By Lauren Denos: 4/5/2015 (Mindset)


Have you ever told yourself that you are going to go on a super strict diet and that you cannot eat chocolate or other favorite foods? Mentally, when you tell yourself you cannot have something that is all you can seem to think about. You can wind up obsessing about whatever it is you are restricting. This is especially bad when people remove whole food groups from their diets.

How does this work? Think of it as having a little rebel in your mind that does not like being told what to do. If you tell a rebellious child not to do something that is the first thing they are going to do. This same thing happens in the minds of many people.

You are also much more likely to binge when you do finally give in, because this is something you are telling yourself you should not have. Therefore you better eat as much as you can in this one sitting. Then you wind up feeling bad about yourself for "failing." This is not healthy. Are there foods that are not optimal to be eating all the time? Yes, of course there are. But by telling yourself these foods are bad, and that you cannot have them makes you feel like you are doing something wrong.

Does this mean that you should eat as much of anything as you want, even if it is horrible for you? No. Instead, you should not completely cut it out. Take a craving of pizza for instance. Rather than telling yourself you cannot have it, tell yourself, “I can have some; I'll have a salad first. If I am still hungry for some after that I will have one or two slices.” Simply make sure you are not super hungry when you go to eat that treat. This way you will not eat much of it and can, in turn, release any guilt associated with eating it.

Let yourself know that you can have whatever you want. When you want something, stop and ask yourself if you really need it right at this moment. Also, remind yourself that you can always have it later. When you take away the taboo factor of the food many times, the food loses its hold over you. If you know you can have some if you really want it then you are not giving it power.

Don't make it a right or wrong action. You are not wrong when you eat a piece of chocolate. It is okay to have it. Do you want to eat it all day long? No. But having a piece at night is not going to ruin your healthy eating streak.

If you wind up wanting specific junk foods or sugars all the time, then you need to look at what else is going on. Are you eating regular meals? Are you letting yourself get too hungry before meals? You may need to have healthy snack choices on hand for between meals, or you may want to do more mini meals per day. Are you getting enough of all your nutrients to have a well-functioning body? If you are skipping healthy carbs, such as squash or yams, then it could be a reason for craving sweets or a loaf of bread. Sometimes cravings come up because we are lacking a specific vitamin or mineral. Pay attention to these things.

When you don't indulge in something, it is not that you CAN'T have it. It is more that you CHOOSE not to have it. Make sure that you understand that this is your choice whether you choose to eat that "taboo" food or not. For many, knowing that they can have the food if they want it takes much of the immediate need and allure away from the food. If you know you can have chocolate when you want it, you will not feel like you need to have it now or you will never get to have it again. It is a psychological trick we play on ourselves. This is also one cause for over-eating.

This life is meant to be experienced and that means not depriving yourself. Food is meant to be experienced. This does not mean that you should use that as an excuse to eat garbage day in and day out, but it does mean that you can find healthy meals that you can enjoy instead of eating dry chicken and dry vegetables for every meal. There are extremes that should be avoided: those who over-do everything and those who deny themselves everything. The key is in the middle, that is the sweet spot, the healthy spot you want to be in. When you are in that sweet spot, you know you can go out and have a dessert on Saturday night and it is not going to derail your whole week.

Make sure that there is not something more going on psychologically in your mind. Many people who deprive themselves do not believe that they deserve to have the happiness the thing they want brings. This simply is not true. You deserve to enjoy your life and enjoy your food. If this is the case, you need to start working on this part of you.

Moderation is a great thing to have, but stop restricting yourself and putting the negative pressure on yourself that comes with it. Give up the mind game and enjoy your healthy journey more. After all, this is a lifestyle, not a sprint.



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