If you’ve ever been on a diet, a “health kick”, a detox or a fitness program, you will also have experienced what it feels like to “fall off the wagon”.
You might have succumbed to a piece of cake after days/weeks of dieting, missing a workout after weeks/days of exercising every day or you may even have succumbed to a wild night out when you were supposed to be on a “health kick”.
These events in themselves are not “bad”. The trouble is that we label them as such and what ensues is a snowball effect where one piece of cake leads to days of bingeing, a day off the gym leads to a week off and a fun night out leads to falling back into your old pattern of eating junk.
Maybe you can relate?
And then comes the guilt… I’ve had these conversations a million times with myself and others. “I ruined it Maddy, I completely failed. I was doing so well and now I´ve completely fallen off the wagon and I feel like rubbish.”
This is the most common issue I hear from people trying to lose weight and/or “get healthy” and I can totally relate to the feeling as I´ve been there too.
And for some reason, we think that if we beat ourselves up enough, the next time we go on said diet, detox or health kick we will be motivated enough to just stick with it.
But this is where we fail.
We think that the key to keeping a healthy lifestyle is a question of discipline and willpower and it´s true that these are required to get you started, but they are not enough to keep you going.
Hence why we manage to be “really good” for shorter periods only to “fall off the wagon” afterwards.
We aren´t doing anything to change our pattern or our mindset. We think following a plan written up by someone else is somehow going to do the job for us. But it isn’t.
Breaking free from this cycle is possible, I’ve helped hundreds of people get out of it, but it requires addressing some deeper issues.
First of all, it requires taking a hard look at WHAT you eat. Some foods have been designed to be hyperpalatable meaning that they create a toxic form of hunger that makes you feel unsatiated no matter how much of them you eat.
Your hunger is one of your strongest survival mechanisms and no amount of willpower or discipline will be enough to fight against it. Food engineers know this, hence why it´s nearly impossible to open a bag of chips and only have a handful, or why eating one biscuit often leads to craving another one.
This isn’t due to your lack of discipline! This is due to the fact that these foods want you more than you want them! Cookies & chips are the most obvious ones but our food system is packed with these kind of foods and it´s only by removing them from your diet that you will be able to connect with your true hunger and start trusting it, instead of fighting it.
Secondly, it requires asking yourself WHY you eat. Is it because you are truly hungry or because it´s a certain time of the day? Because others are eating or because the food looks delicious? Is it because you´re bored? Tired? Sad? Or stressed? We all have emotions that lead us to the fridge but the key is to become aware of them, and to start asking ourselves if this is truly the best way for us to deal with them? My guess is, it´s not.
Thirdly, taking a hard look at HOW you eat. Do you take the time to chew your food? To savor it? To really be present with it? Or do you mindlessly shove it down your throat like you would putting fuel into your car? Our bodies are incredibly well designed. The problem is that most of us aren´t applying the user´s manual. We complain about bloating or having issues losing weight when the very first step of a healthy digestive system is CHEWING!
I know it might sound like a no brainer, and it kind of is, but so many people forget this. Chewing our food is what makes us feel satiated, it´s a necessary step for our bodies to absorb the nutrients in our food and it´s a essential for our brain to actually register that we are eating! You can eat all the kale and broccoli in the World, if you´re not chewing it, you´re not getting any nutrients from it!
Fourthly, taking a step back and looking at how your relationship with food is being affected by your overall happiness and satisfaction in other areas of your life such as your career, relationships, your finances, creativity etc.
Telling someone to stop reaching for sugar at the end of a long day is easy. Understanding WHY this person might be doing this is where the solution lies. If you´re in a super stressful job where you feel like your work is undervalued and you don´t have a minute to yourself, it´s little wonder that you turn to sugar to lift your spirits.
If you´re feeling fulfilled in your career and in alignment with your purpose, chances are you won´t. The career thing is just an example. I´ve had people in my program who have realized that it´s their lack of control with finances that triggers them to eat, or the fact that they no longer have a creative outlet in their life. Somehow water painting was the cure to binge eating :)
I know it might seem crazy but in reality eating is just a coping mechanism, a way for us to deal with something lacking elsewhere in our life and the easiest way to remove ourselves from dealing with things/people/situations we feel uncomfortable with. It kind of makes sense when you look at it this way, right?
Finally, questioning your relationship with exercise and its link to food. So often our dysfunctional relationship with food is coupled with a dysfunctional relationship with exercise. We think that we can use exercise to somehow “make up for” what we eat. But our bodies aren´t engines and they’re designed to survive even the most stressful famines so thinking that we are somehow going to “out exercise” what we eat is ludicrous.
Of course exercise is important and needs to be part of our lives but we shouldn´t use it as a way to make up for what we eat. Our bodies are designed to be lean and healthy. The problem is that we take the wrong approach towards achieving this. Instead of working WITH our bodies and understanding the mechanisms that keep us alive in stressful situations, we pile on the stress and somehow think that we are going to beat ourselves into shape. It might work for a short time. But sooner or later it backfires and it´s what´s keeping you stuck in that cycle I mentioned in the beginning. And that cycle sucks.
I´ve been there so I know. It´s the cycle that prevents you from enjoying quality time with family & friends, that keeps you from feeling comfortable in your own skin, that keeps judging the way you look and that includes having a constantly critical voice in your head telling you what you should & shouldn´t be eating, making you feel guilty for not going to the gym etc.
It´s exhausting, it´s not healthy and it´s certainly NOT what a healthy lifestyle should be about.
The good news is that there is a way out and once you see the light on the other side, you will never want to go back to your old ways. It´s a process but it´s available to you and it will work if you fully invest yourself into it.
If you´re ready to start again, for real this time, check out the Mindset Breakthrough program starting next week.
Get fitter, stronger, more flexible and more mobile in a way that benefits your physical, mental and emotional health. Sign up below to get your FREE 10 step guide and check list for a FITTER BODY & a FRESHER MIND