“I hate my boss” - “I have too much work to do” – “I wish I hadn’t had that fight with my boyfriend/husband” – “Mary is so selfish these days” – “Why won’t the rest of the team contribute on this project?”….
We often think that the parts of our life most responsible for stressing us out are our jobs and relationships (romantic or otherwise). Yet if we were to stop and become more aware of our inner dialogue– if we were to stop and listen to that voice in our head that narrates our life, how often would it tell us things like:
“You are too fat” – “your belly is too big” – “you shouldn’t eat the rest of that cake” – “you need to go to a new diet tomorrow” – “she is so much thinner than you are” – “this has to be the last time you have so many biscuits” – “I will have pizza just one last time” – “I hate my bingo wings”…
Not many people are aware of how much energy, time and mental space is taken up stressing out about food and their physical appearance. So many women (and men) worry about what they should eat, when they should eat and why they aren’t thinner/more attractive. We live in an air-brushed world, where we feel we need to be physically perfect and eating Instagram-worthy, healthy food all the time. Yet our obsession over what we should be eating and how we should be looking, can have a very negative impact on our mental health.
Here are some tips for what you can do to stop thoughts about food and your body causing you unnecessary stress:
Take notice of your inner dialogue and be kinder to yourself. Very often the voice that narrates our lives tell us that we “are not good enough” and often we are more harsh on ourselves than we would ever be to a stranger or even an enemy. All this negative self-talk can make us feel very down and often leads to depression or anxiety. Take note of what that inner voice is saying and try to be kinder, more forgiving and loving to yourself. Don’t say words to yourself that you wouldn’t consider saying to a good friend.
Stop putting yourself on a diet. When we tell ourselves that we are going to be on a restrictive eating plan/diet from “tomorrow/Monday”, we are basically giving ourselves permission to eat far too much today. If we keep deciding to put ourselves on a new diet every few days/weeks – this can very quickly end up resulting in a lot of weight gain, thanks to us having so many of those “just one last” binges.
Make choices to nourish your body. Instead of thinking of depriving yourself or going on any diet – just focus on making choices that are good and nourishing for your body. Think of food as your body’s fuel and focus on choosing the best possible fuel for your body. When you try and eat lots of foods such as vegetables, pulses, nuts and fruits that are nourishing for your body, you will crowd out the less healthy food without feeling miserable/deprived.
Make one small change every month to improve your health. If you would like to change your weight, body or health, do not put yourself on a restrictive diet – instead just focus on making one small change a month. The problem with diets is that they require us to make lots of changes in one go and this can be too much for our brains and bodies to handle. We never go on a diet expecting to continue eating according to the diet plan for the rest of our lives – therefore, when we come off the diet and eat “normally” again, any weight we have lost will just pile back on. Therefore, the best approach is to make one small change every month to create a new “normal” diet and achieve sustainable change.
Try to look for the good in everyone and everything, including in yourself. Focus on the things that you like about yourself instead of your flaws. Focus on the compliments you receive rather than that one negative comment someone made about how tight your dress was 5 years ago. Starting to respect and appreciate yourself, you will naturally make more good choices for your health and body.
So, don’t let food and your physical appearance be the things that stress you out. Start today celebrating food for giving you energy and life and your body for enabling you to move, laugh and dance!
For help on changing your inner dialogue around food and your body - book a place on The Food Psychology Clinic's next Food Freedom Workshop in London here.