I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, I’m deluged with advertising and promotions about detoxes, diets and New Year’s Resolutions around restricting foods. You too? There’s a tsunami of recommendations and support to give up sugar, alcohol, dairy, meat, wheat, gluten… the list goes on. I’ve received tons of unsolicited emails (thankfully they’ve mostly gone straight to spam) offering challenges and programmes about giving up foods. On social media, I see people cheering others on, bolstering each other up, keeping each other company on their crusade to rid themselves of the ‘excesses’ of the holiday period.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against nourishing our bodies with food that serves them. In fact, I strongly support and promote it. After all, food has one primary purpose, which is to feed our cells so we have energy, can repair damage, replace tissue etc. And of course, food and eating also bring pleasure, and that is really important!

The trouble is that detoxes, diets and restrictions typically backfire unless you happen to be in 4% of the population. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the 96% – which means your ability to willingly sustain a restrictive way of eating is close to impossible.

Note: your inability to do this has nothing to do with willpower. It’s all to do with programming.

We are wired to eat.

In fact, we’re wired to eat as much food as we can because the reality for us was food scarcity, rather than food abundance. Sadly, the reality for millions of people is STILL food scarcity. This wiring is needed for our survival.

It’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you.

If you’re considering a detox, a diet, or you’re calling it ‘a lifestyle change’ to shed the pounds gained over the holidays, consider this:

  • the chances are you’ll regain anything you lose, and you may gain to a higher weight
  • you’ll fuel body dissatisfaction
  • your obsessive thinking about what, when and how much to eat will return or increase
  • you’ll probably feel miserable and hungry
  • you’re likely to binge at some point in response

Do you really want to go through all of that?

If you recognise any of the behaviours above, please, don’t do it to yourself.

A different kind of detox

Instead, how about detoxing yourself from:

  • body dissatisfaction
  • obsessive thinking about food
  • food rules
  • stress around eating
  • beliefs about how you think you should be

How?

By growing your awareness, and strengthening your ability to choose where you put your attention. Just imagine that. What might be possible?

With sharper awareness, you’ll know:

  • if you’re hungry and how hungry
  • what will satisfy your level of hunger and preferences
  • how full you’re becoming
  • how satisfied you feel
  • whether or not you’ve tipped into diet mentality
  • whether or not you’ve tipped into comparisonitis

And once you have that awareness, you can then choose where to put your attention next: preferably in the present moment, rather than in the past (e.g. how your body used to be, or how you used to be able to diet) or projecting into the future (e.g. your fears about what your body will become, or that you’ll never be able to stop eating cake once you start). You can put your attention on what matters deeply to you and take a small, doable step that aligns with that.

Yes, but how?

Practising mindfulness will help build your capacity for awareness; it will help you learn how to direct your attention where you want it to be. It will help you stay connected with your body, mind and spirit so that you eat with attunement more of the time; so that you recognise the conditioned messages your mind is replaying for you and let them go. And more. It takes practice. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes and the more you see the benefits in all areas of your life.

It can be hard to do alone. That’s one of the enticing things about joining in the detox mayhem at this time of the year: you have others to talk to about it, commiserate with, encourage or be encouraged. Community and support are vitally important when we want to make changes that are challenging.

I’m here to support you, to help you learn the skills you’ll need to be free from food obsession and body dissatisfaction.

With love,
Vania

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