“Yeah you. The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”
“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”
“Well, I certainly try.”
“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”
“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”
“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”
What do you think? Does it count?
When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance. They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend. But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend. And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it. I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads.
Words about words.
It’s hard to make choices that value you and your health when you are undermining your own value with your self-directed language.
It’s also hard to make choices that value your health when inundated with messages that confuse what it really means to reward yourself.
Would you do the following to someone?
slap extra pounds on them;
give diabetes to them;
add joint pain;
put holes in their teeth;
burden them with an autoimmune disorder;
or make them more prone to heart attack?
Okay, maybe there are a few people in your life that you would curse with the milder choices on the list, however, these things are not rewards. These things are not rewards. They are punishments. They are also part of life. We don’t mean to suggest that everyone who is ill or uncomfortable has created that problem for themselves, and everyone deserves love, respect and help. We all make bad choices, visible and invisible. However, changing the way you talk to yourself and think about food could have a huge impact on what you eat and how you feel about yourself and your choices. Your choices can have a huge impact on your actual health, your actual physical experience on the planet, which can have a huge impact on how you think and feel about yourself – a bit of a cycle there. Perhaps our language about food is a good entry point in that cycle – can changing our words change our choices? We believe that it can.
Baby Step #8 is to pay attention to your language about food. What kind of language do you use to justify poor choices as rewards? How often are your healthy choices described as deprivation? Recognize the language and use it for healthier food. For example, “I have had a hard day at work and I am so tired. I deserve a reward and some TLC. I think I’ll eat a big salad and some healthy grains because it will pick up my energy and take care of my body. I deserve that.”
You are not depriving yourself with healthy food, you are providing yourself with healthy food, because you are valuable and should be treated well.
Food is primarily nourishment. How delightful that it is often also pleasurable. But it doesn’t always have to be pleasurable to the palate… it can be pleasurably nurturing and sustaining to the pancreas, the pulmonary system, the pelvis and the patootie as well.
So here are suggestions for changing your language, your mind, and your habits.
1. Notice (and note if you can) your language about food.
What do you say to yourself before you eat something that you know is not good for you? What do you say to yourself (or to whoever might be listening) when you prepare to try a new food that you know IS healthy for you? Do you expect to like healthy foods? Do you think about the impact of food when you categorize it as a treat?
2. Substitute positive statements for negative when they happen.
Get past negative language of deprivation: do not think about NOT having foods you are trying to avoid but about what you are eating instead.
“I am on a new quest to eat more vegetables and fruits and I am learning all kinds of delicious ways to prepare them.”
“How about a delicious fruit & yogurt smoothie for dessert?”
I also think it is very helpful to use language that reminds you why you wish to make a healthy food choice and use language that acknowledges the rewards inherent in good food choices. “These greens have calcium and iron as well as lots of vitamin A to keep me strong and healthy.” “Real food creates health. I want and deserve good health.”
Language of rewards in relation to a REAL reward for your body, mind and spirit.
“Real food holds sunshine and soil and water and connects me to this place in a meaningful, fulfilling way.”
“I love knowing I’m eating real food.”
And for you AND the kids: (Although I encourage you to voice your positive statements out loud in front of your kids, the next 2 might be more meaningful to them.)
3. Think of someone whose physical abilities you admire and use that admiration to fuel your desire to be healthier.
Think of the physical abilities you would like to have as you eat healthy food that prepares your body to reach its potential. My son wants to be a professional athlete and we discuss that when having disagreements about food choices. It helps him see the value in real food.
4. Link behavior to nutrition.
If you’re trying to reduce sugar in a child’s diet – explain to them how sugar can affect their health and their behavior. Make sure that you point out to your children what their behavior is like after junk food. They may surprise you by noticing the behavior of their peers and making connections about behavior and food choices. Notice your own behavior and moods in relation to what you eat. Remind yourself, positively, and tell yourself why you are choosing to eat what makes you feel good!
This culture of treating ourselves in detrimental ways is very pervasive, even appearing at schools, but if you make the language involved more honest, you might have more luck overcoming it! Somebody’s making boodles of money off of all the crap presented as food – they want to make money more than they want to make someone else healthy.
Remember that Baby Steps mean a bit of change at a time and an endless supply of second chances. Head back to Baby Step #1 for a refresher – or all of the steps. And give #8 a try: Pay attention to your language about food. It affects what you eat, how you feel about what you eat, and your health. Pay attention to your language about yourself. It affects who you are, how you feel about who you are, and your health!
5. Try a non-food or a healthy food reward next time you deserve a treat.
Little Sis and I gave a list of non-food ways to reward yourself in Baby Step #6. I find them very helpful.
“I am really upset about ______ and I need something to make me feel better. I’m going to make a cup of tea and call my best friend. Or I’m just going to say to myself what I know she would say to me if she were here. (What would you say Little Sis?) I have a pretty good & comforting guess…. and it’s a lot better than what I’d say to myself most of the time.
You are valuable. You are loved. You are worthy and your body wants to serve you.
You deserve to eat real food.
Please share your positive ideas and statements about healthy rewards and healthy eating.
This post was shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday.