A lot of what I currently do as a dietitian has far more to do with changing beliefs than food choices. If you'd asked me 6 or 7 years ago what I'd be doing in my private practice, I probably would have told you something like, "giving nutrition education, creating meal plans and keeping people accountable to their goals." And that's all great, but it's not the bulk of what I do, exactly.
Early on in my work, I found out that giving long winded explanations about human physiology and the functional components of food and then handing clients a perfectly tailored and calculated meal plan was effective about 0.1% of the time.
What I figured out was that people often don't need to be told what foods to eat and what healthy behaviors to implement. They might need help making a few targeted adjustments and setting goals for themselves that are appropriate and manageable. But most of us are well aware of what things we "should" be doing for a healthy life: sleep, stress reduction, hydration, adequate nutrition, movement. We've probably even read a couple books on the matter. There's a time and a place for nutrition education and therapeutic changes, but what most of us need is a mindset shift.
Focusing on healthy behavior doesn't necessarily change our unhealthy beliefs, but focusing on changing our beliefs most certainly impacts our behaviors. It follows then, that If we want new behaviors, we need to do the hard work of changing our beliefs. It's not easy, but if we're consistent and diligent, things will change. We can't always control what happens around us, but we CAN, however, control what we believe.
On any given day, at any given time our mind is constantly filled with thoughts. Sometimes, when life is chaotic there could be hundreds of thoughts streaming through our head, and at other times, when we're present in the moment and at peace, it's easy to recognize and organize each individual thought as it comes. We can't always control the thoughts that pop into our head, but we can decide whether we will blindly believe and accept them or whether we will challenge and replace them. This is the dirty work of renewing our minds, challenging false beliefs, lies that if left unchecked, often result in more damaging beliefs and behaviors. These untruths limit us from tapping into all that we're meant to be, and if we aren't careful, can make us feel like victims, helpless to change our lives.
When it comes to beliefs about our worth, health, body, food & exercise choices, we tend to latch on to some sneaky, but insidious lies. Here are some common ones:
Lies about our worth & identity:
I am more valuable if I look a certain way
My identity is found in my pursuit of healthy eating & exercise
I am more valuable if more people accept, love and praise me
Lies about our health & body:
My health is determined by my weight and body size
If I don't focus and prioritize eating & exercise my health will deteriorate
I can't trust my body to stay healthy
My body's appearance is why people do/don't like me
Lies about food & exercise:
If I eat this food, I am being bad or good
I am a better or worse person for exercising or not exercising a certain way
This high calorie, less nutritious food will make me gain weight and develop ___ disease
I can't be trusted around ___ food
Just writing all those out is difficult. They seem ridiculous on paper, but yet they're so common! And it's okay if you have these thoughts, it doesn't make you less than. We all have thoughts like this. It's what we choose to do with them that shapes us. It's unrealistic to say, "just stop thinking bad thoughts". No, we have to challenge and replace those lies with TRUTH.
When we consistently challenge a lie and remind ourself of truth, eventually we hear the lie less and less often. The key here is diligence and consistency. We have to be able to practice being present and mindful of the thoughts that are passing through our heads, and we need to be armed with mantras of truth to negate harmful thoughts. Here are some of my favorite mantras to combat those common lies above. Some of them are scripture and some are not, hopefully you'll find one or two that resonate with you.
Truth Mantras about worth & identity
My worth is inherent, my value is not determined by people or performance
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I was uniquely designed for a purpose that I can fulfill just as I am now
I am a daughter/son of God, my worth was established at the cross when Jesus died for me, imperfections and all.
Truth Mantras about health & body
My health is not determined by my weight or body size
Kind & gracious words are life to the body, I will be kind to myself.
One choice, one day or week does not define the course of my life.
My body can be trusted, it's job is to keep me healthy.
I am much more than a body, and my body is the least interesting thing about me.
Health is so much more than food and exercise, it's caring for myself, mind, body, and spirit.
God is my ultimate healer, provider and comfort.
Truth Mantras about food & exercise
Food is food. It's meant to be enjoyed & to provide nourishment. It's not good or bad, it's simply meant to assist me in doing far more important things.
Enjoying food and sharing food with others is a fun and important part of life.
I move my body in ways that make me feel good, strong and energized.
My body was designed to be smarter than calories.
Rest allows my body to fight stress and inflammation, to recover and be able to continue to do the things that matter to me.
Putting in the imperfect work
Choose a mantra that hits home with you. Write it somewhere where you will see it. When you can, practice saying it aloud. Speaking a thing aloud that is contrary to our current behavior and beliefs creates cognitive dissonance which often makes us change our thoughts and behaviors to align with the mantra! So cool!
This work is not easy, in fact it's pretty hard, but it's important and it's effective. You won't be perfect at first, there will be times when thoughts slip through, but the more you practice taking every thought captive and aligning it to the truth, the easier it will become!
I hope this was helpful to you guys. If you have a mantra that you cling to, I'd love to hear it below! Until next time, happy fueling and stay nourished :)