Question from a reader: “I always struggle with feeling like I have to ‘make up’ for something I ate. For example, I greatly enjoyed a donut this morning with my mom, and felt proud of myself for having no guilt or justification needed (‘I’ll work out later if I eat this’), but looking forward to lunch, I feel as though I must balance the donut with something healthier because I know my body won’t feel good if I eat something unhealthy again. How do I make sure I’m listening to my body while feeding it the right nutrients and not going into a diet mentality of strict balance or cheat days?”
SUCH a good question. Such a common fear. I’ve experienced this same fear and have had these SAME thoughts myself.
Goooooood for you for allowing yourself a donut with your mom and not feeling guilt about that. Like you said, that must have felt SO good.
I’ll start by sharing that my own fear in situations like this would have been: Will I always want donuts? If I eat a donut for breakfast, will I want a burger for lunch? And then pizza for dinner? And then dessert after that? What will that mean for my body? My health? Will I gain weight? Will this be bad for me?
Here’s what I found was actually true and where I found peace…
When you listen to your body and focus on ONE MEAL at a time (not planning out future meals and what you “should” eat to be better later) you will begin to trust your body MORE and you will find freedom in that. Your cravings and your level of appetite will change throughout the day. You cannot predict what you’re going to want next.
For example, I used to do this thing where if I were eating something really good at breakfast and didn’t want to stop (usually when I was out to breakfast with friends) I would tell myself, while eating, “just skip dinner tonight, or have something really small, and then you can continue eating this breakfast now” (even though I’d be stuffed).
Problem: this left me feeling SO full at breakfast – I justified stuffing myself by planning to ‘be better later.’ This was FALSE permission. It was NOT unconditional. AND, it set me up to feel like a failure later because by the time dinner came around I felt ripped off.
What? I don’t get to have dinner now? I have to have something small? What the heck! I’M HUNGRY! *Cue binge mode because, umm, no one is going to tell me not to eat when I’m hungry, not even myself.
When we plan to be better later, it skews how well we’re able to listen to our bodies now.
If I were listening to my body and giving myself UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION TO EAT instead (something we talk about in Finally Free Program) I could say something to myself, like: “This breakfast IS really good. And, remember, you’re going to have something delicious for lunch, too.” Instantly when I think an abundant thought like that I’m able to say “Okay, true… so let’s stop here so we can be hungry when lunch comes around – that sounds good!”
Whether or not I am actually hungry by the time lunch comes around, or what I’m hungry for is irrelevant. The point is that by not planning to be better later I am able to listen to my body in the moment. And if I can do that most of the time, I’ll have MANY MORE MOMENTS of listening to my body and feeling good <– the GOAL.
Telling yourself you should have something healthy for lunch because you ate a donut is a form of deprivation. Now, no shame – we all do it! These thoughts come from the diet mentality, which takes some time to shake. Just ask yourself: is this thought making me feel deprived at all? I’m assuming that this thought is NOT serving you in some way, which is why you’re asking.
If you get to lunch and think to yourself “Hmm, something light sounds good right now.” Then by all means, go for something light. But let that choice come from a place of checking in with your needs and not making yourself do something that you don’t need to do.
Whatever ends up happening is neither good nor bad. It just IS.
Your goals for ultimate freedom are: satisfaction, peace, and more TRUST that your body can tell you what she needs (she can!).
Proof that our bodies are brilliant…
Last night I was talking to a friend whose boyfriend has Type 1 Diabetes. She shared about a time he had a seizure and how much it scared her. His blood sugar got too low and he started sweating and seizing. But guess what she learned his body was doing during the seizure? Releasing sugar to increase his blood sugar and stabilize him so he wouldn’t DIE! His body was literally working to fix itself. It knew exactly what it needed and was making it happen ALL on it’s own.
Now, I’m not saying if you have diabetes to let yourself get to the point of a seizure. I’m not recommending ANYTHING medical here. I’m just giving an example of how DARN SMART our bodies are. This is SUCH a cool story to me.
Doesn’t this make you appreciate and trust your body more?
Here’s what gives ME peace to think about: If it’s lunch time and I’m hungry, that means my body (who is SO freaking smart) has already used up everything I ate at breakfast. She’s taken what she needs from the food, she’s begun to digest the rest, and she’s ready for more of whatever she’s letting me know that she needs.
Next, you also said: “…because I know my body won’t feel good if I eat something unhealthy again.”
Now, that MAY be true. But here’s how I would challenge this thought: leave this up to your body to find out. Let lunch time roll around and when you begin to get hungry, check in with yourself: “What sounds good? What would feel good right now? What do I need? What would satisfy me?”
Then follow THOSE directions from your body, and see how you actually feel. When you’re eating, slow down, taste your food, enjoy it, eat relaxed, and focus on your food. When you’ve had enough, trust that you’ll get something else delicious later on (permission, permission, permission) and take a break.
Next time you’re in a moment of planning out the next thing you’ll eat to be healthier, stop and say to yourself “You don’t need to worry about your next meal. You don’t need to plan for the next thing you’ll eat. Just see what you feel like the next time you’re hungry.”
There is NO SUCH THING as failure here, only feedback <– I cannot stress this enough! Learning to listen to your body is NOT a perfect journey. That said, it is absolutely a journey worth going on.
I hope this helps! Here are the things I hope you’ll take away from this post:
- Don’t worry about your next meal
- Focus only on the meal in front of you
- Choose a mindset of curiosity over judgement
- Free yourself from planning to be better later
- This will free you to listen to your body NOW
- Slow down + begin practice noticing how you feel
- Trust that your body will balance out (it will)
So much love to all of you! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!