Why does healthy eating become diet-y?

Have you ever found yourself trying something new with your diet only a few days later feeling that familiar “head-y”, “diet-y” thought process taking over? As you try to make a change in the foods you are eating with the very best of intentions, you can find yourself feeling increasingly rigid, rule orientated, critical or weight focused.Why is that? How is it that our “dieting mind” can hijack our best intentions with such apparent ease?

Our relationships with food have complicated and tangled root systems.

So, even if you have untangled and excavated a lot of the old stuff, our culture has not. The best of nutritional advice can trigger and poke at our roots. It’s confusing out there in the world of healthy eating. As our collective knowledge about the intersections between food and health evolve, the information about “what to do” and “how to heal” is so compelling, seductive, confusing & curious all at the same time. Some of our favorite spiritual teachers and bloggers seem tangled up here too, touting their sugar, grain, or meat free plans. This seems to happen despite their best intentions for you. They may not remember how triggering it is to hear about other people’s food plans. It is confusing.And, we can collectively do better. You, despite your uncertainty, might be a trailblazer on the path to sustainable wellness.  It’s okay. We are right there with you.It is common to try to make a change in the foods you are eating with the very best of intentions and as you introduce said changes, find yourself feeling increasingly rigid, rule orientated, critical or scared. The messages we absorb from the culture are often fear oriented and are consistently speaking to your head and not your embodied wisdom.

You,
despite your uncertainty,
might be a trailblazer
on the
path
to sustainable
wellness.

So, how do you decide how to take on eating in the name of health without slipping down the familiar slope to restriction, food rules, or head centered eating and food guilt? How do you return to an internal environment that allows you to experience the food you are eating and stay connected to your body before, during and after eating?Typically, when we are less triggered about food we are flexible, fair with ourselves, experimental, not overly concerned with having enough or too much, and we enjoy it. We believe we can have what we want and we regard ourselves as eaters in the world (just like everyone else). We honor our health and our taste buds. Perfection is minimized and pleasure rises into focus.When we are engaged with the dieting or restrictive mind, we are nervous, anxious, thinking about weight (even if it’s supposed to be about health) and preoccupied with food. Thoughts become black and white.  Flexibility and pleasure are replaced with agendas and plans. We tighten up and we lose our grounded footing. Self-hatred dominates. Our smaller self re-emerges. Trust is lost.When this happens consider the following:

  • Return to thinking about your body’s steadfast inner workings.Despite your food concerns, your resilient body keeps working just for you.
  • Can you make these changes from a place of curiosity? Can you de-emphasize the moralistic high ground that can accompany “eating the right way”? This type of thinking can often reinforce an idea that you can and should be doing more, and better, and ultimately severs your connection with yourself.
  • love-or-fearIs the desire to change your diet coming from fear or love? What does it look like to change from love for yourself instead of fear?
  • Remind yourself that there is no one food or meal that will change your health or your body.
  • Re-visit your original intentions to make this change. Can you seek health by way of increased inner peace and return your focus to getting out of your body’s wise way?  Learning to listen to your body’s sage feedback is so valuable to your health.
  • Ask yourself: Is there anything else in my life that is asking for my attention? The dieting and restricting mind seems to strengthen when we need a distraction from something that is uncertain and hard to feel? What is asking for expression? Tell someone. Or write it down.

The process of attuned eating and Body Trust is here to help you HEAL your relationship with food. It is an evolving process. The way you do this work changes according to the ways you grow and change. It is okay to take risks and try on new ways of being in your relationship with food, as long as it is not at the expense of your attunement to your body and its reactions and messages. Body trust is your foundation. Your internal wisdom and body cues are your guides.

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Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.

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