Make Up Your Mind: Shifting Your Attitudes About Food
Mindset is an incredibly powerful tool.
You can accomplish some pretty insane stuff just by choosing how you think about things.
Mindset is the difference between giving up and telling yourself you can do hard things. It’s the difference between meeting your day head on, or hiding under the covers. And it's the difference between being stuck in the same rut, or making real changes in your life.
And the best part? It’s free! It doesn’t require fancy devices or expensive programs — all it takes is determination and practice.
Mindset plays an important role in your attitude towards food, as well as your success in meeting your diet goals. The right mindset can help you lose weight, improve your health, and develop a life-long, healthy relationship with food. The wrong mindset can have negative consequences and yield some pretty unpleasant results.
And it doesn’t have to be complicated — making a diet mindset-shift can be as simple as changing your attitude towards what you eat and how you eat it.
Check out these three diet mindset-traps and how you can make simple adjustments to come out on top.
You Don’t Have to Earn Your Food
This might surprise you, but food is not a reward for good behavior.
Food is fuel. It’s what you use to nourish your body. And it can act as extremely powerful medicine when it comes to improving or maintaining your health.
It’s not something you earn because you got a gold star at the gym.
Listen, this is an easy trap to fall into —
But the constant cycle of keeping score can lead you down a path of seriously negative behaviors.
It might seem harmless to start — you didn’t make it to the gym, so you’re skipping that extra helping of dessert — but it can easily spiral into something that really messes with your head:
First, you didn’t get your steps in so you’ll skip lunch to make up for it.
Next, you haven’t been lifting because of an injury, so you’re eating only plain chicken and rice cakes till you’ve healed.
Before you know it, you’re telling yourself it’s cool to drink egg whites straight from the carton with an MCT oil chaser for every meal because you’ve been too busy to get to the gym. (Yes, this is something I’ve had people do. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds. Please DO NOT try this.)
Food should be the foundation of everything else you do for your health. It shouldn’t be something to over you like a carrot on a stick.
A healthy mindset surrounding food can help you reach your goals and improve your health. A “Crime and Punishment” mindset sets you up for nothing but failure.
Your Nutrition Plan Isn’t All or Nothing
Here’s another one that will blow your mind —
Nobody is perfect. You can still lose weight and reach your goals, even if your nutrition isn’t dialed in 100% of the time.
And if you’re taking a mindful eating approach, the cake at a birthday party or enjoying a burger and fries at a restaurant will not kill your progress. In fact, it might just be the thing that helps keep you on track.
It’s all about balance. The right nutrition plan should fit your lifestyle (and that includes being able to eat things you enjoy without feeling guilty or spiraling into a 5-day junk food bender).
So how do you find this balanced, zen-like mindset? Have a plan.
Maybe your plan includes following the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you follow a healthy, structured diet, and 20% of the time, you eat what you want. This moderate approach can work wonders for keeping you on track.
Or instead of making it a math equation, schedule a cheat meal each week. This isn’t about rewarding yourself with food, but about giving your mind and body permission to eat what you want
One final approach (and my personal favorite option) is a strategy called IIFYM. IIFYM (short for “If It Fits Your Macros”) offers you constant flexibility for your meal choices. After establishing your personal Macro numbers for each day — that’s grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats — you can eat what you want, as long as you make it fit.
This option is great because it allows you to tailor it to your daily life.
Know you’ll be having pizza or ice cream later? Make the adjustments to the rest of your meals to meet your numbers. Under your carbs and fat allowance for the day? Treat yourself to something that fills in the gaps and makes you happy to eat at the same time.
You’ll be amazed how easy it feels to stay on track once you adopt a more balanced mindset.
(And if you’re looking for more information on the basics of Macros and how you can make them work for you, check out our Know Your Macros Course in Nutrithority’s Excellence Academy.)
There Are No “Good” or “Bad” Foods
You probably have this picture in your heads of what healthy and not-so-healthy food looks like.
And for most of you, it goes like this —
Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains = good.
Junk food, decadent dishes, and sweets = bad.
I hate to break it to you, but if this is how you’re looking at it, you’re wrong.
Even foods that are high in fat or sugar aren’t inherently bad — but that isn’t the same thing as saying those foods will help you meet your goals.
Foods that get labeled as “bad” are typically high in calories, meaning it's easy for those foods to push you over the number you should be regularly consuming. Much the same way that “good” foods are typically lower in calories, meaning you fill up without breaking the bank.
“Bad” foods may also be higher in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat — things that can be detrimental to your health if eaten regularly.
But here’s the thing — it's entirely possible to stay on track while eating some “bad” foods, and blow your daily calories eating the “good” foods. It’s all about understanding what your body needs, and eating in a way that gives it to you.
When we label something as “bad” — like cookies — it's easy to beat yourself up over indulging in a few now and again. And this negative attitude can lead back to punishing yourself or throwing your diet completely out the window as you spiral out of control.
One the other side of things, foods that get labeled as “good” might make you think you can eat as much as you want with no consequences. Avocado gets labeled as a “good fat”, but at 250 calories, an avocado has roughly the same calories as an ice cream cone. Add avocado to your toast in the morning, on your salad at lunch, and on your grilled chicken tacos at dinner and that “good fat” just added 750 calories to your day.
Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, try thinking about how they fit into your specific nutritional needs.
If you need to avoid sodium, stay away from the chips. If you’re trying to cut calories, skip the avocados and nuts on your salad. If you need more iron in your diet, enjoy the occasional burger without guilt.
Eliminating the “good vs. bad” mindset can open up a whole world of possibilities to help you meet your goals.
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