Your Brain’s Autopilot is Destroying Your Diet
If you’re frequently mad at yourself for overeating, not preparing wholesome food or failing to exercise, the solution may lie in your thought processes and the words you say to yourself. Diet self-sabotage is a real thing. Read on to learn about the mind traps holding you back.
There are many obstacles to healthful eating and living. Fortunately, we can actually do something about the obstacles that are our thoughts. In a recent post, I shared 4 of several ways to break free of emotional eating. But mind traps also get in the way of healthful eating. I discuss 10 common mind traps in detail in Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. Here are just a few.
These 5 Common Mind Traps Cause Diet Self-Sabotage
Ask yourself if any of these sound like you. These mind traps are habits. Like other bad habits, it’s possible to break the habit of these faulty ways of thinking. It takes time, self-awareness and a bunch of energy. But you really can stop (most of the time) the autopilot in your head that stalls your health progress.
Diet Mind Trap #1: Justification. “I deserve this junk food or I deserve several cocktails because I’ve been working so hard (or have been dealing with so much stress).”
- In reality, how much effort you put into your work and what you eat and drink are unrelated.
Diet Mind Trap #2: All-or-nothing thinking. “Since I didn’t stick to my plan at lunch, I might as well pick up a couple of candy bars. I can start fresh tomorrow.”
- This is as logical as choosing to buy furniture you can’t afford because you overspent on clothing. After all, you can start fresh with your finances another time. Isn’t it much smarter to forgive your indiscretion and move on?
Diet Mind Trap #3: Catastrophizing. “I ate cake at the office party. I’ll never be good at my diet.”
- Don’t allow your mind to interpret negative things as disasters. Slipping up on your diet plan doesn’t make you a failure at healthful eating any more than causing a minor fender bender means that you’re a menace on the road. To put your situation into perspective, ask yourself if this diet slip up will really matter in the long run. Will it matter in three months? Three weeks? Three days? Chances are pretty good that nothing you ate will matter if you allow yourself to get back on track and move on. These things typically matter only when we allow them to become bigger than they truly are, which is demoralizing and holds us back. Look at my HOP method below to stop this type of thinking.
Diet Mind Trap #4: Ignoring the positive and exaggerating the negative. “I can’t believe that ate three fried appetizers at the party.”
- This is similar to seeing the glass half empty. Many clients walk in to my office feeling like they need to confess their diet and exercise sins. So while they’re telling me of the “bad” things they did since our last session, I’m hearing the positive things they also did. For example, the person who ate fried appetizers passed up cocktails and dessert. I’d much rather hear her start the story with these fantastic things, so she feels empowered by the new skills she’s developing.
Diet Mind Trap #5: Focus on unfairness. “It’s so unfair that my workout partner does the same workouts I do, but looks so much fitter.”
- It might seem unfair that some people respond more readily to exercise (or diet changes) or seem not to struggle with their weight. In reality, fairness has nothing to do with it.
Just like nail-biting, negative self-talk is a bad habit. Here’s my 3-step process to help break this destructive, unempowering habit.Here's a 3-step method to stop negative self-talk. Stay true to your healthy living plan.Click To Tweet
3-Step HOP to Stopping Negative Self-Talk
- H: Hear your words in your head. This might be the hardest part because we are habitual in our thoughts and reactions. You may already be on a downward spiral once you hear your negative self-talk, so start from whatever point that you first recognize negativity. As you work on this, you will be able to catch yourself earlier in the process.
- O: Observe the situation objectively, as if you were observing a friend. Most likely, you’ll see that the words are too harsh for the situation. Draw on your compassion and think about what you would say to your friend.
- P: Plan how to proceed. This might include ways to direct your attention to different things, ways you can navigate a similar situation in a better way next time, or ways to reaffirm your commitment to your lifestyle reset.
What are some ways that you’ve shaken free of the autopilot inside your head?
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.