My girls love to cook, and my youngest always wants me to try what she made. The other morning, she reheated some s’mores that she and her sister made and wanted me to take a bite. It was first thing in the morning, and I would normally never eat something so sweet that early. But of course I took a bite, because it made her happy.
If I was dieting and trying not to eat sweets and did this, I would have felt like I cheated and would have quit and started all over. But I didn’t — because of how I was looking at it.
I know how it feels to cheat on a diet, feel bad about yourself, and just give up. But what if you chose to see it differently?
You can use your perspective to help you — or you can let it hurt you. Seeing every slip up as a failure keeps you stuck in the dieting loop. But you can reframe the scenario to keep you from feeling like you failed. It’s a psychological trick you can use to your advantage.
You actually do this a lot without realizing it. I know I’ve eaten my share of energy bars that basically amount to no more than a candy bar. But since I thought of it as something healthy, it didn’t totally derail me. I’ve also missed meals while traveling, sometimes going almost a whole day without food. But I didn’t think of it as starving myself, so I wasn’t constantly thinking about how hungry I was and trying not to eat.
Using your perspective in your favor also helps you gain insights you wouldn’t ordinarily get when you’re in the success/failure dieting mindset.
Let’s use the travel example. I felt hungry, but I didn’t have any options other than those lame crackers they give you on the plane. After about 30 minutes my hunger went away. So I learned that I didn’t have to eat every time I felt hungry. I learned that the hunger I felt may actually have been false hunger. And I learned that I could try waiting 30 minutes before I gave in to the urge to shove something down. If I had been trying not to eat anything all day, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything but being hungry. And I would have eventually given in, failed, and felt like a loser who had no willpower.
When you see every slip up as a failure, you tend to quit, feel bad about yourself, and start all over. So changing your mindset prevents you from staying stuck. If you choose to reframe things, you keep going and make progress.
Even if you do something that’s obviously a major slip up — like down a plate of French fries — you can at least choose to learn from it. You can ask yourself how you felt leading up to it, while you were doing it, and after you were done. You can look at things objectively and use what you learn to help you in future scenarios instead of feeling like crap about yourself.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not an excuse to do whatever you want and then say “it’s all how you look at it” and continue with an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s just to not let things derail you and feel like a total failure.
Feeling like you failed keeps you stuck. Conversely, feeling like you’re making progress increases your confidence. This is really important, because someone who is confident can look past her external flaws and focus on being healthy. Someone who hates the way she looks is motivated only by a desire to lose weight and stays stuck.
Use your perspective as a tool to stay motivated to continue making positive changes. Choosing the right perspective helps you see everything differently — including yourself.