If simply knowing that something is bad for us was all that was necessary to stop us from doing it, no one would smoke, eat trans fats or work themselves to the verge of a nervous breakdown. But, alas, it’s usually not that simple. We know we should make certain changes and we know the benefits of said changes, but something just doesn’t compute and the struggle continues. We blame our busy lifestyles, the expense of healthy food, stress and myriad other factors for sabotaging our efforts to change our junk food-loving ways.
Then there is good old fashioned laziness and the impulse for instant gratification that has us reaching for the take-out menu for the fifth time that week instead of whipping up a healthy home-cooked meal. Making better food choices just seems overwhelming, so we never do it. We are always on the hunt for the magic bullet. Before you even get to the food, healthy eating starts in your mind. When you change your thinking, getting your diet right will naturally follow. Here, for your reading pleasure, are just a few ways for you to do just that:
WHAT IS YOUR ‘WHY’?
This may sound obvious — to be healthier…duh. But there is so much more to it than that. If you really want to succeed in the difficult task of changing your diet permanently and for the better, your ‘why’ is something you need to figure out. There will be the obvious reasons: being healthier, wanting to lose weight, wanting to improve your appearance, etc. While these are a good start, they are too superficial. You need to dig deeper to discover your more powerful, core desires.
Once you figure those out, it will be much easier to make healthier choices. You’ll feel more motivated to make them. It won’t feel so much like you are fighting against something. Why do you want to be healthier? To have more energy? Why do you want more energy? So you can play with your kids more? Why do you want to play with your kids more? Because you want to be the best parent you can be? See how that is a much better motivator than just wanting to be healthier?
CALMING THE MONKEY MIND
A chaotic mind lends itself to a chaotic existence. High stress levels make it really hard to make healthy food choices and eating becomes a go-to strategy for coping with unpleasant emotions. When we feel more pessimistic, we care less about our health. Anything you can do to calm your mind will be a powerful weapon in your healthy eating arsenal. While there is no one way to do this, meditation is kind of the best. It allows us to create space between our thoughts and feelings, which aren’t us, and pure awareness. It eases stress. It helps us get more comfortable with uncomfortable feelings.
In fact, a study published in Eating Behaviors in February of 2014 found meditation to be an effective tool for curbing binge eating. In the study, 70 overweight people between the ages of 18 and 75 were trained in meditation and to increase awareness of their negative emotions and instructed to meditate as little as eight minutes a day. Participants reported an increased capability for dealing with their negative emotions without turning to food. No matter how busy you are, you have eight minutes to spare, don’t you?
THE POWER OF VISUALIZATION
The power to change our lives, no matter what aspect, lies in our ability to think about what we want so we can begin creating it. The most effective way to use willpower, which doesn’t last very long, is by focusing our attention on what we want to become, not by forcing ourselves to make decisions that don’t feel good or natural in the moment over and over again until it finally gets easier.
That is kind of painful and often not very effective, as most people trying to change their diets can attest to. Start visualizing the version of you that makes healthy food choices and enjoys preparing healthy foods. See yourself trimmer and healthier, with more energy. As you cultivate that image, you will feel more like that person right now in reality, and as such, you will find it easier to change your diet permanently. Eating habits are deeply ingrained and our relationships with food can be quite complicated. That is why eating better all of a sudden doesn’t usually just happen.
On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be as hard as we often make it. By tending to your mind first, you will lay a much more solid foundation for making the changes you want to make in your lifestyle.