How would you feel if someone told you, “You should never eat dessert (or beef, or chips, or . . . . ) – EVER!!”? That is what I call a negative motivator. It tells you what NOT to do, what to fear doing. Instead, what if your goal was to make sure to get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day and to eat every time you are hungry? That is a positive goal. It speaks about taking in food rather than keeping it away. Doesn’t it make you feel better – more abundant?
I believe that a positive goal can be more effective than a negative goal, especially when it comes to eating. A feeling of deprivation, of “taking away”, is not a great strategy for making long term changes. By thinking of ways to ADD food – good, healthy, high-fiber, low calorie food – it is quite possible to cut back on the higher calorie, less nutritious foods without feeling the pain. The focus simply is not on what is missing.
In addition to the psychological differences between a positive and negative goal, there are physiological ones too. Studies have shown that we like to have at least a certain minimum volume in our stomachs to feel satisfied. Personally, I really like to feel plenty in there! If portion control means cutting back on the total volume of food, it is not likely to feel satisfying, and the plan will probably not last long. By shifting the volume of the different foods that you eat, it is possible to feel at least as full while consuming fewer calories. (Check out my recent video to see how I make lunch most days.)
If you feel like your eating is over-controlled by too many negative goals, it may be time to put a more positive spin on expectations. You might find yourself feeling just a little less worried about it all. Worry only feels productive! In fact, it is often paralyzing, making it seem overwhelming to move forward effectively. Less worry can actually leave your brain free of chaos, allowing constructive planning to take place.
If you need some ideas for positive goals, here are a few: 1) Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. 2) Be sure to get at least 6 glasses of water each day. 3) If you eat less than 4 times a day, make sure to eat at least 3 meals and one snack. 4) Sit down to eat and relax at least once a day.
Is anyone working on a positive goal they would like to share? I would love to hear your ideas!