The people who sell diets know something about how your mind works. They don’t want you to know about it. So before you decide to start another diet, read this. There is a voice in your mind that tells you:
Keep your head down. Don’t look at that because it’s not for you.
Put your hand down. Don’t volunteer for that job. You’ll just fail anyway.
Why did you say that? That was so stupid.
Don’t wear that. You can’t pull it off.
The promise of the voice in our mind
The promise of the self-critical voice in our heads is that if we just blend in well enough, we will be safe. If we do what everyone else does, we’ll fit in. We’ll be accepted.
The voice tells us that our dreams can’t possibly come true. That if it did, everyone would be looking at us, and they will see how much of a fraud we are.
We distract ourselves from what we really want and what we really think. And we numb the sting. The voice in our head tells us what to do.
Go ahead, drink the whole bottle. Forget about your worries and dreams.
Eat the whole tub of ice cream. Numb the feelings.
Go buy those shoes. You’ll be so much happier.
Binge watch the whole season. You don’t have time to do anything else.
This voice could be a voice you heard as a child – from a parent, teacher, kids at school, or a chance encounter.
This voice could come from depression or anxiety.
It could even be a biological instinct from the early days of humanity when getting kicked out of the tribe meant certain death. Tim Urban refers to this part of our mind as the Social Survival Mammoth.
The mind is a crazy thing
It is a strange world between our ears. We humans have been trying to figure it out for millennia. And throughout all those years, we’ve developed many different ways to try to deal with it. Prayer, meditation, counselling, journaling, philosophy. You can pick and choose between all of them to figure out what makes sense to you and what works for you. But they all hinge on figuring out this one thing.
You can’t shame yourself into good mental health. You can’t guilt yourself into living the good life. You can’t sustain a healthy lifestyle through fear. It is possible that shame, guilt, or fear could start you down the path of trying to figure things out. But at some point, in order to live a good life, you need to switch to a more compassionate way of thinking.
It might not be easy. Your thoughts are habits too. If you been practicing for years or decades one way of thinking, it’s going to take time.
So let’s get back to the original point of this article. The people who sell diets and why you might want to think twice about those diets.
What is the difference between a “diet” and healthy eating?
The original definition of diet was ” food and drink regularly provided or consumed”. But that is not how we use the word anymore. Now the word diet means deprivation. It comes from trying to make ourselves smaller. It comes from feeling like we aren’t good enough.
Dieting, as we use the word now, is not healthy. At all.
The unhealthiness does not come from the food itself (or the lack thereof). Though in some cases that is part of it.
Diets are not healthy because of why we do it and what is going on in our minds. It comes from shame about our body. It comes from the fear that we are unlovable. It comes from the guilt of overindulgence. We diet because we don’t deserve to enjoy food. We diet because we have “no willpower”.
Healthy eating, eating well, is the exact opposite of all that. We eat well because we want to fuel our body and mind. We eat healthy because we want to feel good. We eat well to take care of ourselves.
The people who sell diets, sell the idea that you are not good enough. And they know what they have done to the word ‘diet’. So now they are trying to sell that same idea by calling it a “lifestyle”. And they are slowly twisting that word now too. So let’s forget what they say and refocus on compassion.
Consider this your healthy eating manifesto.
We eat healthy because we feel better when we do. We feel energized and ready to take on whatever challenges come our way.
We eat enough to be satisfied so that we can honour our body’s need for fuel.
We stop eating before we’re stuffed – most of the time – because it doesn’t feel good to eat that much.
We experiment with different patterns of eating to figure out what our body needs.
We savour our meals and snacks.
If we choose not to eat something, it is because we care about ourselves.
If we choose to track our eating, it is to search for patterns. We do this for ourselves, no one else. Once we discover those patterns, we stop tracking.
We eat in a way that makes us feel satisfied, energized, and that makes our gut happy.
We use what we know about nutrition and combine it with our lived experience to find patterns that work for us.
We do not allow deprivation. We satisfy our cravings, in a mindful and compassionate way.
We do not allow ourselves to shame food choices.
We do the best we know how. When we learn that something isn’t working, we seek a new way of doing things and adapt advice to suit us.
We know that what works for one person may not necessarily work for us.
And we cheer on anyone else who is trying to get healthy, feel good, and live a good life.
When you make changes in your life that come from a place of compassion, you can do anything. I happily say no to most of the food that gets brought into the office. I say no to food that will upset my stomach or otherwise cause unpleasant physical feelings. I say yes to savouring food that I enjoy, or I save some for later if I’m not ready for it now.
The whole world looks different when you look through the lens of compassion. It takes practice, and patience, to do this. And as you journey down this road, you will hit bumps. You will forget to be compassionate. This is part of the journey. It is something that I constantly have to remind myself.
When I’m having a good day, it is easy to be compassionate. But on the bad days, I aim to remind myself of this. To remember to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with whatever I am going through. I suppose it’s possible to be compassionate 100% of the time, but I most certainly have not gotten there. I hope you’ll join me on this journey to figure out the foundations of healthy habits and mindsets that will allow all of us to live the good life.
You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.
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