You’re doing so well. Several straight days of eating “perfectly,” whatever that looks like for you. Maybe it’s weighing all your food, and eating within certain caloric or macronutrient boundaries. Maybe it’s cutting out all starchy carbs. Maybe it’s eating only home cooked foods.
Regardless, you’re on a roll.
Then, something tempting crosses your path. Maybe it’s one of your kryptonites--a food that you’ve always loved, and holds meaning in your food journey. You reach for it. You’re probably at the office, or at least outside your own personal habitat. You take a bite. In fact, you likely down the whole thing (that’s kind of a foregone conclusion!). You may not even be thinking while it’s happening.
Yikes. You messed up. Your mind is probably racing a bit faster than usual, as you weigh what just happened. And then, this conclusion commonly sets in:
“I ate something off my diet, so the rest of the day is ruined.” (That may not be your exact wording, but you catch my drift).
So, the rest of the day, you throw your “diet” to the wind. You have a cookie or three, you order the pasta instead of the fish at dinner, you enjoy two sugary cocktails instead of none.
The “spin” might even last for more than a day, as you careen further off the rails.
Now, for a key mindset reframe that’ll help you move through this pattern (and eventually release it):
You're always one bite away from freedom. When we stop to think about it, we all know the body responds to what we eat per bite, and generously, per meal. The body doesn’t tally what we eat per day, because it doesn’t operate at that obtuse level. It lives in the moment. It’s your mind that makes this irrational conflation.
Letting your eating rhythms be dictated by what you ate in the past is black-or-white thinking (black = I’m fully on my plan, and I’m full steam ahead; white = I made one mistake, and that’s dictating how I eat going forward).
The gray zone is where it’s at. The gray way of thinking is: “Every moment is new. I’m not boxed in by the past. I’m only one bite away from breaking the cycle, and living moment-to-moment.”
Here are 3 concrete steps to take the next time you hear yourself saying, “...the rest of the day is ruined!”:
- Pause, and before doing anything, celebrate your awareness. I know this may feel unsexy in the heat of the moment, but awareness is one of the most important pieces in behavior change. It’s a huge win already. You can’t move through without knowing that there’s something to move through. You’re already making progress, whether you let yourself see it or not. Mark your "celebration" with something concrete: a smile, a deep breath, by listening to a song...let the acknowledgement come out of your head, and into form.
- Take stock of all your options. This will help you remember, maybe more symbolically than anything, that you’re always one bite away from freedom. Let’s use an example. Say you’re at the office, and caved to a slice of pizza for lunch when you’d normally have chicken breast and salad. It’s almost dinner time, and you’re deciding what to eat. Jog through your different options. Go out to sushi with a girlfriend. Whip together steak and veggies at home. Take an hour or two and make your favorite childhood dish. Take 10 minutes and hit up the Whole Foods salad bar. Pick up Turkish food from your favorite neighborhood spot. Get a huge, delicious chopped salad delivered to your apartment. There are so many routes! Feel your freedom.
- Decide what to eat, using this filter question: “Is this decision being made from a place of love?” Deep down, you (and only you) will know the answer. It may take some time, but love will always lead you to the right place.
Just to be clear: this post is not an invitation to eat “off track,” then learn to get back on track faster than you normally do. It’s not an invitation to eat restrictively a larger proportion of the time. And it’s not about growing your discipline. Eating "off the rails" is an indication that your eating routine is not sustainable, and therefore that discipline is the opposite direction you should be heading.
It is about moving away from having your past dictate your future. It is about moving away from planning your every meal, and thinking so much about food. It is about looking at the long haul, which, fascinatingly, requires getting 100% present.
That’s it for now. Hope these tips lit something up for you.
Talk to you soon!
Love and light,