I *hate* it when I see a recipe that includes the words “guilt free”.
Should we be bothered by the fact that Googling the search term “guilt free recipes” returns close to 11 million results? Yep, eleven MILLION.
The association of guilt with eating is one that really troubles me, both as an individual trying to live a healthy life and as a practitioner trying to help others do the same. We all have to eat, right? It’s not something we can actually quit, go cold turkey, like cigarettes or bad television shows. We will be eating food every day for the rest of our lives. So having to worry about feeling guilty every day for the rest of our lives – surely this is energy better spent elsewhere?
The modern diet industry has done a great job of instilling a sense of guilt and shame around the topics of food and weightloss, and the food industry has happily jumped onboard. The implication is that you’ll only be overweight if you are guilty of shameful behaviours like eating the Wrong Kinds of Foods in the Wrong Quantities and – perhaps most telling of all – that you must be lacking in WILLPOWER and MOTIVATION.
Let’s stop using these words when it comes to our eating habits, ok? You can’t use WILLPOWER day after day to stop yourself from eating something – every fibre of your being will fight you, and you’ll end up exhausted (and eat it anyway). This is completely unsustainable behaviour. Willpower is the ability to control our actions & impulses, but it can only be utilised in the short term. Sure, it will get you through the first couple of days of a new diet or gym membership or other lifestyle change… a week if you’re lucky. But without an INTERNAL motivation, a fundamental shift in yourself, you’ll be left with nothing once the willpower well runs dry.
You’ll hear a lot of people talking about “lifestyle change” and you might wonder what that really means. Any lifestyle change – whether it be choosing to follow a new diet, coverting to a new religion or quitting your highpowered job to start a hobby farm – these all require a mindset shift first. Otherwise your initial excitement, motivation and willpower will only sustain you in the short term and you’ll end up back where you started.
So today – take one single small step towards the life you want. Ask yourself – what do I want to change? Just choose one thing – your job, your energy levels, your relationship to food – and then choose one step you can take towards that change. Just one, just for today. And if it feels good, you can do it again tomorrow, choose another single step you can take towards the life you want. These small steps have the sneaky habit of moving you towards BIG change, one little increment at a time.
…And that’s how it’s done! Lasting change for most of us isn’t a “before & after” proposition, with a big clear life-changing shift in the middle – it’s just us, living our lives just a little bit better every day, and cutting ourselves some slack on the days we don’t.
So what will you do today? Just one thing. How easy is that!
(and the next time you search for a recipe on Google.. please make sure it doesn’t contain the words “guilt free”!)
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