How many times have you cheated on your diet and beat yourself up about it later? You’ve worked so hard at eating what you are supposed to and then in a moment of weakness or unawareness you falter and eat the “wrong thing” or too much of something. Sometimes when this happens, you are so hard on yourself that you scrap the whole effort and hastily decide that you just aren’t cut out for this whole eating healthy thing….that maybe you weren’t meant to be thin or fit or to have enough energy to actually get through your workout without feeling exhausted.
You don’t need me to tell you that kind of thinking is self defeating. You know it is! But what if I told you that all you need to do to prevent this reoccurring scenario is to change your perspective? Simply change the way you approach the whole concept of cheating and you go from being a victim of impulse to someone in control.
One way to change your perspective is to not look at eating what you crave as cheating at all (I am still talking about food here ). The reality is if you deprive yourself of what you really want, it is inevitable that you will have a moment when your guard is down and you will cave or give in and find yourself having that very thing you were trying to avoid. This is the kind of self denial that promotes binging and other compulsive behavior. So now you are probably thinking: “Well if my desires will get the better of me eventually, then aren’t I destined for failure? Now what do I do?!”
There are two steps to dealing with this. Step one is to acknowledge that you really want this food you crave (and dream about) and give yourself permission to have it. In fact, give yourself permission to have as much of it as you want! If it is ice cream, then set a day and time when you are going to have it and sit down with no distractions and enjoy every ‘sinful’ second. The beauty of this is that will power has no place here! Too good to be true? That’s why there’s a step two. Step two, as you may have expected, is that this indulgence must come with a condition. You must do it consciously.
Eating with consciousness is known as “The Yoga of Eating.” A colleague of mine, Charles Eisenstein, wrote a book on the subject. And with his blessing, I have done lectures on it and continue to teach the concept to all of my clients. The idea is to eat with intention. Remove all distractions, such as the T.V., computer, other people, even distracting music. Focus all of your intention on what you are doing—on the thing(s) you are eating. Use all of your senses in the effort. Notice the smell, appearance, texture, taste, even the sound as you chew. After all, food is energy. It is a life-giving force and we should approach it as such.
Notice how you feel not only while you are eating, but afterwards. More specifically, check back in two hours after eating on how you feel and compare it to how you felt before you ate. Better yet, write down your observations in a diet journal. And by ‘how you feel’, I mean be as honest and thorough as you can. Do you have any specific cravings? How is your energy compared to before you indulged? How is your mood? What about your ability to focus? Do you have any sinus congestion, digestive issues, or other physical complaints?
Once you have fully experienced what it is like to indulge in your favorite food, decide how often you are going to allow yourself that indulence and commit to whatever frequency and amount you feel serves your best interest. I have found that once per week is a good place to start. That gives you something to look forward to and because you have set the schedule, you are in control.
I promise you if you eat this way, not only will you eat less, but you will enjoy your food much more and even begin to identify which foods are good for you and which are not. You may even decide that indulging in certain foods is not worth the trouble. After all, creating awareness and consciousness is the whole point.
So go ahead and enjoy the decadence without the guilt and get healthier doing it!