My clients are smart.
They’re not new to dieting, they’ve read all the latest research, and most of them are not just using food for weightloss; they’re using it as medicine. I did the same.
It’s especially common where chronic disease comes into play, and rightfully so. I noticed an incredible difference in my intestinal issues when I followed an IBS protocol, and later went vegan. There are countless recommendations for cancer, chronic fatigue, and more.
When those protocols work for us, it’s such a relief that we can easily become fanatics for that way of eating. It’s comforting to have a solid answer to our problems. We like to know that what we’re doing is the right option.
So I had this one client whose family had decided years ago to adopt a healing diet for a family member with a chronic illness. The illness couldn’t be cured, but the diet seemed to help slow the progression and relieve some of the symptoms. The family did a ton of research into inflammatory foods, how foods are processed, behind-the-scenes looks at the factory farming industry, and made the decision that they would all adopt a strict macrobiotic diet.
They felt great. And what’s more, they felt empowered, like they were active participants in their own physical health rather than at the mercy of illness.
But over time, though her family had no issue maintaining the diet, my client started to feel… dissatisfied.
She knew what she was “supposed” to eat: greens. But she wanted burgers, fries, dessert, alcohol.
The “logical” voice in her head tried to reason with her, to review how gross meat is, how bad for you fries are. But it didn’t stop her wanting.
So she picked the foods she was “supposed” to eat, and didn’t enjoy them. Or she’d pick the foods she wasn’t supposed to eat and berate herself as she ate them. Then she’d lie later, ashamed of the fact that she couldn’t stick to the diet.
When she came to me, she felt like a willpower weakling.
She felt guilt-tripped from all sides, like she was contributing to the torture of animals when she ate meat, that she was unsupportive to her family and a bad role model for wanting what she shouldn’t want, and like she was making bad decisions for herself. No wonder her knees hurt! She ate too much salt! No wonder she needed to lose weight! She ate brownies when she was out with her girlfriends!
But all the while, even with all the criticisms in the back of her head, she was going quietly mad having to follow these directions. She hated the fact that she turned into a Walking F*** You when faced with a menu of food she wasn’t supposed to want.
I wanted to give her a hug. I’ve so been here. So many of us have.
There are two toxic beliefs that I addressed with this client:
This happens when we collapse our entire character, value, and worthiness into our food choices.
If I keep to my diet and eat good foods, I’m a good person. If I “cheat” on my diet or eat foods that are “bad” for me, I’m a bad person.
Amy Schumer made a skit illustrating how crazy this thought pattern is:
“I was cyberbullying my niece on Instagram the other day and I literally ate like 15 mini muffins. I’m so bad.”
I’m sure when I say it out loud like that, you can see how ridiculous it is. But I’m also sure that you’ve made similar comments, or tried to justify your eating because you suspect other people are judging how bad you are.
Your food choices have nothing to do with your worth and value as a human being. There is no crime in food choice.
This toxic belief is closely linked to a second toxic belief:
Usually this belief doesn’t start from food, it starts from culture and environment. Things like believing you need to be thin in order to be loved, and to be thin you need to eat less, and to eat less you need to control your appetite, and you could control your appetite if food didn’t try to sabotage you.
My client had this thought every time she craved a “wrong” food. She’d stare at this hamburger, which she wanted, and think of how animals had been tortured to make it, how dirty the conditions were, how little employees were being paid, and how badly her body would react to it.
Your body is smart. If you stare at your food and think “This is so bad for me” your body is going to respond as though someone had laid poison in front of you.
“That’s bad for you?! Don’t worry! I’ll get rid of it!”
Your body wants you to survive. It will treat that hamburger as though it’s a threat on your life. You know what happens to your digestion when your body is in a stress response.
My client was doing more damage to herself with her thoughts than the foods could ever do to her.
Here was my advice and challenge to her: to bless her choices.
She knew the power of food to promote health.
She knew that food has true potential to nourish and heal.
But she was eliminating herself from the equation.
She did not believe in her own power to optimize her digestion or in her body’s ability to find nutritional value in foods she craved.
Could she change her approach to food? Could she trust her intuition and desires and, more importantly, her body’s ability to be nourished?
I invited her to take a few moments before each meal and think about what she was eating, why she chose it, what she was excited to taste and experience, and what she was hoping it would do for her body.
It’s a holiday weekend here in the US, and a lot of people are going to be grilling and eating with friends. It’s easy to not have your own back in these situations where the food is decadent and you want to enjoy yourself.
Can you bless the choices you make, the food you eat, and your body’s innate wisdom and ability to find nourishment?