You know that steak and a salad are better than pizza and fries. You’re fully aware that eating snacks in front of the T.V. until you’re sick to your stomach is not conducive to your fitness goals. Yet, you keep looking for the magic food combination or secret diet that will fast-track you to your fat loss dreams.
There is only one action you need to take to achieve better health via diet, and this is it: identify, acknowledge, and address your most destructive eating behaviour.
For most of us, it is late-night snacking. For others, it is daytime grazing or social consumption. Alcohol intake is also a frequent barrier to peak health. You know what the real issue is, but you subconsciously convince yourself that you aren’t powerful enough to change it, so instead, you seek out pills, potions, and fad diets. Doing so makes you feel like you can circumvent your fundamental issue. You can’t.
Overcoming destructive eating habits is a skill that you must build over time. Like most addictive behaviour, weening yourself away from the pattern in the initial days of change is the most challenging part. The process is simple. It won’t always go well, but if you wake each day setting the intention to implement a simple strategy, you will win the battle over time.
Step 1- Pre-Talk: You know that every night at 8 PM, you sit in front of the T.V. to unwind, which invariably leads to the slippery slope of hours of snacking. Before 8 PM comes, you must plan what an appropriate amount of snacking (both quantity and choice of food) is and what destructive snacking looks like. Taking this step plants the seed that will remind you when you are moving from indulgence into abuse of your food.
Step 2- Overcoming rationalizations: Once you’ve eaten your healthy, reasonable snack, you’re going to crave the foods you usually eat. Your mind wants the sugar, starch, salt, and crunch and will begin to bargain with you. You’ll start to think things like, “you just had a really healthy snack when you’d normally eat some chips. A few pieces of chocolate is probably O.K.!” or “You’ve exercised really hard today. These cravings are probably a sign that your body needs the extra calories.” An addicted brain will find a way, and recognizing and overcoming the craving mind is pivotal in behaviour change.
Step 3- Remind yourself of the cost and benefit: Once you recognize the internal bargaining of step 2, you need to do some self-questioning. “How am I going to feel if I eat that chocolate and spiral into a binge? How good will I feel about myself if I don’t do that? If I wake up tomorrow and I haven’t snacked all night long, will I feel good or bad? Have I ever regretted making a good food choice? How many hours have I spent in sadness, depression, and regret after eating the way that I so desperately want to eat right now?” You must frame the reality that will result from your choices using rational thinking.
Step 4- What else needs to happen?: Now that you’ve done the hard cognitive work, what needs to happen for you to stick to your healthy choice? Do you need to get away from the television? Do you need to brush your teeth? Do you need to go to bed? The environment where destructive behavours live is the primary reinforcement for the action itself. So if you remain in the addicted environment- even when you have the best intentions- you run the risk of immediate relapse. Just like a 10-year sober alcoholic would be wise to avoid going to a bar. If you are serious about reforming your behaviours, you must shake up the environment that allowed the habit to strengthen.
A better diet and a better body is 100% a mental battle. You don’t need more information. Information, strategies, and tactics are all distractions from the core issues you’re avoiding. If you commit to making this simple change, you will get everything you want out of your diet, and most nutritional approaches will finally work for you. In the words of Jocko Willink, DISCIPLINE IS FREEDOM!