I was asked to do a talk on the theme of “Eat This, Not That,” and my planning could not help but take me to the concept of “Think this, Not That.” After all, a one-dimensional look at what to eat for health, irrespective of the human side of eating, is ill-fated. Sometimes people will come to me with a simple enough request: “Just tell me what to eat, and I’ll do it!” Such confidence! It usually follows a period of frustration and guilt. “Now I’m ready!” they proclaim, “I will just do it. I’m sick of feeling this way.”
Sounds good. I might even be tempted to believe them, but I know better. Without the right thinking to go along with the nutrition knowledge, they are just waiting to be controlled by emotional triggers, longtime habits, and negative thinking patterns. This is generally just a set-up for another failed attempt. A person is often left feeling like there is something wrong with them. “Why can’t I do this? I know what to do.” It’s just not as simple as knowing about healthy food, so . . .
Let’s add the additional dimension our thought patterns create. Now there can be forward movement toward real change – improved health habits and fewer uncomfortable emotional experiences surrounding food. This is not a quick fix, but it is a way forward, as opposed to a way up and down, round and round. Are you ready?
Think This: I am not perfect, and I don’t need to be. Imperfection is a part of eating right.
Not That: I need to follow an eating plan perfectly or I am doing it wrong.
Think This: I am feeling uncomfortable (stressed, bored, angry, . . .). How interesting. Do I know why? Can I make some observations without judging myself?
Not That: I feel like eating junk, and lots of it. I need it now. Here I go again. (little or no awareness of the feelings going on, plenty of judgments).
Think This: I would like to taste some chocolate. Will this give me real pleasure? Does this feel kind, or is this simply an emotional desire that might spin out of control quickly (not kind).
Not That: #$%^!!! I want chocolate now. I know I’ll eat lots of it, and I just don’t care.
Think This: I ate more than I wanted/planned to, but oh well . . . what feels like the kindest thing at this moment? I will take a few moments to think about that and try to meet my real needs.
Not That: Holy cow, I am such a pig! How can I do this to myself?!! Look at these thighs . . . like I really need any food for the next YEAR! Hell, I already blew it. I may as well eat the rest of the ice cream and cookies so I don’t have to be tempted anymore.
These are but a few examples, but I hope they illustrate the point. Discomfort is human. Suffering is an extra layer. Feel what is going on . . . really feel it. Try to stop short of the judgments and put-downs. They simply don’t help! See what insights arise. With awareness – and time – automatic thoughts will be kinder, and actions will be as well.