Last week’s Intuitive Tuesday post was about dealing with “the voice“. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to, as it will help explain today’s post. To summarize it though, “the voice” is all the negative and judgemental thoughts that we still have about food, even when we have consciously made the decision to stop restricting it.
Today I want to talk about a different kind of voice.
But first – not sure what I am talking about when I mention Intuitive Tuesday? I explain it all here.
It is hard to get rid of the negative voices in our head, if we don’t replace them with something positive. We are going to have thoughts, we can’t clear our mind completely, so we need to work at making these thoughts positive, and helpful, and encouraging, and – healthy.
The other day at the gym I heard a mom-friend of mine talking about the diet plan that she was on. She explained how hard she was on herself when it came to her appearance and what she allowed herself to eat. I knew exactly where she was coming from, and I really felt for her. I am a type A perfectionist. I am great at placing really high expectations on myself, and then beating myself up if I don’t achieve what I had hoped to. From what I have learned, a lot of dieters, and restrictive eaters have this same trait.
Being a perfectionist isn’t a bad thing. It means you strive for excellence, and that you try your best at everything you do. A lot of the world’s most creative and successful people were/are perfectionists. There is a downside though, and that is what happens when our expectations are too high, and we can’t quite meat them. Failure to a perfectionist means that one little thing went wrong. If you mess up even in one area, you have messed up in everything.
Dieting is very hard for a perfectionist. This is because eating even one bite of a restricted food results in massive failure. The negative voices that ensue once this kind of failure takes place are crazy. For some reason we think that beating ourselves up when we aren’t perfect will make us better. We can’t accept, or even love ourselves until we reach the ultimate place of perfection and therefore happiness. I really felt for my friend because I knew what she meant when she said she was hard on herself. The inner struggle that takes place around food is tough.
The book Intuitive Eating suggests developing a voice within yourself called “The Nurturer”. The book explains that this voice “has the ability to reassure you that you’re okay and that everything will turn out fine” p 104. You have probably heard the advice that you should treat your inner self like how you would treat your best friend. That is what this voice is all about.
For example, rather than getting mad at yourself for eating something restricted, like a cookie, this positive voice reminds us that “it is okay to have a cookie. Eating a cookie is normal” (p. 104). Simply eating a cookie would have been a surefire way to set off a binge for me in the past. I felt guilty for eating it, and listened to the voices in my head that made me feel extremely bad. I would then rebel against them and eat everything I could find making me feel 1000 times worse. Developing an inner voice of reason, patience and understanding helped to ward off these crazy episodes.
I like to focus on positive thoughts, and reason, when the negative ones start surfacing. I try to counter the condemning voices with positive ones. If I start to feel bad about what I am eating, I like to focus on all the good things that intuitive eating as done for me, and all the bad things that dieting has. When it comes to body image, I like to remind myself of what my body does for me on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter so much that my stomach isn’t flat, when I think about how it carried around a baby for 9 months! Reminding myself that my legs allowed me to go for a run, or go to work, or even just perform daily tasks without hindering me, makes me thankful for them, not critical of their size or shape.
In short, what I really want to say today is to be nice to yourself. Intuitive eating is hard. It is something that you can’t be perfect in. Eating in general is hard. It is something that you can’t be perfect in, and as long as you set expectations on yourself for be perfect, you will fail. Your body won’t ever be perfect. Your athletic ability won’t be perfect. Even if you were to achieve your “perfect ideals” it wouldn’t make you more happy.
When you have negative thoughts about food, or body image, or even life in general, try to counter them with positive and affirming thoughts. Over time your inner thought life will be so much more positive! This is something that will actually make you more happy!
I am going to challenge myself to this too. I could use some more happiness in my life!
What are some positive thoughts that you use to counter negative ones?
Are you a perfectionist? Do you see this as a good or bad personality trait? I am a perfectionist to the extreme, and I see it as a good thing, that can also go very bad if I’m not careful!