Dieting sucks. If you ask anyone who is on a diet or has ever been on a diet, they will tell you the same thing.
It just sucks.
During the holidays, one of my dogs snuck one too many treats. She gained a few pounds and added an inch or two to her waistline. We decided she needed a “diet”.
We had guest stop by and we informed them, no extra treats – she’s on a diet. They agreed to it, but I overheard on of them say, as they rubbed her ears and patted her head, “I know. Dieting sucks.” And they were right. It really does suck. Restricting your meals and snacks, counting every bite you take, and not allowing certain foods is absolutely no fun. Luckily for my dog, she wasn’t really on a diet. She just wasn’t getting a treat every time she came inside. And maybe, that’s all you need too.
You see, we don’t give our dogs treats throughout the day. We save them for special occasions or when we are teaching them tricks. But with the excitement of the holidays, she was getting treats from anyone and everyone, all day long.
So instead of dieting, we just changed her habit. Instead of 5-6 cookies a day, we cut back to maybe one. She was fine with it (after a day of getting used to it again), she ate better food and her weight balanced out.
What does this mean for you?
Well, maybe you can cut back on your pups treats 😉 But more importantly, what about yourself. You wouldn’t eat a cookie 5 times a day, would you? Probably not, but when you look hard at your day maybe you have picked up a habit or two without realizing it.
There are habits we create and pick up without even meaning to- every time dog goes out, she gets a cookie. Even with the best intentions, this can happen. As I started to look at this , I noticed every time I got in the car, I got a treat. Whether I went an hour away, on a day trip, or just 5 minutes down the road, I picked up a habit of bringing a drink with me. It started with my coffee. I wouldn’t have time to finish it before I headed to class, so I would take it with me.
That turned into bringing a snack, a smoothie, a juice, etc any time I hopped in the car. Did I need these? Sometimes, But other times it was more automatic. After I recognized it, I could re-frame and recreate it easily. Not dieting, just letting go of the “automatic treat” mentality. It worked for my pup, worked for me, and it could work for you too.
Look through your daily routine. Do you have treat giving habit?
Perhaps you treat yourself to a soda every time you get in the car. Or a handful of chocolate every time you finish a to-do on your list. Or you grab a latte before every meeting – multiple times a day. Maybe you eat 3 or 4 mini-chocolate bars without even realizing it every time you check your email. All of these things are good, its just when they become habits that they can start to creep up on you and sabotage your health.
What does this have to do with dieting sucking? It’s simple. Instead of dieting, start looking at those extra little treats. Are they really treats or are they just automatic habits you’ve picked up? Because once they are no longer a once in awhile, or once a day type thing, and they are just part of the routine, they stop being treats. They can make you gain weight, upset your digestive tract, but also might be hiding an even bigger need or lack in your life.
So what to do?
Break it down: Recognize and Recreate
We recognized our dogs habit – treat each time she came in. And recreated it – treats for tricks, hugs and attention when she comes in.
Recognize your habit:
What do you do on an automatic basis? What are you reaching for without even realizing it, over and over again, multiple times a day?
*Now I’m not talking about your cup of coffee while you read the paper, or your piece of dark chocolate after dinner. I’m talking the mindless, habitual, doing-it-to-distract-myself-from -the-problem habits.
Got it pinned down? Good, let’s take it a step further.
Recreate your habit:
Take a moment to think about when and why this happens.
– Do you reach for something every time you check you email?
– Do you grab something each time you get in the car after work?
– Do you need something to get you through a meeting?
Once you realize when your “treat” occurs, notice how you feel right before that moment.
– Do you feel tense about meetings, drained about emails, elated to be out of work, nervous to be alone, bored in the evenings?
That feeling is the real need, not the chocolate. Instead of dieting, address the deeper need. Dig a little deeper and uncover what is really going on in your life.
– You might realize you are afraid of being alone
– You might realize you are nervous about moving forward in your life
– You might realize you are bored with your job/love life/friends
– You might realize you eat instead of feeling joy, because you think you don’t deserve it
What seems like a simple habit, or the need for a sucky diet, might actually be your intuition trying to get in touch with you. And that is a powerful thing and can lead to big changes.
After you recognize what you are feeling, see what you can do to move forward with it.
– What would you like to feel instead?
– Write down one way you could feel that joy (deeply, not in a candy bar) in that moment: what small or big change could you make. Maybe schedule meetings earlier in the day, shift your job, pick up a new healthy habit to fight boredom,
– Mark on your calendar/planner one thing you can start doing each day to feel this way and when you feel the opposite. Keep track of it, without having to completely dedicate your day. Just notice when it pops up and make a note. Then make a shift.
Once you start to make these changes, big things open up and major, uplifting shifts occur. You start to Flourish, life starts to become more satisfying, and your need for dieting melts away.
Diets sucks. Let the dieting go and take action today. What is your “treat” and what can you do to sweeten your life a little, beyond dieting?
If you enjoy this process and letting go of dieting, I hope you’ll join me for the upcoming 21 Days to Flourish, starting this spring.