There is a subtle difference between these two concepts that eluded me for a long time.
I would get to a point where my weight had crept up and I felt fat, ugly and despondent. I would get that familiar feeling of dread about the need to diet or to go back to the gym to work it all off.
Ugh. The thought of all that plain boring diet food that never really satisfied my palate or my appetite was enough to bring on waves of anxiety.
My Made Up Myth #1 – I have to eat food I hate in order to be fit and healthy
I would promise myself “this time, DEFINITELY this time will be different. I’ll go to the gym every day and follow this prescribed diet and in 12 weeks time I’ll be at my goal weight, thin, happy and beautiful”.
And of course after the gruelling 12 weeks were up, I could go back to eating food I liked and magically stay at my ideal weight. Right?
My Made Up Myth #2 – Healthy eating is only required for a finite period of time (Phew!)
Of course this strategy would usually work to achieve the goal of losing weight within a set timeframe. But like so many other yo-yo dieters, I could never sustain the weight loss and a cycle of bingeing and withholding driven by shame and guilt would begin.
My Made Up Myth #3 – All the foods I love to eat that bring me pleasure are bad and will make me fat, so I can either guiltily eat them when no-one is looking (*binge) or I can shun them for as long as humanly possible (*withhold)
As I’m sure many people can testify withholding food is usually a sure fire way to find yourself at the bottom of a bucket of ice-cream with a bellyache and the taste of regret dripping from your chin. Can I get an Amen?!
A few years ago, it came as a massive revelation to me that this way of treating food wasn’t fact, but a series of assumptions that I believed to be true in order to control my eating and my weight. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could, well – not have my cake and eat it too, that would be too much to ask. But maybe I could find food that I liked to eat that wouldn’t stack on the weight.
So I wrote a list of food that I considered “healthy” that I actually enjoyed eating. It went something along the lines of “watermelon, dates, grilled chicken, avocado, etc etc. All nutritious wholesome food that I liked to eat.
Fantastic! I had a list of food I could eat that would bring me pleasure but that would also keep the weight off.
There was only one problem.
I still really liked eating all the other stuff too (chocolate, lasagne, sour cream & chives Pringles etc etc).
The pleasure list only went part of the way.
Now, I certainly wasn’t about to abandon pleasure in the face of eating healthy food that I didn’t like (shellfish, coriander, tabouleh etc etc). Blerg!
And there was also plenty of “healthy” food that tasted good but didn’t make me feel good afterwards (yoghurt, wholegrain wheat bread, porridge – gluten, dairy and I are not BFFs).
So I recently realised the missing ingredient (pun intended) was joy.
Food that tastes good while I eat + feels good after I eat = joyful food
Joyful food opened up a planet of opportunity for me physically and emotionally.
I could still have pleasure while I ate, and also have sustained energy afterwards. I wasn’t restricted to eating “good” food or avoiding “bad” food, or only eating food I was “allowed” on my diet. I made choices that felt right for me.
I also didn’t have to withhold food that I liked but that wasn’t “healthy”. If I wanted to eat a big block of chocolate, I had permission. But it came with a level of accountability now. If I chose to eat the whole block, I knew I wouldn’t feel good afterwards, so I could choose to still eat it, but just a small amount.
Adding that small level of mindfulness to my food choices means I’m more likely to choose joyful food over pleasurable food. So now I can just eat and then go about my day without obsessing over food choices.
And that’s a real Phew!
What’s on your joyful food list? Let me know in the comments below.