Are you struggling to stick with your balanced eating habits? If you’re constantly battling yourself to maintain healthy habits, keep reading to learn why this happens and how you can overcome the struggle.
Our new students inside the Mindful Nutrition Method come to us sharing their stories and struggles with sticking to balanced eating habits. Oftentimes, it’s from decades of dieting, doing really “well” with eating, and then “getting off tracking” and then repeating this cycle for years.
This is because of what we call an imbalanced relationship with food, and there are a few common behaviors that keep you in this negative cycle.
First, let’s define what this imbalanced relationship is.
What Does It Mean To Have An Imbalanced Relationship With Food?
An imbalanced relationship with food is one that is characterized by a continuous on-and-off cycle. Patterns of dieting, binging, restricting, and experiencing feelings of stress, overwhelm, guilt, shame, and frustration with eating habits are usually involved in this cycle.
This prevents you from experiencing a sense of balance, ease, peace, or freedom with food.
When you have a negative or imbalanced relationship with food, you may find yourself eating “perfectly” for a short period of time. But because it’s too restrictive and difficult for you to maintain, you end up getting “off-track”.
This period is then followed by guilt, stress, and anxiety because you’ve tried so hard to do well and have “failed”.
Naturally, when you’re in this cycle, your mindset goes into “reset” or restriction mode. You swing to the other side of the extreme and “reset” to get it right, do better, or have success with the diet you’re on.
The challenge with this imbalanced relationship with food is that in most cases, you’re truly trying to eat balanced, you’re trying hard, and are doing what you believe is best for your health. Yet nonetheless, you’re really struggling to stick with balanced eating habits.
The Diet Cycle
What’s happening beneath the surface, is you’re further creating patterns and habits that are imbalanced and causing a negative relationship with food. These eating behaviors prevent you from remaining consistent with your balanced eating habits, and in some cases, could even lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.
So let’s take a closer look at each stage of this imbalanced cycle to better understand what may be causing you to struggle.
The “all-in” End of the Balance Spectrum
The first phase is what we call the “all-in” phase.
You usually enter this phase after you feel like you’ve been “off-track” with your eating habits. As a result, you decide that you’re going to put more of your energy and effort into gaining control and eating “really good” again.
What this often turns into is restriction and regulation of the amount or types of foods you eat. This could mean you try a new diet, plan, detox, or form your own set of rules that you think will keep you “on track”.
Here are a few examples of what the “all-in” phase may look or feel like:
- Avoiding certain foods
- Counting calories, macros, or points
- Going on a diet, detox, or plan
- Skipping meals to save calories
- Feeling dissatisfied after meals
- Striving to always eat “perfectly”
- Following trends or diets without first considering whether or not they align with your body, lifestyle, and vision of health
- Constantly worrying about, or feeling obsessed with your food choices
- Following rigid nutrition or fitness routines
- Fasting and restricting food
In many cases, your focus may be entirely fixed on “getting it right” so you can achieve a specific result or achieve “perfect” eating habits. This can feel as though it’s consuming all of your mental energy, willpower, or motivation to stay “on track”.
You’ve probably tried one of these things at one point or another, or maybe you’re even doing some of these behaviors right now. That’s okay!
Many times we turn to this as the solution because we’re eager, motivated, and sometimes even desperate for change. We just want something to finally work. It can also be because you simply don’t know of any other options that guide you to eat well without having to use those behaviors.
The “all-out” End of the Balance Spectrum
Next comes the “all-out” end of the Balance Spectrum. If you don’t learn to reframe your thoughts and let go of these short-term fixes, eventually, you’ll find yourself in, what we call, the “all-out” phase.
You burn out and “give in” when you’re around foods that you’ve labeled as “off-limits”. You’re faced with a situation where this rigid way of eating simply doesn’t work anymore, and it leads you to get “off-track”. Because the way you were eating was really challenging to maintain, when you get “off-track”, it can often last for a long period of time. You may experience this “all-out” sensation for a week, a month, or even many months.
You may even tell yourself that you’re taking a break and not paying attention to your nutrition needs as you regain the time, willpower, and motivation to start again. This can manifest itself as “I’ll start again Monday.”, or “I’ll start up after the summer when I have more time.”, or “I’ll start again after the holidays when there aren’t as many sweets around.”.
All of these situations and experiences are examples of the “all-out” mentality. You believe if you’re not 100% “in”, then it’s not worth it.
Here are a few examples of what the “all-out” phase may look or feel like:
- Succumbing to extreme cravings for foods you’ve labeled as “off-limits”
- Eating only for instant gratification and enjoyment
- Emotional eating, such as stress-eating or eating when you’re bored
- Distracted eating, such as while watching TV
- Mindless eating while ignoring hunger and satiety cues
- Feeling compelled to eat as a result of environmental cues, such as seeing office snacks or when going out to eat
The Guilt Phase
We’re not done yet! There’s one more layer to this all-or-nothing cycle, and that’s guilt. Guilt plays a major role in why you’re struggling to stick with balanced eating habits.
Whenever you find yourself on the “all-out” end of the spectrum, you’re most likely experiencing some guilt. You may be saying to yourself, “I was so bad yesterday”, “I need be better”, or any other thoughts along those lines.
This guilt then leads you to seek out ways to try to undo or make up for the “bad” choices you believe you made. You may do this by being more strict, rigid, and structured with yourself moving forward so it doesn’t happen again. This brings you right back into the “all-in” end of the spectrum that I talked about earlier.
If the guilt is severe, it can also lead to feelings of helplessness, a lack of control, and self-criticism. All of which can encourage poor self-esteem and a low mood, impacting your mental health.
What Keeps You Struggling To Stick With Balanced Eating Habits
While this all-or-nothing cycle can look different for each of you, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve found yourself in this cycle before and you can see just how easy it can repeat itself. Without change, this cycle continues to repeat itself, following similar variations of the same pattern.
It isn’t until you make a conscious decision to seek out a solution that doesn’t require you to restrict or feel guilty, that you’re able to break the cycle.
One of our members shared that the reason why she joined The Mindful Nutrition Method was because she has been struggling with the all-or-nothing mentality for nearly 30 years.
She finally decided that she no longer wanted food to constantly preoccupy her mind. She didn’t want to be stressed out about all of her food choices. Instead, she wanted to love and feel compassion for the body that’s allowed her to experience a beautiful life for years, rather than feel like it’s an enemy of hers. She wanted to feel confident that her actions were supporting her long-term health.
Are the actions you’re taking keeping you in this all-or-nothing cycle? Or are they helping you to find peace and ease so you can stop struggling to stick with balanced eating habits?
How Balance Helps You Get Out of The Cycle
The cycle will continue when your choices, behaviors, and mindsets don’t help you identify, navigate, and overcome the potential challenges you face on your wellness journey.
And this is where mindful eating plays such an important role in your journey.
With balanced, mindful eating, our goal is to become more aware of what we eat, how we eat, and why we eat so we can take actions that help us better align with what our unique bodies want and need. When we do that, we’re better able to get to the root cause of many of our unhealthy eating behaviors and learn to overcome challenges in a way that supports us in creating life-long healthy eating practices.
So let’s talk about how exactly you can go about doing that.
1. Bring Awareness to Your Body and Experience Around Food
With my mindful eating method, we first practice bringing awareness to our body and experience around food. We use check-in strategies, journaling, and mindfulness to become more aware of what, how, and why we eat.
This helps us become more aware of our eating habits and tendencies so we know what works and what doesn’t work for our individual bodies and lifestyles.
2. Practice Compassionate Curiosity to Uncover Your Challenges
With a strong sense of awareness around our eating behaviors, we can then use what I call compassionate curiosity to uncover the specific challenges we may be facing at that point in time, without judging ourselves. Our goal here is not to feel bad or guilty, but rather to simply get curious as to why we’re experiencing something. We do this with compassion because we are human, and then find the best way to align moving forward.
Challenges will look different for everyone. For some, they may realize that they struggle with stress eating, while others realize that cooking is more of a block for them. Others may be struggling with digestive issues or a health condition.
3. Identify Intentional Actions to Take that Align With Your Wellness Vision
With a newfound awareness of what you need to focus on and compassion for yourself on this journey, you can then identify what actions to take that will best help you align with your unique Wellness Vision.
Unlike the all-or-nothing cycle, where you always end up with the urge to “reset”, mindful eating focuses on building practices that will best support you for the long term. Again, this will be unique for each person based on where they are in their journey and where they are in their life. But no matter what, each person has a clear idea of where they need to spend more time, develop certain skills, and deepen their practices to best support them.
4. Practice Balanced Eating
When we’re no longer spending time on the “all-in” or “all-out” ends of the spectrum, we’re able to define what balance looks like in the middle of the spectrum. Where we appreciate food as nourishment as well as enjoyment and prioritize both. We do this through a tool we call the Balance Spectrum.
It teaches us to remember that food is simply food. It’s either nourishment, enjoyment, or a combination of both. There’s truly no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods!
Once we’re able to do this, we’re able to make food choices that feel true and right to us. We no longer feel compelled to “make up” for eating bad foods. We’re able to slide with ease on the Balance Spectrum, rather than rigidly and erratically swing like a pendulum back and forth from the “all-in” end of the spectrum to the “all-out” end.
How To Stop Stressing And Obsessing About Food And Diets
So how do you break the cycle?
You realize that you deserve to put energy into a way of nourishing yourself that is supportive and sustainable. You do that by making an intentional action for yourself, right here. Do you think you can let go of the need for a short-term result, and make the choice to shift into a more positive experience with food?
If you said yes to yourself just now, then you’re ready to watch my free masterclass today, where you’ll learn about #1 Habit That Keeps You Struggling With Your Weight and Relationship With Food — And How To Break Free From The Diet And Food Obsession Starting Now.
You don’t need to stress and obsess about food. There is a better way and yes it’s possible to cultivate a positive relationship with food! Join this free balanced eating masterclass to learn how.
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