What if we could think our way fit? My guess is if you’ve ever tried to diet or make changes for a healthier lifestyle you have at some point struggled with your thoughts surrounding the changes you needed to make to reach your goals.
Do phrases like this sound familiar?
- I’m so hungry.
- Healthy eating is so boring.
- I hate vegetables.
- I want to eat normally.
- I don’t want to eat [insert boring food] all the time.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “we are what we think.” This is equally true for how we mentally and physically respond to our health and fitness goals.
- If you THINK eating healthy is about deprivation, you will FEEL DEPRIVED.
- If you THINK eating healthy is boring, you will FEEL BORED.
- If you THINK being on a diet will mean you are hungry, you will FEEL HUNGRY.
When you THINK these things, your body will have a physiological response to them. For example, if you THINK you are being restricted, your body will respond by making you hungry. In one study researchers were able to show that having a mindset of restriction resulted in higher concentrations of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) in the blood immediately following a "restrictive" meal compared to lower levels of ghrelin released when those in the study thought they were having a less restrictive or indulgent meal. Both meals contained the same number of calories, however, the participants who thought they had eaten more calories had lower levels of ghrelin and therefore were less hungry than those who thought they had a lower calorie meal.
In another study, researchers were able to show that just "labeling vegetables with indulgent descriptors significantly increased the number of people choosing vegetables and the total mass of vegetables consumed compared with basic or healthy descriptions, despite no changes in vegetable preparation.”
The more you have these thoughts, the further they become engrained in your brain.
Think of your brain as a mountain and cutting through that mountain are rivers. These rivers have been eroding the mountain for centuries. These are well-worn paths that cut through the mountain easily. The thoughts in our brain are no different. There are well-worn paths in our brain (neuropathways) that allow thoughts we have often to flow freely. Our "diet culture" has helped to engrain these thoughts in our brains for decades. It's not your fault you feel this way, there is a billion-dollar diet industry that plays on these thoughts and emotions, helping to wear down that path in our brain to make a profit.
The good news is that it is possible to cultivate new thoughts and to start building new pathways through our brains. You don't have to be stuck in your current thoughts. It is entirely possible to retrain your brain and even “think yourself fit.”
What’s the moral of the story?
You can change your thoughts and change your results. A simple word exchange is a good place to start.
- Instead of “I’m so hungry,” try something like “I’m not as full as I’d like to be.”
- Instead of “I have to eat X food,” try something like “I’m so grateful to eat food that is nourishing.”
- Instead of "Vegetables are boring," try something like "This is one sexy salad." LOL, this one is funny but true and it does work!
Find what works for you and remember this takes practice. You can't change your thoughts overnight, however, with practice and repetition, just like the river works its way through the mountain, your new neuropathways will develop in your brain. Before you know it, you won't even have to think so hard about it and the new thoughts will become your norm.
Keep your salad sexy and change your thoughts to help you meet your goals.
Crum AJ, Corbin WR, Brownell KD, Salovey P. Mind over milkshakes: mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response. Health Psychol. 2011 Jul;30(4):424-9; discussion 430-1. doi: 10.1037/a0023467. PMID: 21574706.
Turnwald, B. P., Boles, D. Z., & Crum, A. J. (2017). Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption: Twisted Carrots and Dynamite Beets. JAMA internal medicine, 177(8), 1216–1218. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1637