A Long Time Ago…
There I was, barely an adult and on my first diet. I’m pretty sure I found it on bodybuilding.com, and I can remember vividly how excited I was that I was going to be eating more protein- this was the ticket – the answer to my prayers. This diet was how I was going to look like the Victoria Secret supermodels – thaaaank you bikini body program for beginners.
When I look back I just giggle at how naive I was. This first program I was introduced to had me demonizing any foods that weren’t considered “clean”…which started me down the spiral of “you are good if you eat good and you are bad if you eat bad” – crazy.
Fast forward a year or so…I had gotten down to an unhealthy body weight (but felt great by the way, cause I finally fit into a size 24! wtf.), was living with constant gassiness and bloating (my fiber was off the charts, thanks to the guideline that white foods are bad) and I had developed this new awesome behaviour where I couldn’t control myself around dessert when it was placed in front of me.
Ya, sounds like a party. I had formed an “all or nothing” mindset around food and my relationship with it. I would literally keep track of every day and give myself and check mark or an x depending on whether I was “good” or “bad” that day with my nutrition. I know….fuuuuucked up, right?!
But let’s peel back the layers for a moment. In my mind at the time I was a good little girl if I ate xyz foods, but I was bad if I ate anything else. I told myself this, on repeat, every single day. I reinforced this by physically checking or x-ing myself as “good” or “bad” at the end of the day. And I further reinforced it by shaming myself for making a “bad” choice, beating myself up for days and not allowing myself to move on – which usually meant that when I made a “bad” choice it was a really fucking bad choice – meaning I completely lost control and binged. Well, hey, I was already “bad” so I might was well just go for it, right?
I’m telling you this to illustrate how incredibly powerful your thoughts are around your actions. What you tell yourself every single day is ultimately how you will experience your life and everything in it. Your reality is simply your perception – and your perception can change over time if you want it to.
The Power of Your Thoughts
It’s a mixed bag of emotions when you realize that you can’t blame anyone but you and your messed up thought patterns for the choices you make, huh?
Your thoughts are so deeply rooted that often they are subconsciously driving our actions. For example – did I consciously think: “you should really shame yourself for eating all of those cookies”. No – I just automatically felt those emotions wash over me. Many of your thought processes are developed at a really young age and are cultivated by your experiences as a child.
Were you never allowed to eat candy or desserts when you were a child? Did your mom struggle with her weight and always put herself on a diet? Did your grandma tell you “you should really watch how many cookies you’re eating!” Do you remember reading weight loss articles in the magazines lying around the house and putting yourself on your first diet? Do you remember pinching and poking at your fat in the mirror when you were a child? If you dont – you were lucky. A lot of the clients I work with now have had all of these experiences. So it’s no doubt that they now have a horrible internal dialogue, demonize certain foods and have a poor relationship with food and with themselves.
- What do you automatically think when you look at a cupcake?
- What about after you eat a cupcake?
- What do you automatically think when you look at a salad?
- What about after you eat a salad?
- What do you automatically think when you look at yourself?
- What about after you undress before you get in the shower?
- What about after you go to the gym?
These are all good places to start paying attention to your thought patterns. Do you associate certain behaviors with being “good” or “bad”? Do you have a certain emotion around each scenario? Do some of these thoughts surface daily for you? Awareness as to what is really going on in your mind is critical to gaining and understanding around your thoughts and then taking action towards changing them.
Take Your Power Back
So you recognize that you have an unhealthy thought pattern around certain foods and behaviors. How do you start to take your power back?
You’re not going to like my answer. It takes conscious effort, every single day, to acknowledge the negative thought and make an effort to reframe, redirect or rephrase that thought.
Here’s what I mean:
Subconscious thought pattern: “ugh, why did you do that, you’re so bad for eating that cupcake. You were doing so good all day, now your week is ruined. Why do you even bother, you’re never going to lose the weight you want”
Re-phrased thought pattern: “thank you, I understand that you’re just trying to protect me but that negativity doesn’t serve me and I am choosing not to act on that thought. I am worthy of making choices that serve my happiness, I am not bad for eating a cupcake and I am in control over my choices and actions.”
See? Super easy, right?!
Haha it’s not, actually. But it’s worth the effort. To make it easier sometimes I have my clients keep a small journal with them so that they can write down any negative thought patterns that appear over the course of the day as their first step. If you struggle to recognize when this happens it might be valuable to start here. Then when you become more aware of the thoughts you tell yourself on repeat, take the next step towards re-phrasing those thoughts into new patterns that serve you.
Emotion is a Sneaky Bugger
Where there is negativity and limiting beliefs around what you should do or feel, there is no room for growth or expansion into the person you’re trying to become.
Let’s say you have a goal to lose weight, but you tell yourself the same story every day that “this is so hard, I’m so hungry, I’ll never be able to do this, I’m not worthy of losing weight, I won’t even know who I am when I get smaller, losing weight sucks, I hate this, I just want to eat all my favorite foods again, life isn’t fair” – what do you THINK is going to happen?
Well, girlfriend, you aint gonna lose the weight you want because your thoughts are going to lead you to binge, give in to cravings, skip your workouts, and generally hate every step of the process. But let me ask you this: where do you think these thoughts are originating from?
Below the surface if you gave yourself the space and empathy to FEEL whatever it is that you are going through as you make these big life changes – perhaps your dialogue would change? Perhaps your excuses and reasoning for why you can’t are all your subconscious trying to keep you safe and cozy in your little unhappy box?
Try this. The next time you catch yourself perpetuating the same old story on repeat in your head, try asking yourself this question: what am I really feeling right now, and can I name that emotion?
Give yourself 5 minutes to feel it. If you’re angry, get fucking angry! If you’re sad, let yourself cry. If you’re scared, sit with that fear. If you’re uncomfortable, lean into the discomfort. Emotion isn’t something to push down with thoughts and actions, emotion is a good thing. It shapes our being. It allows us to live an authentic life and be true to who we really are.
Then, once you have given yourself permission to feel it – re-phrase your negative thought pattern. How do you feel, now?
Do you feel a sense of control? Empowerment? Empathy? Release? Clarity?
Here’s the funny thing about emotion – when you’re in the middle of feeling angry – there is no possible way you can also have a moment of clarity and compassion. You have to work through one emotion before you can feel another. This is why we often get caught in a bad loop and struggle to break free. With practice, you can learn to acknowledge thoughts, and then the emotions linked to those thoughts, and then reframe them into new positive experiences.
Just like anything else, this takes consistent effort, repetition, and conscious awareness of what thoughts are holding you back or limiting you from making the changes you really want to make.
If you would like guidance or support as you discover and work through your own negative thought patterns, contact me by clicking the link below and we can have a conversation around whether you would be a good fit for my coaching program.