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Embracing Discomfort

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For many people, struggles with cravings and feelings of deprivation derail their attempt to change their eating habits. Some of this may be due to the physiological nature of cravings and urges to eat, which is why it is very important to follow a sound nutrition plan. Support your physiology with real, whole nutrient dense food.

The easiest cravings to resist are the ones you don’t have. The longer you stick to a healthy diet, the more your food preferences will change. But at least initially, you will probably have to use some effort to resist cravings and automatic habits with food. As Joel Fuhrman writes in Eat For Life, “…people need a period of abstinence to recover from their addictive triggers. This often means enlisting other people to help you remove temptation and easy access to processed foods in your immediate environment, especially when you are in the initial stages of recovery.”

So, what do you do when you are following a healthy eating plan with tons of veggies and your partner brings home super cheesy delicious smelling pizza on a Friday night?

How do you cope with another Saturday spent all by yourself inside because the weather is rainy and cold and your romantic relationship ended a week ago?

What do you do when you’re slammed with work and all you want is a huge comforting bowl of pasta followed by ice cream?

You can of course choose to abandon your healthy eating goals. You can decide your mind is right, it’s just too hard to get through these uncomfortable experiences. If you do choose to give in to the eating, I strongly suggest using this experience to work backwards to find the “point of no return”. What thought, emotion, or situation committed you to abandoning your healthy eating plan? Behavior chain analysis might be helpful. Binges especially tend to build over time. Try to work backwards and see where you can break and change your habitual responses.

You can distract and refocus your attention. Here are 50 things you can do that don’t involve food.

You can endure and tolerate the discomfort that comes from not giving in to urges to eat. Remember, there are many ways to be deprived in life that have nothing to do with food. Eating unhealthy food is not being kind to yourself. Eating a lot of food at night is not treating yourself well. Eating junk food because you’re bored or sad is not self care.

Notice that before you Eat The Thing you might have thoughts about eating it:

“I’ll just have a small piece”

“I’ll start over tomorrow”

“I already slipped today so might as well eat this too”

“I’m hungry!” “I’m bored!” “I’m stressed!” “I deserve it!”

It is so important to become aware of all the ways your mind tricks you into sabotaging your healthy eating goals. When you have a well thought out whole food healthy eating plan and guidelines to direct your eating you can be sure that any thought that tries to take you away from your plan is sabotage. Do not pay attention to it. It’s just your brain demanding you eat what it wants. I strongly suggest *not* arguing with these thoughts. Just label them as meaningless chatter. From a calm place of detached acceptance you can then watch what your mind does. No need to emotionally react. The more you wallow in feelings of deprivation and wanting the more likely it is you will eventually give in and Eat the Thing. The more you let the urges pass without acting on them the sooner you will free yourself from sabotaging behaviors with food and eating.

How you choose to respond to the demands of the mind is a choice you get to make. You can have urges to eat and cravings for unhealthy foods and you can also not act on them. Managing this kind of discomfort without food is not easy. It can feel unfair that right now you can’t eat what you want, or eat the things everyone else is eating, in order to reach your weight management goals.

Sometimes during a craving experience you must simply remove yourself from the situation. Leave the room, leave the house. Distance yourself from the food.

Having healthy well-constructed guidelines around your eating or some kind of structure is very important. Because then you have only *one* rule to follow: Follow Your Food Plan. Watch and manage anything that tries to take you off that path. When you give up unhealthy eating habits it can be like ripping off a bandaid, leaving you exposed and raw to the world. This presents an opportunity for your personal growth. Now you can begin to make changes in your life that have little to do with food and much more to do with your happiness and wellbeing.

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