Hey everyone, this week we’re going to be talking about one tool you can use to break free from food obsession and food deprivation mindsets.
In reality the application of this blog post goes so far beyond food, however for the sake of conciseness, we’ll be keeping the focus mostly on food mindset.
Over the past 3 or 4 weeks Rachel and I have been doing A LOT of thinking, discussion and reading on food mindset, food obsession, the feeling of deprivation and it’s relationship to sustainable fat loss, body image and a bunch of other related topics.
Rach recently purchased Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weights Faster 2 as part of an affiliate offer from Jill Coleman that included an “Ending Food Obsession” 4 week boot camp course.
Rach is just finishing up the boot camp and it has proven to be a major learning and growth promoting activity for both of us.
One of the key conclusions we’ve had reinforced by Jill’s course is that it is not possible to sustain fat loss long term if a deprivation mindset is present.
We generally believed this already, but we are now even more adamant about it. You may be able to keep up deprivation through sheer willpower for weeks, months or even years at a time, but at some point losing control is inevitable. Feelings of deprivation are simply not part of a sustainable fat loss system.
So… the question is, how do we fix this? Obviously we can’t just eat whatever we want to eliminate deprivation – that doesn’t work for fat loss. Likewise, simply using willpower to avoid eating anything “bad” doesn’t work either because the deprivation created by this method inevitably results in a rebound.
What we need is a solution that eliminates deprivation WHILE still allowing fat loss.
The solution is gratitude.
A Change in Perspective
A lot of the focus of The Food Obsession Boot Camp that Rachel has been going through is about creating an abundance mindset. The idea is that if you don’t ever feel* deprived, you won’t be inclined to binge when you do have freedom.
[*I bolded and italicized the word “feel” is because it is critical to make the distinction between feeling deprived and being deprived.]
In her boot camp, Jill gives an example of a week where she made herself feel so deprived simply by thinking about beginning a diet that she ended up responding emotionally the same way she would have if she actually was deprived.
This got me thinking… what if the inverse is also true? That is, if your mindset is right, is it possible to BE deprived, yet not FEEL deprived?
The foundation for this approach is stoicism applied to dietary food deprivation.
Rather than resisting things you can’t have with brute strength of willpower or reducing how often you have to use willpower by allowing some of these things, what if you were able to change your perspective and completely remove the desire for what you are avoiding?
Sure, it’s not always necessary to completely avoid hyperpalatable foods to achieve fat loss, (some moderation will tend to go a long way towards sustainable results) but having a little bit more indifference towards those foods is certainly helpful for moderation.
In my mind this should be the absolute goal we are all trying to reach when it comes to ending food obsession.
Changing Our dietary Reference Point
What if instead of comparing what we are and are not eating to our culture around us, we compared our food selection to starving children in Africa? How would your feelings of abundance and deprivation change?
Maybe chicken and rice or steak and veggies feels restrictive when compared to a burger and fries with ice cream, but what happens when you compare it to starvation? All of a sudden it’s not so bad, is it?
This is something we’ve struggled with ourselves, but having this perspective in mind definitely helps. In the end it comes down to this:
If you choose to compare yourself to people with more abundance than you and you focus on what you can’t and don’t have, (aka complaining) you will feel deprived.
Alternatively, if you choose to compare yourself to people with less abundance than you and/ focus on what you can and do have, (aka gratitude), you will feel abundant.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
When it comes to feeling deprived with a certain diet, what you choose as your ‘dietary reference point’ determines how deprived you will feel. (Tweet This!)
Let’s say you’ve decided to use the Paleo diet for general health or to help deal with an autoimmune issue.
Now, if you spend all of your time focusing on everything you can’t have and how hard it is to stick to your Paleo diet, it’s not going to be easy to stick to. Unknowingly, you are CHOOSING to make it difficult on yourself.
If instead, you focus on how good and clean inside you feel when you eat Paleo, how crappy you feel after eating something outside of your plan and you remind yourself that the enjoyment fades incredibly quickly after eating something ‘junky’, it is possible to make sticking to even a restrictive diet like Paleo relatively easy.
It’s up to you.
It’s really not about what you do or don’t have, or what you can or can’t have. It’s about what you CHOOSE to focus on and how you CHOOSE to see your current status.
Your focus shapes your perception.
You choose your state of abundance or deprivation by what you choose to focus on. The moment you choose gratitude and live out of that place is the moment you will no longer feel deprived. (Tweet This!)
As a more moderate example, it is pretty well established that in order to achieve fat loss you need to reduce sugary processed foods to some extent.
Rather than being depressed that you “don’t get to have those foods anymore”, realize that outside of the last 100 years, these foods weren’t even available.
Even if you can only have one bag of chips per year, (which is far more restrictive than necessary) you are still getting something that the entirety of history before us never had access to. Be thankful for that.
Be thankful for the knowledge of what it takes to achieve fat loss. Be thankful for being alive.
We have so much going for us! No matter how bad we think our situation is, it’s absolutely ridiculous to allow ourselves to dwell on those self-indulgent feelings of deprivation and self-pity. Nothing good can come out of it.
So stop it. Snap out of it. CHOOSE to be grateful.
No it won’t happen overnight, it’s something we’re still working on ourselves, but the more you practice being grateful, the more positive your mindset becomes and the more content you will be with everything in your life, even when things go wrong.
Subconscious complaints will creep back in here and there, but if you take care to catch those complaints in their infancy and replace them with gratitude, you will find yourself living a much more abundant and happy life.
Putting It Into Action
As simple as it is to tell you to be more grateful, it is obviously not that easy to figure out how exactly to reach that endpoint. As Ryan Holiday often says in The Obstacle is the Way, “It’s simple. Simple, but not easy.”
There will be a transition period while you convince yourself to accept a change in perspective. It will take a concerted effort on your part to make it happen.
So the question is, how do we accelerate the process? How can we jumpstart our gratitude?
To start with, if you have a goal of doing anything outside of your current “normal” frame of reference, be sure to focus on the positives. Be grateful for what you get and do not dwell on what is restricted.
Secondly, you can try a “no complaint” challenge, such as the one outlined here on Tim Ferriss’ blog. I am actually wearing one of these no complaint bracelets right now for my own personal no complaint challenge.
Finally, you can make a commitment to practice gratitude daily. If you want to make a change in your mindset, you must practice it daily until it becomes an established habit. We use The Five Minute Journal for our own gratitude practice, but we have also developed The Food Gratitude Journal for you to download for free here.
The daily journal worksheets are based off of The Five Minute Journal template with our own personal twist and include a motivational quote, a gratitude exercise, a visualization of success and an end of day reflection on your mindset for the day. In short, it’s an easy way to ensure that you are practicing gratitude daily.
By setting your mind on gratitude first thing every day, you are setting yourself up for success. You can stop being a victim of deprivation and take action by making the choice to focus on the truly great things that you have going on in your life.
It may just be the most important choice you make all year.
YOU are in control.
Derek & Rachel
Live For Today Fitness