5 Mindful Practices to Help You Start Eating Better Today!Jan 08, 2023
So, you want to eat better
Actually, you’ve decided you need to eat better. But you know yourself better than anyone else.
Thinking and saying you need to eat better is one thing. Sustaining it for more than a few days may be a whole different story.
The gap between saying it and doing it might be a result of certain ways of thinking or mindsets that we easily fall into. Each of us has our own thought patterns, and many times they can be our biggest obstacles.
I call these SMT's, sabotaging mindset traps.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- I must adhere 100% to a specific plan or my efforts don’t count. (The Perfection Trap)
- I see no outward progress, nothing is happening, this isn’t working, off to search for another plan. (The Impatience Trap)
- It feels like I will never reach my goal. I might as well just eat this… (The Self-Defeat Trap)
- This is too hard, I just don’t know how I will do this. (The Overwhelm Trap)
- Or better yet, I just need a clean slate, I’ll start again Monday. (The All-or-Nothing Trap).
We’ve all fallen into one (or more) of these mindset traps in any number of endeavors. Maybe you are flirting with one or more of them right now.
A Word About Change
My guess is, you likely have a pretty clear idea of the ultimate change you would like to see and experience, but you have been unable to either attain or maintain it. I know; I’ve been there too.
So how do we go about changing the SMT conversations between our ears?
The first step in changing the conversation between our ears is to change the focus.
- Write down that big goal, then fold it up, seal it and tidily pack it away.
- Do not even flirt with it! Forget about it.
- That’s right, forget about it. It will not serve you well.
The only way out of any of these sabotaging mind traps is to focus on what you CAN DO right now, not what you did or didn’t do yesterday, or how it might look a month or a year from now.
Progress toward any long-term goal (including physique transformation and weight loss) happens today, in the right now.
Right now, by breaking down change into bite-size adjustments and habits. It might not be sexy, but it’s what you have to cultivate in your mind. And trust me, it works.
We can begin to avoid and overcome these thinking traps by grasping this reality:
"results come through small decisions made routinely and strung together over time."
Like stringing pearls, eating better starts with only a single decision. Then, you thread another single decision. And another after that, and so it goes...
Here are five decisions (pearls)--specific mindset practices--you can make today to begin shifting your perspective and charting the course towards eating better and an overall healthier lifestyle.
Practice #1 - Cultivate an Ownership Mindset
To create a change that sticks over time, you need to adopt a different way of thinking.
An ownership mindset means that you must:
- own your decision to change,
- know why you want to change,
- decide you’re in it for the long haul.
- recognize you are in the driver’s seat.
- You alone choose.
When you are in a literal driver’s seat, you decide not only your destination but whether you will turn right or left, run the red light, break speed limits, or stop at the rest area. You set the pace: drive like a granny or lead-foot it?
The bottom line is you have agency, the ownership of the ability to choose, the direction of the journey, and thus its resultant destination. You consciously make and fully own each choice, one at a time. You accept responsibility for the decisions you make despite the environment or circumstances.
An ownership mindset in this context also refers to you being both the owner and steward of your body.
If your body was your dream home
- what and where would you want it to be?
- how would you care for this piece of property?
- how valuable would it be to you?
- how does this change the way you think about the changes you desire?
I invite you to begin thinking of your body as your most important and treasured asset.
This thinking practice, applied daily to decisions about eating, may stimulate the desire for better choices and consciously inch you towards the intentions you desire to activate.
Practice #2 - Cultivate An Abundance Mindset
To eliminate all-or-nothing thinking, allow yourself the freedom of choice within “friendly boundaries”.
Friendly boundaries give constructs for all good things to be permissible, but without the neurosis that comes with the imposition of unmerited rules leading to deprivation mentalities.
When you tell yourself you can’t have or will never be able to have something again or avoid social participation due to food restrictions, you ultimately set yourself up for failure. The truth is at some point most of us will rebel against hyper-restrictive methods.
But when we allow ourselves the gift of friendly boundaries, we can give ourselves the ability to enjoy both variety and abundance tempered with moderation. And can learn to navigate less-than-ideal situations.
By abundance, I mean thinking patterns such as
- “There will always be enough”
- “This isn’t my last supper”
- “There will always be more where that came from”.
- "I can pass on this today because it doesn’t serve me best."
- "Thank you, I'm actually not hungry right now."
Moderation, paying attention to physical hunger, and being conscious of our choices become easier when we have the view that this isn’t the last time that good food or special food will be available.
Friendly boundaries are simple and cultivate this abundant thinking.
More importantly, they allow for variety, where we aren’t trapped eating the same things day in and day out on a rigid “diet plan” (#donteatboringfood).
Variety is important not only for adherence to the process but also for our overall health.
And because we know, the ability to enjoy the food we eat and participate in what we love is the number one key to long-term success. This is the ultimate goal of a healthy lifestyle.
A good nutrition plan will temper lack, support variety, and cultivate lifestyle, all while implementing mental processes that deactivate the SMT's, "sabotaging mindset traps".
Practice #3 - Choose a Feedback Mindset
Prefer feedback over failure. The third mindset is choosing to “fail forward”. What? How do I do that, coach? I’ve screwed up again.
The answer is to decide to stop judging yourself. Forget about all-or-nothing. Life just doesn’t work that way, so why do we feel we have to?
I invite you to step away from self-condemnation and self-judgment. Take the focus off “failure” and refocus on feedback.
So you have made less than an optimal choice. Wow! Lucky you! Now you get the opportunity to analyze it, learn from it, and most importantly employ a new strategy or thought process and move forward.
So, invite yourself to observe and gather feedback. Take a deep breath, get curious, and be a student of yourself. Notice patterns that emerge in your eating.
- Are you really hungry?
- How long since your last meal?
- What are you really hungry for?
- What’s your emotional state?
- How do you eat when you are sad, happy, bored, or discouraged?
- How about that time of the month, or when you’re stressed for time, feeling disorganized, lacking time for prep, or dealing with peer or family pressure?
- What’s happening around you?
- Most importantly, what’s happening inside you?
Give yourself the opportunity to investigate the facts without judgment or self-condemnation. Treat it as pure data.
- How is your internal dialogue affecting you?
- What is true, and what is not true?
- Are you making excuses?
- Do you need to move from denial to acknowledgment?
Be willing to open yourself to rational feedback, in order to keep things in perspective, apply new information, track your success, and celebrate little wins.
Even momentary slip-ups or setbacks can prove to be a success when properly framed feedback is garnered from the experience.
If you need help with this, it is a great idea to employ a coach.
Practice #4 - Practice Gentle Changes
Learn to eat in new ways. Slow down and keep the mechanics simple. This avoids overwhelm, and the stress of too many changes all at once.
Trying to implement an “everything right now” approach just welcomes mental fatigue and puts us right back in “the SMT loop”.
We all know willpower is flat-out an easily exhausted resource.
However, research shows sustainable change is realized when implemented in gradual stages.
It’s all about making the educated next best choice at the next opportunity to eat. When you do this consistently over time, your body knows what to do, and it will respond.
Practice #5 - Permission to Practice
Practice equals progress. Remember, you have agency, you are in the driver’s seat.
You decide your destination and what you are going to put in your gas tank to get there. The beauty here is you’re not restricted to one route, nor do you have to keep hitting the potholes. But your mental map will make all the difference in the journey.
You will press up against sabotaging mindset traps (SMTs) from time to time, but the goal is for it to be less frequent.
When you give yourself permission to practice, explore and apply new thinking you will grow. Think of it this way: you have a lot more meals to eat in this life, so the opportunities to implement mindful practice are endless.
Keep practicing until eating better, one decision at a time becomes a habit that informs your lifestyle and overall health.
Lots to consider, so I will leave you with this Two-Step Challenge:
- Do you think of your body as your most important asset? If not, how would it change your thinking about eating better if you did?
- Are you willing to invest in your long-term health by identifying your SMT's and embracing these 5 mindset practices?
I'm cheering you on, so practice and keep stringing those pearls...
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