Things My Trainer Never Told Me: Chapter Two
We really just want an instant, perfect formula, don’t we?
Keto. Weight-Watchers. Paleo. YogaX. Pilates Turbo Boost. The stand-on-your-head-while-eating-kale-and-balancing-a-dumbbell-between-your-toes routine.
Piece-a-cake! You got this!
Oh, wait… actually nothing about your "diet" is a piece of cake - all it does is make you want cake even more?
No, really. Bummer. This is the word I use to describe what the food and fitness industries are telling you are the keys to your success.
You actually don't need any of it to become a healthier, happier, better version of yourself long-term.
So. What DO you actually need?
Have you ever been to a therapist hoping that they will magically just make you better instantly, giving you that perfect perspective/epiphany/medicine that’ll make all the trauma, depression, and anxiety just *poof* away?
But instead, they start asking you all these time-consuming and exhausting questions like “How did it make you FEEL in the 5th grade when your dad didn't make it to your basketball championships, or that time your big brother said your face looked like an actual butt, or that time in high school when that person took advantage of you and left you broken?
You leave feeling worse than when you came in: “All I wanted was some professional practical advice from you, counselor. DO YOUR JOB."
Been there. Another bummer. But the thing is (as I’m sure those of us who’ve gone to counseling know), sometimes it’s less about the things we need to learn or add on to our lives, and more about the things we need to unlearn or do less of.
And our relationship with food is no different. Don’t worry, this isn’t where I tell you you need to “let go of” your love for carbs. Everyone take a deep breath of relief.
The reason you just can’t seem to get in a healthy rhythm with food habits has very little to do with diet, and EVERYTHING to do with your relationship with food.
For example, I used to say things like:
"I've been bad this weekend with food."
"I ate some bad stuff."
"I'm going to be good the rest of the week starting tomorrow!"
Oh, what’s that? These thoughts have made their way into your head, too?
Oh yes. I remember what it felt like to ride that roller coaster, and now none of my clients will ever say anything like that to me, because the first time they do I go full-on-angry-cuban at them and lovingly shake them by the shoulders, saying, “YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!”
Friend, how you see and talk about the food you eat, says a lot about how you see and talk about yourself.
HERE’S WHAT YOUR TRAINER WILL NEVER TELL YOU ABOUT FOOD:
There are no "good foods", or "bad foods".
Boom. That’s it.
Don’t roll your eyes! Just read it again and let it sink in: there are NO good or bad foods.
(Sure, we could get into the science of foods that are or aren't beneficial nutritionally, but that's not what I’m talking about here.)
I don't allow my clients to call foods good or bad, because if the food is good or bad, then when we eat it, we too, become "good" or "bad". And I'm NOT about that guilt-driven life.
That kind of subconscious association just feeds into the self-sabotaging cycle the fitness industry wants you to buy into so that you’ll buy their “quick-fix” diet program to make it better as fast as humanly possible (or at least relieve the guilt you’re feeling.)
The thing is, the quick-fix programs are just that: quick-fixes, not permanent lifestyle changes. When I hear someone lost 20 lbs in one month, I (almost always) feel bummed out, not excited. Because 9 times out of 10, whatever they did to lose weight that quickly, was an unsustainable method, and they gain it all back (and then some) soon after.
Can we pass on the crazy cycle, friends?
There’s another way. Here's what we do around here: we make choices with food out of love and out of freedom. Not out of guilt. Sometimes a glass of wine IS the loving choice; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a donut IS a loving choice; sometimes its not. And sometimes eating a salad out of self-hatred or punishment is NOT a loving choice. (Yes, I am a personal trainer, and yes, I just said all of that. Feel free to re-tweet and get me in trouble.)
Friends, this isn't black and white.
I’m not saying don't eat “healthy” foods more often than not. Yes! do it! Eat healthy food 80% of the time (or 90%, or 100%--whatever is your jam.) But don't do it because you hate yourself--do it because you love yourself.
Sure, someone could take this theory and feel justified to "eat a box of donuts in self-love", but I would be surprised if they could look me in the eyes and say they felt that was a truly loving choice.
And if you do eat the box of donuts, what’s done is done. You are NOT allowed to wallow in self-loathing or beat yourself up.
Every now and then when I accidentally eat the whole pint of ice cream as I’m watching Parks and Rec, I’ve literally apologized out loud to my body: "I'm sorry for not loving you well with that choice." And then my body forgives me (because I say so), and I MOVE ON WITH MY LIFE.
I don't sulk. I don’t whine. I'm simply motivated to make my next choice a loving one, and that is the end of that story. Plain and simple.
I can do that because my self-worth stays constant, no matter what food I eat.
When your choices are coming from a place of love and intentionality instead of guilt, you cut through all the emotional baggage; food doesn’t own you, you own your choices.
The guilt of “I ate something bad" is putting deposits in the bank called "I already messed up today so I'll just start tomorrow." You guys, screw that bank. You don't want a single thing you care about held there, trust me. Take your money and RUN.
We call food bad, so we inadvertently call ourselves bad, and then we call an entire day bad, wasted, a lost cause. You know what we feel we have after a series of "bad days"? A bad life. And that gets messy quick as we spiral downward.
Instead, if we look at each snack or meal as an opportunity to express love and freedom for ourselves, we slowly string together choices that bring life to our bones. These choices become days and those days become our whole life. And who doesn't want a whole life marked by love, life, and freedom?
Lastly, a few questions to think through that help me daily:
1. Is the food/drink I'm about to enjoy a loving choice? (Remember this goes both ways: salad in self-hatred is NOT a loving choice. A glass of wine in self-control and freedom is a loving choice.)
2. How will this food make me feel in 20 minutes?
3. Can I take one bite and ask myself, “Is it worth it? Should I eat the whole thing or be thankful for the bite and throw the rest away?”
4. My cravings aren’t inherently bad, and are often a sign that my mind or body is asking for something else. Is there something my body or soul is craving that these cravings are covering up? (For example: Am I thirsty? Sometimes we feel hungry but we’re really just dehydrated. How about I drink a glass of water and if this still sounds good I’ll eat it?) Or, maybe on a deeper level, I’m feeling lonely or unmotivated and wanting something sugary to momentarily help me feel better? Will eating this really help, or do I need to work on my relationships/motivation?
The first and most important step in getting off the diet roller coaster is believing that what you eat doesn't affect your worth. When your worth is steady and self-loving, your food choices can be too.