Let’s just start this thing off with the honest truth: changing your eating habits can be really f'ing hard.
I know. I’ve attempted it. Like about 1,746 times in my 29 years.
Girl, I know all about the cycle of trying and failing to improve this area of life.
I’m not here to promote a particular way of eating. I simply want to talk to you about self-love and what that looks like when it comes to changing the way you eat. Improving your eating habits, in and of itself, can be a form of self-love. However, the process can start out positively and all too easily spiral into yet another excuse to beat yourself up and believe you’re not good enough.
So let’s talk about 6 ways to keep your ass in self-love mode as you go through the process of changing your diet.
1. Clearly identify why you want to make this change.
This is one of those no-brainer self-help things (“Know Your Why”) and yet, how many times do we decide to make a big change or take on a huge goal without first getting super clear on why the hell we’re even bothering? This is one of, if not the most vital, steps of the process. This is your fuel.
Ask yourself how doing this will positively affect your life. What else might be possible in your life if you make these changes? Once you know your reason, POST THAT SHIT UP. Seriously, write or type it out and put it up where you’re going to see it and be reminded of it ON THE REGULAR.
(If you skip this step, don’t even bother reading the rest of these tips. This matters big time.)
2. Focus on what you CAN eat.
I remember when I first did the Whole30 four years ago. At first my brain was like “I can’t eat this, this, this, this, this, this, this or that. What the HELL am I gonna eat??” A couple days in I realized that if I was actually going to make it 30 days, I was gonna need to take my eyes off the restrictions and instead focus on all the amazing things I could eat.
Pinterest and I formed a very special bond. I discovered hundreds of amazing recipes that lined up with how I wanted to eat and were still delicious.
When you focus on can’t, you feel restricted, bossed around, deprived. So…the opposite of empowered. Focus on your options and have fun experimenting with new things you wouldn’t normally try if pizza and ice cream were still an option.
3. Yes, food prep takes time. Yes, it’s worth it.
A huge reason we eat poorly is because shitty foods are often so damn easy and convenient. We are constantly being sold the idea that faster is better. But take a moment and ask yourself if you can think of even just one or two things in life where that’s not really the case. One thing in particular instantly comes to my mind. ;)
What you put in your body affects every area of your life. It directly affects how you physically feel, how clearly you can think and holy shit, does it affect your emotions.
Therefore, I think it’s fair to assert that IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME AND ENERGY. Plus, who said the process of preparing healthy food for yourself has to suck? Making healthy meals can be fun, creative and even meditative. Play with it and look for ways to make the process more enjoyable for you.
4. Make cravings your B.
You decide not to eat pizza. And then later that week you’re driving home from work and all of the sudden you’re picturing warm-cheesy-tomato-saucy-crispy-crust goodness and you’re like “Shit! I’m craving pizza!” Of course you’re craving pizza. Normally, you eat pizza. You’re used to it. Did you think you were going to just make the decision to not eat it and then forget it ever existed? No! This is actually a super helpful tip I’ve discovered for making your way through cravings.
EXPECT THEM. I feel like half the horror of experiencing a craving is the surprise attack feel they tend to possess. When a craving comes on, just say “Of course. I knew this would happen. It’s all good. It’ll pass.” This attitude instantly takes a craving from overwhelming onslaught to irritating nuisance status.
ALSO, did you know you can create cravings? Cravings are born in your subconscious mind and your subconscious mind thinks in pictures. As silly as it might sound, you can pull up a picture of some delicious healthy food you do intend to eat, describe it to yourself using descriptive, appealing words and watch your brain and body start to crave that healthy thing.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim to cravings, view cravings as natural and even as a powerful tool which you can use in your favor.
5. Do not demand instant perfection from yourself.
Embrace progress. If (when) you find yourself in a moment where you’re really craving something more indulgent, don’t just say “Fuck it” and go back to eating the same old stuff that makes you feel like shit. Try eating something that’s halfway between the types of food you’re focusing on eating and the old junk you used to live on.
So, say you’re working toward a vegan diet high in fruits and vegetables but your history is a love affair with pizza and ice cream. Instead of “Fuck it, I’m calling Papa John’s” maybe make a savory vegan pasta. Or instead of hauling your ass to the nearest CVS for some overpriced Ben & Jerry’s, look up a recipe for a decadent vegan dessert (there are endless options on Pinterest.)
I get it, I’m a passionate person too, but the all-or-nothing mindset will not get you very far here. Allow yourself to embrace “lesser evils” and baby steps toward your desired goal.
6. Just say no to perfectionism.
Throughout this process, consistently remind yourself that these changes are not about being a pure and perfect saint. This is not about being better than anyone else.
THIS IS ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL IN YOUR BODY.
How what you take in affects the rest of your experience day-to-day.
It’s about the joy of feeling more and more alive, the thrill of watching your body heal and grow in strength. Eating this way doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Not eating this way doesn’t make you less than anyone else.
You’re not doing this because it bolsters your self-worth.
You are worth way more than anything you do or do not eat.
Never forget this.
Julie Neilson is a certified life coach, writer and spoken word artist living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She's passionate about women owning their stories fully and living lives from the heart rather than external pressures and expectations. She's an enthusiastic believer in the deep connection that comes from vulnerability and the power of creativity to heal and transform.