For many of us, when we begin a certain food plan, or want to make changes around our food intake, it becomes ALL WE EVER THINK ABOUT to the point of overthinking.
“Okay, I had eggs and oatmeal for breakfast… I feel full and satisfied… great… Should I put some cream in my coffee or is that too many calories?... What am I going to have for lunch? What if I get hungry before lunch?!... What If I'm not hungry for what I have planned for lunch?! What snacks do I have available for the afternoon? Do they fit my macros/food plan/goals?”
Yeah, that can get exhausting.
And, alternatively, not thinking about food enough or at all can have an equally negative effect.
So, how do we find balance between mindful intake, and working towards the goals of our food plans, and borderline obsession?
Here it is in three simple steps:
Notice what happens.
Build from there.
That’s it. Now, let me explain.
Many times, when we experience these periods of obsessive overthinking, it is because we’re trying to do too many things at once, making drastic changes from what we’re used to, or too many of our choices depend on other choices and that makes it hard to nail down at all.
If, instead, we picked one piece at a time to work on, then that’s the only thing we have to “worry about” until it becomes a natural habit that we no longer worry about, because it just happens.
NOTICE WHAT HAPPENS
Once we pick a thing to focus on and are working on putting it in place, noticing what comes up for us in the process is key. We may notice that it’s no problem at all to drink more water, include more protein, prioritize fruits and veggies, etc. OR, we may notice that there are certain (maybe positive, maybe negative) byproducts that happen as a result of working on that thing.
Positive noticings can act as motivation to continue doing that thing… Noticing clearer skin as a result of drinking more water is awesome and will inspire us to continue drinking! Feeling fuller as a result of eating more protein is awesome and will allow us to keep eating it!
Negative noticings can allow us to adjust or support ourselves appropriately to adopt that habit… If I notice that when I drink a lot of water at night I get up to pee more during my sleep time, then I set reminders for earlier in the day to front load my water intake and allow for more uninterrupted sleep.
BUILD FROM THERE
Once we feel comfortable with that initial habit, we can decide on a new one and follow the same noticing process from there. We can continue to do this for as long as we need/want to, or until we feel comfortable with our food plans, or have reached our goals.
Sidenote: Here’s a little advice to help you decide which habits to work on: Prioritize adding things to your food plan instead of restricting. And only work on things you could see yourself continuing to use for the long term. Short term efforts aren’t the answer for most of us.
THESE THREE STEPS IN PRACTICE
Let’s say you decide to start with managing your water intake, because for many this is an easy entry point because it doesn’t even include actual food adjustments. (Step 1)
So, all you have to “worry about” is nailing down your water intake until it becomes a habit. Instead of manipulating a zillion things at once, you NOTICE what comes up for you and put things in place to support your water-drinking efforts. (Step 2) Let’s say you notice that you fell short on your water one day, and you also notice that you didn’t drink anything with your lunch. So, moving forward, you put a little sticky note on your lunchbox reminding you to have 12oz water with your lunch. Problem solved.
Then, after two weeks of nailing down your water, you no longer need the sticky note reminders, it’s just something that happens. So you decide to keep the water intake happening, and add your next focus, working on fruit and veggie intake. (Step 3) And so on and so on until you get to a place where you have a fully functioning, comfortable food plan.
Is this a simplistic example? Maybe. But in my experience, this kind of approach allows for the most long-term success, real habit building, and balances mindfulness and overthinking.
WHY DON’T MORE OF US DO THIS?
Why are many people resistant to these three steps?! Because they take time, and many of us are unwilling to take the time to REALLY shift our food choices and relationship with food to make it what we want it to be.
And while I really hate placing blanket blame on “diet culture” (because some diets and food plans are effective, if understood and done effectively), I do imagine the lack of willingness to take the time, and the want for quick fixes, is a negative byproduct of diet culture.
When in reality, when we consider that it took you *however many years old you are* to get to this point with your food, how are we not more open to spending a few months or a year putting these habits into place?! …Maybe that’s a conversation for another day, but I imagine you get the idea ; )
What’s the bottom line here? Do less, but not nothing. Lemme rephrase…
Do less, better. Then add from there.
PS– I also understand that part of allowing this formula to work is based in education, understanding food and nutrition better, and thus knowing what steps to put into place. If I can be of any support to you in figuring out a path, or getting support along your journey, please reach out! (Email email@example.com or DM me at @nutritionforlifeproject on Instagram)