Can you retrain your mind?
It’s a question I’m asked all the time. Along with ‘Is it too late to change?’ and ‘Am I a lost cause?’
Our minds are wonderful things, but my god can they hold us back and screw us up! But the even more wonderful thing about them, is that with the right approach and of course the knowhow, we can make them work completely differently. And it can be life changing. Life saving even.
But most people don’t understand how their minds work and so aren’t able to rewire them. They don’t realize that the choices they make, the reactions and responses they have, the things they shy away from or do too much off, happen because of the internal wiring most of which has been created throughout their lives, from experiences, influence and messages we’ve taught ourselves, mainly via our environment, family, peers.
September is usually a good month to reset and make some changes (this comes from the back to school habits and memories we’ve taken on board over the years!), plus as we approach a season change and we’ve had some fun and relaxation over the summer, it’s a natural time to start a fresh and implement a little life upgrade!
At the end of August, I get lots of emails of people who’ve gone off focus food wise over the summer, perhaps not got where they wanted to fitness and body wise in the year, or perhaps they’re addressing some repetitive behaviour patterns that means they’re stuck doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result (that’s the definition of insanity by the way!). Of course, gaining a bit of weight over the summer months (or indeed any time of the year) is not always a bad thing, but for women stuck on a negative cycle where they repeatedly lose control of their food and exercise choices or have the ‘when the summer ends I’ll sort my stuff’ out mentality, I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll be putting themselves under huge amounts of pressure now (extreme eating maybe, guilt and being tough on themselves), but in in six week’s time after some focus they’ll use language like ‘I’ll wait until January now’ because ‘things’ like work, kids, being social, having their kitchen done, relatives to stay, going away at the weekend, Christmas looming etc, means that a lot of women convince themselves that they won’t be able to implement healthy eating and maintain an exercise program. And I used to be one of these women (albeit quite a lot younger) and trust me this cycle of excuses, being victim to what the dieting industry have taught us over the last few decades, using every external excuse out there and not knowing how our minds work, will set you up for failure (and misery!) for life.
As I’ve been working behind the scenes on the Emotional Eating program that starts in 3 weeks, which the fabulous top psychologist and NLP Guru Gill Harvey-Bush, it’s really reminded me how far I’ve come with my own journey with food, mindset and self-motivation.
If you turn back time twenty years when I was 18:
- I used to hate exercise
- I always had second helpings of food
- If there was a buffet I’d be first in the queue
- I always needed something sweet after every meal
- I was an emotional eater
- I used to think about food all the time
- I ‘needed’ sweet things and had lots of sugar cravings
- I was miserable about the way I looked
- I looked at my body all the time and it made me feel depressed
- I didn’t understand that my weak choices and constant battle of wanting food but being fed up of wanting it, were a reflection of feelings and emotions, not the food!
- I always started a new diet on a Monday
I didn’t get the results I wanted because I was going about things in completely the wrong way (only focusing on food, not emotions) and seeing any failure on my part about not getting results as a result of my weak will power (all negative).
Then I did what many people do and got really into fitness and healthy eating as there can be a fine line between being mega-unfocused and then totally-focused, but then by the time I was about 23-26, it had become negatively obsessive:
- I was afraid to eat fat, I mean really afraid.
- I still thought about food all the time but in a different way
- I was an emotion under eater
- I had to control all food all the time
- I had disordered eating
- I used to eat insanely healthy out and about, but felt deprived and would then waste calories on raisins and low fat / high sugar yogurts thinking I was healthy
- I trained for 2-4 hours a day
- I over exercised and felt guilty if I took a day off
- I felt guilty if I ate any food that I wasn’t supposed to have
- Despite me having a fantastic body, I was the most critical I’ve ever been about myself
Does this look like health to you? No, not in the slightest!
Around this time, I joined the fitness industry and started to look at what health really was and then I started to work alongside bigger picture health professionals who inspired me to think about health not around restricting food, being super fit, keeping under my calories and being a size 10. But about the emotions behind choices, what it means to be doing something or not doing something. Working on self esteem and what goes on in the inside of us as well as the outside (body function and thoughts in our minds), understanding the reason we feel driven to over eat or under eat and have a ‘need’ or in many cases a complete ‘addiction’ to comfort, treat or reward eating or the ‘need’ or ‘addiction’ to restrict food, be so critical of ourselves, to compare our bodies to everyone else’s, to not enjoy life fully in the quest for a ‘perfect’ body that we think will lead to a better existence (it doesn’t!). And this was life-changing.
And so I took a good look at my beliefs around food, eating and bodies. I started to address the ‘stuff’ behind my choices. And as I came to realize these beliefs and the ‘stuff’ could be worked on and changed for the better, food management, body image and life mindset in general, catapulted me into the easiest, most enjoyable phase of my life, one I know will carry me through til the day I die.
- I don’t think about food all the time, but I really enjoy it
- I eat slowly and savour it
- I don’t have any sugar (not in a negative controlled way, but because I cut it out alongside some emotional work and don’t have the emotional or physical need for it as most people do)
- I follow positive food principles 90% of the time, but never feel guilty if I eat more indulgent foods
- I’ve taught myself to be nourished not overfed with the food I eat, so I’m satisfied never stuffed
- I can say no to someone offering me food without feeling guilty, rude or hard done by
- Equally if I do fancy seconds of something, I’ll take apportion and won’t beat myself up
- Food fixes nothing for me anymore (that’s my mind’s job to do that!)
- This means I stop eating when I’m full
- I don’t have a ‘need’ for food
- I choose to enjoy a glass of wine if I want to and never feel bad about it
- I can go to a restaurant or someone’s house and not panic if they only have or serve something unhealthy
- Part of this journey has been about making better lifestyle choices, because when you’re burning out or doing too much, it makes everything harder for you
- I’ve realized that I’m stronger (and therefore my life is easier and my body happier), when I focus on sleep, take time out, work less. When did women teach themselves that doing too much was acceptable or cool?! It isn’t.
- I know that everything I do or don’t do is a choice and I know how to manage that in my head so much better now
- If I feel uncomfortable, instead of reaching for comfort food, I acknowledge my emotions and work on my mindset
- I’m usually the last in the buffet line because food isn’t the main part of a social function for me anymore, the people are!
- I keep active all year round with regular exercise and sometimes go on little missions as I did earlier this summer.
- My body can vary from a svelte super toned size 10-12 or be a slightly more curvy 14 and this doesn’t mean anything other than sometimes I choose to eat a bit more and train a bit less and vive versa, this is healthy to me!
- But I take time off training guilt free
- I adapt what I’m doing month by month, season to season, depending on what’s going on and what my body (or mind) need.
- I have much better body image than I’ve ever had and if I gain a bit of weight, I still like myself the same and don’t beat myself up
- Most of all, I know how to manage my mind, choices, my feelings and mindset, I’m clear on my core beliefs and values and I know how to motivate myself with ease
If you’re a woman reading this and thinking ‘I’d love to break the emotional over or under eating’ (perhaps including including exercise!) and you want to understand your internal wiring (and how to retrain it perhaps!), come and join the Emotional Eating program. Take a look at the five week audio program, it’s not just for those who can eat 15 chocolate hob nobs in one sitting!
Make September the month that you create some positive long lasting changes, that won’t just impact your food/fitness choices and habits, but also teach you some mind secrets that will inspire you to enhance all areas of your life, you won’t regret it!
It’s never too late to change or become who you’re really destined to be, to lead a wonderful life with ease, style and grace that isn’t dominated by food or guilt! But our minds also give us self-limiting beliefs that we can’t change, that it’s too difficult to change and often that we don’t deserve to change. But that’s nonsense and we’ll teach you how to turn off your negative mind and reboot the positive one!