Adopting an all or nothing mindset of good and bad foods can feel really motivating at first. You start strong, on a Monday, of course. You swear you’re never touching a carbohydrate again. “Bye-bye dessert. It’s been a good run.” In the beginning, you might feel pretty empowered. You’re sticking to your plan, making the right choices. You must be a good or healthy person because those are the only foods you eat now. You may feel like you’ve started a new lifestyle; you’ll be able to keep this up forever.
But, there comes a time when that initial burst of motivation wears off and you eat one of those bad foods you’ve sworn off. Chances are, you’re feeling pretty lousy at this point. If eating healthy food makes you a healthy person, what does eating bad food make you? Now that you’ve officially blown your diet, you might as well finish off the rest of that box of thin mints and start over tomorrow (or next Monday)… right?
This is how we get stuck in a cycle of shame. We deprive ourselves of the foods we enjoy and then we feel ashamed when we can’t maintain a rigid diet long-term. We feel like we’re failing, when in fact, the unrealistic diet expectations have failed us.
I’m using “we,” because I’ve been there, too!
As a dietitian, my perspective and understanding of a healthy lifestyle has changed quite a bit from where I started. These days I’m focusing a lot more on behaviors and a lot less on the numbers on the scale, and I want to invite you to join me!
So what does this mean?
- It means not comparing ourselves to others. Every “body” is different, and that’s ok!
- It means letting go of unrealistic expectations and giving ourselves the grace to be human and eat the foods we enjoy, without shame or guilt. No foods are off limits when you focus on balance instead of elimination.
- It means changing our mindset from calorie restrictions and food deprivation to one that views food and physical activity as ways to fuel our bodies and celebrate all the amazing things they can do. Because when we do this, we’re finally able to get off the merry-go-round of restricting and overeating.
It may feel uncomfortable at first. We’re conditioned early on to find fault with our bodies rather than celebrate them. We are so accustomed to hearing those around us point out their own flaws (and sometimes the flaws of others), that it almost feels wrong to focus on all the things right with our bodies.
You know that part in the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina, Gretchen, and Karen are standing in front of the mirror listing all the things they hate about their bodies? And then they turn to Cady and expect her to do the same? Since she didn’t have a traditional childhood she doesn’t have a list in her head of all the things she dislikes about herself and instead says “I have really bad breath in the morning.” Well, as weird as it is to take life advice from “Mean Girls,” how great would it be if WE didn’t have a running tally of flaws that we could rattle off at any moment?
It would be so FETCH! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Let me be the first to tell you, love, kindness, and friendship are not measured in pounds or inches, and neither is your worth! I want you to see yourself the way I see you, beautiful and worthy of love!