I used to think I needed to live in an area with a large body of water. However, after exploring many beautiful areas that look nothing like my ideal, I no longer hold this belief. In fact, after a recent trip to Boulder, Colorado, I am not sure that it would take much arm twisting to convince me that it is a place of great natural beauty – without much water in sight!
As a follow-up to my recent post (Is It Really a Need?), I want to take a closer look at beliefs about eating and their effect on our ability to make changes. The statements in bold print below are comments that I hear often. I am not assuming to know if they are true or not. I just think it is important to make sure we are aware of those that may be affecting our actions – and may be getting in the way of changes we would like to see.
If you hear yourself making statements like any of these, you may want to shine a light on the beliefs that are behind them. They may be beliefs I have listed, or they may be different. If the belief is getting in the way, it would be good to know if it is a valid belief for you, or one you picked up along the way that may have never been valid or is no longer valid. If you find it helpful, ask yourself some of the questions I’ve suggested – or ask your own if that works better for you. There are not right or wrong answers, just your answers.
The more we “see” the beliefs that drive us, we can begin to drive ourselves better! In other words, we can feel more in control of our lives and our health.
“I cannot resist it because it is one of my favorite things to eat.”
Possible beliefs/fears: I cannot be happy if I do not eat it now. I will not have pleasure in my life if I do not eat my favorite things whenever they are available. I will be missing something if I don’t eat it now. If I don’t eat it now, I will just think about it until I do. I am weak.
Questions to ask: Is it really true that I cannot be happy if I do not eat this food now? Can I find pleasure without food? What will I miss if I do not eat it now? Is it possible that I could get your mind off of it if I chose to find another distraction? What makes me think I am weak? What does it really mean to be “weak” in this context? Am I capable of developing strength?
“I have to have it now because it is not always available.”
Possible beliefs/fears: This is not something I can get whenever I want it. If I don’t eat it now, I will just think about it until I do. Food is scarce. This is an exception to my usual habits.
Questions to ask: Do I truly not have access to this food in today’s “food everywhere” environment? If this is really true, can I make it whenever I want it? Is it possible that I could get my mind off of it if I chose to try? Is all food scarce for me, either by choice or financial hardship? Is this really an exception? (Is this something I do once a day? week? month? year? Be honest!)
“I have to finish it because I paid for it.”
Possible beliefs/fears: I cannot waste food. Throwing food away is shameful. I can’t share food.
Questions to ask: Will I get in trouble if I throw food away? Do I get my money back if I do not finish my food? Am I better off if I eat more than I want or need? Can I eat it later if I save it? If I share what I don’t want, what will be the outcome?
“I cannot stop eating until it is gone, even if I am not hungry.”
Possible beliefs/fears: It doesn’t matter anyway; I have already blown it. I have no will power. There is something wrong with me (chemically, biologically, morally, basic character). I will get in trouble if I do not “clean my plate.”
Questions to ask: Does it matter if I stop or not, in terms of my weight, health, self-esteem? Is there really something wrong with me if I don’t stop? Does it mean that I’m “crazy” if I want to keep eating? Do I have discipline in other areas of my life? Is someone watching to see if I clean my plate? Does anyone really care if I do or not?
“Changing eating habits is just too hard.”
Possible beliefs/fears: I have to be perfect in order to succeed at change. If I change, I will never be able to eat _____. If I change, I will never enjoy eating. If I change, I will lose my friendship with _____. If I change, I may get unwanted attention. This is just who I am.
Questions to ask: Is there such a thing as “perfect eating”? Is “good enough” good enough? What would “good enough” look like for me? Can I choose what and how quickly I make changes? Can I change my goals at any time? Can I make healthy changes and still enjoy food? Will I lose friendships with anyone if I change my eating habits? If so, is it a healthy friendship I would like to keep? Do I think people will treat me differently if I make changes? If so, what in particular about this is scary? Does what I eat and how I look define who I am? If I did not accomplish what I set out to do, would I be less myself?