A scene from one of my favorite movies… Mean Girls:
Regina George: 120 calories and 48 calories from fat. What percent is that?
Gretchen Weiners: Uh, 48 into 120?
Regina George: I’m only eating foods with less than 30 percent calories from fat.
Cady Heron: It’s 40 percent. Well 48 over 120 equals X over 100 and then you cross multiply and get the value of X.
Regina George: Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.
“It’s not until you let go of something
that you see how it’s been holding you back.” – Marie Forleo
There was a time when what I ate ruled my life. Food was all I thought about – what I was going to eat next and what I had already eaten that day. I would go through the list in my head over and over to make sure I wasn’t overeating or going to gain weight. Maybe it’s not the food you’re eating but their calories that you’re trying to remember and calculate throughout your day; you make sure to run extra distance on the treadmill and do more crunches at the gym to make sure you burn off those calories from the donut (or two) you had at the office.
I didn’t realize that this obsession was seriously holding me back. I wanted and was trying to be physically healthy, but my obsessive thoughts were creating a sick mental body, bringing a lack of joy and freedom. There is actually a relatively new diagnosis of eating disorders, called orthorexia nervosa, a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behavior in search of a healthy diet and frequently co-exists with other eating disorders. I was never diagnosed with Ortherexia, but I can relate this idea of obsessive behavior in pursuit of a perfect diet.
It’s great to want to be healthy, but there’s a fine line between caring about the quality of food you eat versus obsessing over it. Health is not a destination; it is a vehicle for a full life. Perfect does not exist, even in the realm of your diet. There’s no reward for good health except to be able to longer enjoy and give to the people you love and who love you. A healthy body and mind give you the ability to do and enjoy the hobbies that excite you, a job you care about, travel and adventure around the world and eat yummy food along the way. Ultimately, it’s those joys in life that feed and fill up the soul in a way food cannot.
I’ll share some tools that can help get rid of obsessive thoughts, perfectionism and control around food…
If you are counting calories, get rid of your counting note pad, both paper or your phone, or any app you may have because your calorie counting days are over! Being healthy and losing weight have to do with the quality and quantity of food and moving your body daily, NOT calories in versus calories burned – 200 calories of veggies does completely different work in your body than 200 calories of Oreos (which is basically only 2 and I don’t know about you but I was more a whole row of Oreos in one sitting girl).
Once you’ve ditched calorie counting (yay!), consider adopting the 90/10 diet – 90% of the time you eat for your healthiest self and 10% of the time you eat what you want, celebrate and indulge, which offers you greater freedom than any aim for a perfect diet could give. I’m an even bigger fan of the 80/20 diet but it took me time to get there. Take baby steps if you’re a perfectionist; you can try starting with a 95/5 diet or any percentage that works for you and allows you to be not only your healthiest self but also your freest and happiest self. What’s important to remember is that the times of celebrating and indulging (the 5, 10, 20%) are a guilt-free zone – it’s not what you eat some of the time that makes you sick or fat, it’s what you eat most of the time.
The greatest tools for helping to overcome destructive, obsessive thinking are meditation and breathing techniques. In time of anxiety or stress, taking 5 deep breaths can really help. It sounds simple because it is. You may have even heard of this before, but it works because consciously breathing deep breaths calms your nervous system. There are many ways to take conscious breaths. One example: inhale to the count of 3 and exhale to the count of 5, then inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 6, and so on. Try it with your eyes closed, if that’s comfortable, and experience how the body feels after 5 rounds.
It’s usually the stress of our daily lives that drives us towards controlling obsessions. Instead of easing stress by trying to control other situations, like your eating habits, first try to figure out what you are stressed about. Putting a band-aid over stress, whether through restricting, binging or any other destructive behavior, won’t make it go away. Finding a meditation practice – no matter how short or long, or whether you’re sitting in a chair, on the floor, staring at a candle or mandala, or using the Head Space app – can help with that. It can be uncomfortable to get to the root of your stress triggers, but that’s what the breathing is for; breathe through uncomfortable sensation and in a short time, although it may seem like hours, the sensation will subside.
If you explore meditation in all its forms and it’s “not your thing”, explore other healthy ways to release your stress instead of mask it. Maybe that’s a walk or run, dancing, calling a friend, yoga or taking a bath. A stress reliever is anything that brings you towards freedom instead of control and restriction.
If you are looking for help around any of these areas – overcoming obsessive thoughts and control around food, ditching calorie counting, finding your unique 90/10 or 80/20 diet – I am here for you. I’ve been through it, so I want to offer YOU, my beloved, beautiful reader, a FREE health coaching consultation. If you want your free session, e-mail me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sending love and support on your journey,