In a recent workshop I ran, we talked about the common themes that lead to self-sabotage and lacking willpower. After sharing some of the themes, tools and strategies, one of the women asked what tips I typically give people when they eat something out of alignment with their goals so they reach for the healthier option. Since my role as a Health Coach is not to give specific tips and tricks of how to avoid eating something you would consider indulgent, I asked if she would be willing to share an example.
First, to clarify what I do as a Health Coach, I work with my clients to help them get to the bottom of what’s keeping them stuck by uncovering the patterns they’ve been in so they can gain clarity as to what’s leading to eating out of alignment with their goals. Together we’ll determine steps they can take towards implementing new, small habits that will work for them and will feel like a bit of a stretch but not overwhelming since we want the changes to be sustainable.
So, in order to help this woman figure out what tips she could implement, she shared her experience with macaroni and cheese the night before the event. She explained that she had planned on going to the gym after work but was feeling too tired and couldn’t muster up the energy to go workout. When she got home she looked through her refrigerator and pantry and didn’t have any healthy food options on hand. While perusing the pantry there was a box of mac and cheese glaring at her so that’s what she had for dinner.
At first she thought she chose the mac and cheese because it was the only option available to her and it sounded good. However, when I asked if she ate it and didn’t think about it afterwards, she said there was a lot of negative self-talk that ensued. That’s a sign there was something happening emotionally.
As a side note, if you find you’re thinking about a food before you eat it by obsessively questioning whether you should eat it or not, and then afterwards you beat yourself up for the choice, that’s what I call mental gymnastics. When you experience mental gymnastics around food it can lead to feeling like you’re failing and make it harder to get back on track.
There is nothing wrong with eating an indulgent food. By working through and understanding the emotional triggers, the mental gymnastics tend to fade away so you can enjoy the food without any build up before and repercussions after. That’s where the relief comes in so you no longer feel controlled by food.
I asked the woman at the workshop if something had happened earlier in the day that led to feeling depleted so she couldn’t go to the gym and ended up eating the mac and cheese. That’s when she shared that she had resigned from her job four days earlier and was not being treated well. She didn’t realize it before the workshop but she had been feeling very isolated at work and then when she got home, she felt isolated again.
As we dug in, she realized the mac and cheese was a way to comfort herself so she wasn’t feeling as isolated. It may not make sense logically but often our emotions are not logical.
My next question was, what would have helped you feel more connected? In retrospect she realized the gym might have been helpful because there is a sense of community from the group class she would have attended.
By getting clear on exactly what leads to a food choice that is unaligned with our goals, we can then figure out what it is we actually need in the situation so when it happens in the future we can evaluate if it’s really the food we want and/or need.
If you’re ready to start exploring your relationship with food so you can get unstuck and regain your confidence, sign up to receive a free e-book with Laura’s 4-step approach towards understanding what’s eating away at your willpower.
Laura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it to help them radically transform their relationship with food. She helps identify the familiar patterns that have been keeping them from sticking to what they know works and ensures her clients don’t feel deprived by guiding them to make small, incremental changes so the journey is more enjoyable. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.