into it.
a) At parties – I simply feel I have to try everything. The food always looks good when someone else had taken the trouble to prepare them. Everyone else is eating, and so should I!
b) Going out – I am a member of the ‘clean plate club.’ So I feel the need to clean up the plate and eat everything on it as my hard-earned money is paying for that food.
c) When I am stressed or bored – this is when I visit the refrigerator several times a day hoping for something to have materialized since the last visit 10 minutes ago. It is comforting to sit and just eat.
d) When I feel it is my duty to prevent wastage and spoilage of food – for example, the last two slices of bread will go bad if I don’t eat them now. And I just opened this box of chocolates, so I must finish all of it right this minute!
e) When it feels as if I’ve been eating all day, and there does not seem to be a point in stopping. So I tell myself the damage is done, I am a failure and lack self-control.
Can you relate to these? May be you have your own situations.
But the point is can you see how self-destructing these thoughts are, especially if one is on a diet?
Find the negative thoughts and change them through rationalizing with yourself
First, realize that you are not the ruler of the universe. You cannot have everything you demand yourself to have. This simply is not rational. So recognize thoughts like “I must eat …,” “I need to eat ….” and “I have to eat…” as self-destructive thoughts. While you may indeed want, or need, or must have those things, talk yourself into rationalizing that you don’t need everything that you want. You certainly don’t want any problems that go with your impulsive wants. My motto is ‘short-term gains are long-term pains.’
Second, avoid putting yourself down. Telling yourself you hate yourself just because you cheated on your diet and then convincing yourself that you are a failure is irrational. You are punishing the whole of you for just one thing that you did wrong. You may have failed to stick to the diet plan, but that does not mean you are a failure as a person. There are probably many instances where you have succeeded in life.
Third, avoid making a mountain out of a molehill. Normal problems are just problems. They are not tragedies! If you exaggerate the badness of a problem, you make it worse. So stop telling yourself that it is impossible and that you’ll never succeed and making it sound as if your life is unfair and everyone has it easy. Realize that there are difficulties in life. Difficult situations are not tragic situations. Also know that there are over 7 billion people on this planet, and you don’t know how easy or difficult their lives are.
Fourth, find ways of increasing you tolerance levels. If you find yourself saying. “I can’t stand being deprived,” realize that while you don’t like being deprived, you can stand it.
What are your self-destructive self-talks and how can you turn them into positive rational thoughts?
Below are some examples of self-destructive self-talks. See what you can do with them:
- I am just going to finish off this pie. It will be easier for me to start my diet tomorrow when this pie is out of the way.
- My parents overeat and my siblings overeat, so it’s in my genetics. I was born to overeat. It’s not my fault I look like this.
- Oh my god! I had such an awful day at work, I deserve this plate of fried chicken and fries followed by a big slice of chocolate cake
- I am such a failure. It’s no good I just can’t change my eating habits and I am too old to try.
- There are lots of people starving in Africa, I am so privileged to have this food so I should not waste any of it
So what did you come up with?
Maybe before you start that diet plan, you might want to spend two or three weeks observing your self-talk. Are they self-destructive irrational thoughts or are they positive rational thoughts? By all means use the comments at the end of the post if you want.
Food for thought …
Dieting should not have to be like vacationing. It does not need to end. Choosing and eating the right kind of healthy food in appropriate portions that keeps you alive and give you energy is a habit. And a habit, if it is good for you, should be 24-7 throughout life, like breathing.