I wrote about my switch to a primal lifestyle and diet almost 2 and a half years ago. It’s been an incredible road since then finding out what foods work best for me. Eliminating certain foods at one time seemed such a daunting task. The psychological, emotional, and physical hurdles that are presented to you are not easily conquered. However, with patience and diligence (and non-judgment!), I do wholeheartedly believe that anyone can do it. And that’s brings me to the topic top of mind for me today – why we eat. Just as Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” it follows that you must truly know why you eat to be able to jump some of your eating habit hurdles to achieve great health.
Hurdle #1 – Eating as an event
Where there is a party, there usually is a bountiful spread of grain & sugar-laden foods. One of the reasons for this is that chips and queso are cheap and lots of carbs are good to have around when there are copious amounts of alcohol. (You know, to “soak up” that alcohol as people usually say.) Examining why we drink copious amounts of alcohol is another hurdle for another day. (However, eliminating that would also eliminate the need for any foods to do the “soaking up.”) But back to the party. We have to break our usual practice of eating as an event if we are ever going to get at the root of why we eat. For this hurdle, this is just a habit. It’s an easy way to get people together. But do we really need to be in “feast” mode every time we get together friends?
Hurdle #2 Life is and always will be stressful
My wonderful husband reminded me the other day of a phrase I used to say all the time, “you’ve got to play hard to work hard.” Many of us have extremely stressful, demanding lives – work, family, money, civic involvements, etc. They will never stop being hectic, but our approach to that can change. I’ve had to learn that being on top of my game at work, doesn’t mean that I have to have everything together all the time. I’m not a person where moderation comes easy. Most often in life, I’ve had an all or nothing view. However, I have seen first hand that moderation can be learned and is actually preferable. The moment that I forbid myself from doing something, I immediately want to do it more than ever before. But if I rationalize and allow myself to make a conscious decision on why I do something, I usually end up making the better choice and within a happier frame of mind.
Hurdle #3 The psychological and emotional side of it all
One of the most profound things I have learned in the last few years is that the mind and the body are not separate entities. You can’t master one without affecting the other. For myself, I had no clue that I was eating to make myself FEEL better. I think that often you hear something life that, and you immediately think of someone who is depressed or overweight or someone who has made lots of bad decisions in life. But in actuality, we all can do this (sometimes very subtly) in our daily lives. “I haven’t cheated once this whole week, so tonight I’m going to treat myself.” “It was a really stressful day at work and things happened completely out of my control, so I could really use something comforting to eat right now.” “I am really tired, and I already skipped out on doing some exercise so I’m just going to sit and enjoy some really good food.” The list of reasons goes on and on……. Then guilt sets in. We begin thinking extremely negative thoughts about ourselves. Judging ourselves. And then we feel worse than we did at the beginning when we decided to “treat ourselves.” It is an incredibly vicious cycle that can’t be stopped until a conscious, present decision is made to deal with the feelings of disappointment that started it off in the first place. Let me be the first to say that sometimes dealing with those feelings at the beginning is opening a pandora’s box of all kinds of other things you had no clue were even bothering you, but with patience and non-judgment, those things can be dealt with just like anything else. Once you get at the root of the problem, the cycle begins to break down on it’s own. You’ve already taken the hardest step, chosen the long road, didn’t reach for that “quick fix,” and it only gets easier after that.
Tackling “why we eat” is an incredible undertaking, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. There is never a point in life where you can say, “Well, I figured it out so now I’m done. I’m going to just sit back and relax from here on out.” We’ve never got it figured out. We may know as much as we can for a time, but there will always be something else to understand in the future. So let me close by saying this – stop judging yourself, right now in this moment and in every moment in the future that judgment creeps in. Just allow yourself to understand – don’t force it. The mind is a brilliant and sometimes deceptive machine, but it has sustained mankind for many years and will continue to do so for many more. Respect your intellect and let it guide you. Don’t compare yourself to others because they can’t help you figure this part out. No two people can possibly think or experience thought in the exact same way. Only you know what is truly best for you – that is if you been “examining your life.” Trust that you can and will make the better decisions.