Enough time has passed since I began my journey that I’ve had some time and distance from my cravings to understand what’s behind our distaste for getting in shape and eating healthy.
The answer is called “homeostasis.”
ho•me•o•sta•sis (ˌhoʊ mi əˈsteɪ sɪs) n. a state of psychological equilibrium obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated.
What does that mean? It means we don’t like change, and we don’t enjoy extra effort. Our animal nature asks us only to want to do the bare minimum so we conserve energy to survive. Now, however, we sit behind desks all day, so we need to expend energy to survive!
Eating healthy and working out is something I had to do, not something I wanted to do. Few people want to do anything out of obligation, and I am no exception. I felt I needed to do it because I started gaining weight just by looking at food. If I took a bite, more weight. I needed to do something drastic to stop the scale from climbing and to get my energy back. Saying bye to bread, dark chocolate, ice cream, and my morning coffee was hard but after a week, my cravings ceased and a positive attitude draped over me.
No one wants to give up eating whatever they want whenever they want, just like smokers don’t want to give up smoking. Scientifically, the cravings for both food and nicotine are more similar than you think. And you don’t have to be morbidly obese to be addicted to unhealthy foods—all human being are wired that way, which you can read more about here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1143873/Why-blame-ancestors-way-crave-fatty-junk-food.html
So what made it easier for me to finally make the lifestyle change? I tricked my stubborn mind by changing my vocabulary!
Instead of looking at my decision as one born out of obligation, I changed my “no” words into “yes” words. “Diet” always carries a negative connotation for me (as it does for many others) so I stopped calling my change of eating habits a “diet” instead opting for “eating healthy.” It’s more exciting, positive, and forward thinking to look at my effort through the lens of optimism than through the lens of resigned acceptance.
Try this exercise: What is your first reaction to reading the word…
Ew, right? Did you feel a sense of dread? Did you immediately want to run outside and play? Well, that’s a reflection of years of programming. The word “homework” carries a lot of baggage in your brain, doesn’t it?
Now, what’s you reaction to this word?
Better right? Did you feel excited? An urge to get onto a yellow bus, perhaps? Both “homework” and “field trip” are related to school, and both generally involve learning, but we have very different reactions to them. I decided to stop thinking about my lifestyle change as homework, and started thinking of it like taking a field trip.
And it has been a field trip! I can’t say that it’s 100% easy, and that I don’t occasionally miss the instant gratification of sugar hitting my tongue, but my brain finally understands that I’m happier without, and my body generally agrees!
Try changing your word choices—and it doesn’t have to be relegated to your food intake. Do you have to wake up early for work even though you’d like to stay out for a little longer with friends? When explaining that you have to call it a night, say “I want to get going,” not “I have to get going.” Now you own your choice, instead of the choice owning you, and that’s a great step towards taking ownership of your own life.
Remember … Shift happens!