Better Eating Habits Made Easy

“What the hell do I eat?!?”

Freeze frame on the woman in my office.

Deer in the headlights. Panic stricken.

A little over an hour ago, she walked in with a smile on her face. We exchanged pleasantries then she proceeded to tell me how the inflammation/hormones/lack of sleep is affecting her body and her life.

She walked me through a typical day, we talked about when things started to go awry, then we dove beneath the surface. We explored the ways her life situations contribute to her symptoms. We focused inward, listening to her body’s clues about what it needs.

Through it all, she followed my lead and answered my questions with curiosity and that raw honesty you bring forth when you’re committed to doing what it takes to fix this thing once and for all.

Then we got back to the practical side of things. The lifestyle shifts and food suggestions that will reduce her symptoms and help her body rebalance. This is when I explained how ___________ (gluten, dairy, sugar, refined food,…) are part of the problem and she’d do better to do without.

That’s the moment when the deer stepped onto the road. “There’s nothing left to eat!”

You’d think I’d just told her we needed to cut off her arm.

It’s the first reaction, isn’t it?

Regardless of what the doctor or the naturopath has explained, or despite test results that show a clear sensitivity to certain foods, a wall goes up.

Before you open your mind to the possibilities the changes present – among them feeling better! – the first thought is that there’s nothing left to eat.

It’s like when you take the same route home from work every day, then one day there’s a construction detour. Do you happily trust the detour signs to get you where you need to go, or do you go into panic mode because your routine has been sideswiped?

Resistance is the ego’s way of making sure you stay safe. Its definition of “safe” being “familiar”. If there’s one thing we all resist more than anything else it’s change – stepping out of the ol’ comfort zone and into the unknown.

Resistance also smacks of your inner teenager rebelling when she’s told No.

When it comes to food and eating habits, treading into the zone of resistance and rebellion is par for the course. Your brain, your gut and your emotions are hard-wired together more tightly than that tangle of string in your kitchen junk drawer. Pleasure, punishment, associations, comfort, control all balled up with fears and skewed needs for love and attention.

So, even if you’ve made a conscious decision to change the way you eat for the sake of your health, it takes a bit of time – and potential backsliding – to sort out the knots and get some new habits in place.

Sure I could jump in and give you a list of ways to replace the poor choices for better. You could browse the cookbooks at your local Indigo or Google x-free recipes and find more ideas than you’d ever have time to use.

Before you can go there, though, you need to make friends with that rebellious teen. Settle the panic from the inside so you have more success on the outside.

Rather than run with a list to the health food store, grab your journal and ask yourself the following 3 questions:

1. WHY are you making these changes?

The first response here might be “because the doctor/naturopath/osteopath told me to”. Maybe you’ve seen a friend have success with a particular eating style. Maybe you’re just trying the next thing on the list of trends that may fix your “thing” once and for all.

Which gets to the next layer of response: fixing your thing. Do you want to lose 15lbs, sleep better, have more energy, stop being in pain after every meal…?

Sure, those are all part of why you’re cutting out some of your favourite foods. Now look at why those things are important to you.

How will your life improve or be different after those pounds are gone? How will your parenting, marriage, career shift once you’re feeling better? What parts of your life are you putting off because of these issues?

2. WHAT’S preventing you from making the changes?

Perhaps it’s the practical steps that have kept you stuck. “I don’t know what to eat.” Fortunately, this one’s easily rectified thanks to books, the internet and professional advice.

What else is holding you back from getting closer to your health goals? I usually phrase this with clients as: What are the benefits to staying in this state?

Benefits to being fat, tired and in pain – is this woman insane?!?

Breathe into that question. Sit with how it makes you uncomfortable. You may even want to put it on the backburner for a day or two. Then come back to it. Gently.

Does the added weight keep you connected to your late father? Help you establish your place in the family or at work? Does your pain get you special attention? Does the lack of energy allow you to keep playing small?

There’s no judgment in what comes up here. No shame in understanding your motivations and beliefs.

Only once you see them can you determine if you still need them or if you can pack them up and send them on their way.

3. How do you want to FEEL?

What’s your dream solution?

How would you feel, how would you look, if the health issues were cleared?

How will you feel when those shifts in your life actually come to fruition? What are the actual sensations in your body when you’re living the life you want to be living?

I’ll bet there are variations of expansiveness, lightness, groundedness. I’ll also bet there’s a sense of safety, of feeling well in your own skin.

Whatever those sensations are, hang out with them and describe them to yourself or a partner until you know them in detail – the colour, the temperature, the texture, the image they remind you of. Notice how you sit and stand when you feel that way. Notice how you speak when you feel that way – both the words you use and the timber of your voice.

Let these sensations in your body become familiar. Let them permeate you with how safe & comfortable you are in that state.

Give the way you feel a name: Grounded Expansion. Blue Angel. River of Calm.

Now, set that as your intention. The Why of the changes you’ll make – dietary or otherwise.

Use it as your touchstone when the voice of panic creeps in to sabotage your efforts, or when your friends try to twist your arm to accept one small piece of fudge cake.

Ground back into your intention. Your safe zone. From there you can build new habits to help create and sustain that way of being on the outside. From there you can decide if, in this moment, a piece of cake to bond with friends is more important than the integrity of your digestive tract.

Holding the intention of who you want to be and why you want to be that person opens the door of possibility wide enough that the necessary changes no longer induce fear. They become almost effortless.

If you still need help with the details, by all means, get in touch. I’d be only too happy to guide you.

In the comments, tell us what your biggest block is when it comes to changing an eating habit. How did you overcome it, or do you still struggle with it? When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone else who’s stuck making necessary changes to her eating habits? Send her this post using any (or all!) of these buttons.

7 thoughts on “Better Eating Habits Made Easy

  1. Pingback: How to Overcome Resistance Before It Overpowers You | Whole Health

  2. My husband had a recent bout of kidney stones…three to be exact! He’s also suffered from gout in the past. So now he needs to adapt his diet and steer clear of a variety of foods. He’s always had an aversion to green vegetables, but now he’s experimenting with them and even liking some of them! It’s a journey towards better health and he knows that he must embrace change.

    • Kudos to your husband for embracing the need for change and experimenting…making it sound way more fun than “you have to…” and making pleasant discoveries along the way! I know too many (often) men who would rather pop the pills or undergo the surgery rather than adapt their eating habits for the sake of their health.

  3. i’m finding myself in this push-and-pull resistance stage right now. i’ve just recently realized that one of my favorite things to eat on the planet – bread – has become an enemy. and it is HARD to say goodbye. i know i feel better without it. but it beckons to me, especially since it’s close by (my husband and 2 sons are bread lovers as well).

    • Ah yes, push-and-pull. You bring up another fine point: that these shifts, like all of life, are never linear. I am in a constant dance with some of the foods I’m better off without – my nemeses have been dairy and sugar, especially when combined (custard, ice cream). The good news is that beyond the tango of cravings, there’s a minuet of choice: choosing the moments and the partners. It has to be a truly worthwhile dessert for me to open my dance card.

  4. Great questions, Cathy. It’s the biggest roadblock I encounter with clients as well … the mind … along with the various archetypes that show up at the table. I especially like the idea of giving the way you feel a name: “Grounded Expansion. Blue Angel. River of Calm.” Mine would be EASE. It my theme this year! xxoo

    • Easing into a new way of eating. That sounds more like slipping into a warm bath, rather than the struggle such changes could bring. I love it.

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