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  • Writer's pictureSandhya Gokal

We are never ever ever getting back together

(Why changing the words you say to yourself is so damn important when you start changing eating habits)





Taylor Swift, the legend, the master, the boss. 


Her songs have wisdom spanning the ages, through space and time, for young and old, and best of all, applicable to many situations


Today's melody of choice?


We. Are never ever ever. Getting back together


How many times have you looked at a piece of chocolate, or a bag of chips and said, you are the bane of my existence, and the object of all my desires? (yup, I quoted Bridgeton. Melding all my faves into one today!)


Or something along those lines? 


What if you flipped the script in your head? 


And instead of focusing on the fact that those things are forbidden fruit, destined to lead you down into the depths of Tartarus (with the promise of Elysium)...


You sang Taylor Swift instead? 


We-ee, are never ever getting back together


"I remember when we broke up the first time, Saying, "This is it, I've had enough,"


It's easy to get sucked into cycles of binge and restriction especially around foods containing the triple whammy. Salt, sugar, fats, which in combination hit the taste buds in such a way to cause more saliva production, more pinging of the brain pathways that produce dopamine and more addictive behaviours towards food. 


And each time you promise yourself that this is it, this is the last cookie/chocolate/coffee/sugar hit/chip/whatever you put on your list...


You end up restraining yourself for a few days, using your willpower. You feel so good and so proud of yourself


And then i show up at your party with the very food you've been trying to avoid. 


And you're exhausted from trying so hard for the last few days. And don't you deserve a break from trying so hard? Just one won't hurt, right? 


Next thing you know, you're on the floor with an empty packet in your hand. 


Feeling guilty that you caved


Feeling ashamed because you can't even stick to what you say you want


Feeling disgusted by your lack of control


Feeling bloated and hating the way you look and feel in your body. 


"Ooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo you called me up again tonight, and Ooo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo, this time, i'm telling you i'm telling you, we are never ever ever getting back together." 


Experiment:


Next time you decide to remove something from your food catalogue, choose a mantra and say it to yourself each time you are confronted with that food. 


In the past, i have used: 


Words: Sugar is poisonous for my body and energy. 


Image: a spiky ball that tears through my blood vessels, leading to inflammation, sluggish blood flow and less energy as my body has to focus on healing the damage. 


Words: we are never ever getting back together


Image: Taylor Swift dance video and the tune


Experiment time: 3-4 weeks for it to start taking effect. 


Exp gained: increased self-trust, increased confidence, less willpower exerted, stronger boundary shield. 


"Remember how that lasted for a day?

I say, "I hate you," we break up, you call me, "I love you."




I have a question for you.


How long have you tried healthy eating for? 


A week? 

30 days? 

3 months? 

1 day? 


Be honest with yourself here. No shame, no judgement - you're only telling yourself, after all! 


My answer is...


All of the above. 


When I was a teenager, I bet my brother that i could go 1 year without eating meat. Before this, i was an on again off again vegetarian - born into a household of vegetarians but dabbling in the world of meat. 


I made it through the year. The winnings were meagre (if you're attempting this kind of bet, make a better deal than me - $20 was all we could both afford at the time) but the pride and glory lasts till this day. 


The upside? I remained vegetarian for 7 more years, till a trip to Japan lured me back. 


If your healthy eating habits last for only short bursts, it could be time to up the ante. Make getting back together with your nemesis food so revolting because there would be a tangible consequence. 


This technique has been studied and demonstrated to bring about higher rates of success in goal setting! A 1991 study done by A.V. Neale stated:


"contractors achieved greater beneficial health changes than non-contractors, and that the group which fully met their contract obligations experienced the greatest health benefit of all"

______________________________________________________________________________


Experiment:


Set the stakes high and try your healthy eating habit change once more. Armed with your mantra, and strategies for environmental change, dive headfirst into the journey once more. 


This experiment can be performed one of 2 ways. 


Bets: you can place your bets with other people, stating that you will reward them with a pre-determined monetary amount if you fail in your journey. Make sure the amount is large enough that the thought of losing it causes you to cringe inwardly.


Rationale: losing the money will cause more emotional pain than eating the food will give you pleasure.  It's effective because as humans, we are wired to move away from pain.


Rewards: create a reward so enticing that achieveing it will give you longer lasting pleasure than eating outside of your food guidelines. 


Rationale: making the reward something you want but would not normally treat yourself with increases the likeliehood of success. 


In the past i've used:


tickets to musicals, an insanely expensive dress that fit me perfectly, a glamping holiday, a photoshoot.


Time - frame: 90 days to 1 year. 


Exp gained: increased delayed gratification skills, increased self-trust, glory and boasting rights.


"I used to think that we were forever ever

And I used to say, "Never say never..."


Changing healthy eating habits takes time. 


Unfortunately, it also means altering lifelong habits that have become ingrained into our brains. 


You may think that is an exaggeration, but it's not.


When a habit is created, the brain strengthens the neural pathway created by repeated action with a myelin sheath, making the electrical impulses fire much quicker and with less energy. Think of it like a driving down a well paved freeway road through a tunnel


The car runs smoother, faster and with no wind resistance. 


Similarly, habits are designed to use less brainpower so that we can become more efficient in our energy requirements. 


Creating the habits you want to be powered efficiently by your brain requires an increase of energy initially, and each consistent repetition begins the process of paving the freeway in your brain circuitry. 


Even if it feels like it takes forever to build up your healthy eating habits, consistency and repetition are key. Persist, and you will reap the rewards. Nothing is impossible to change but the passing of time. 

_____________________________________________________________________________


Experiment:


Choose a habit that you want to cultivate and persist for 90 days. 


In the past, I've used:


Mindful eating - eating with no distractions

Chewing each bite 10 times

A 10 minute walk after each meal

Eating all meals before 9pm each day


Time frame: 90 days


Exp gained: consistency badge, self-trust, confidence and increased energy available for other things


"Uggg... so he calls me up and he's like, "I still love you,"

And I'm like... "I just... I mean this is exhausting, you know, like

We are never getting back together. Like, ever"





Does it sometimes seem like cake is calling to you? 


Like those brightly coloured sugary snacks sing out your name? 


As if the crunchy chips cry out for you, and only you? 


It IS exhausting. 


Having a realistic view of what habit chan ge is, can be a real game -changer. 


It's all about realistic expectations. 


Imagine this. 


You buy a fridge full of vegetables, stock the pantry with all the base ingredients you want to include in your diet and throw out all the food you want to limit. 


1 week later, your fridge has a funky smell, theres rotten vegetable residue sitting in the crisper drawer and the takeout containers are fast filling up your garbage bin. 


What happened? Where did you go wrong? The thoughts of frustration and failure fill your brain, and you feel the exhaustian creeping in at the thought of having to try again next week. 


Going too big, too soon, can have enormous  consequences on your mental health, confidence levels and success rates. You are setting yourself up for failure. It's like trying to earn 1 million dollars in a week - near impossible to achieve, and without the accompanying mindset shifted, fated to be fleeting.


A better way is to start small. Focus on one change at a time. Alternating adding and subtracting foods per week can be a great strategy to utilise, as you give your body and mind time to adjust to and accept the change.


Although time is precious, and there is often an overwhelming urge to create habit change NOW (think Veruka Salt in Willy Wonka), energy is also a precious resource. Thinking in terms of energy usage helps shift mindset into a state conducive to habit change - what action is going to be the most energy efficient? Once you move into this thought mode, you will notice that your decisions become more in line with what you want, as your exhaustion levels reduce. 


A 2012 study done on the use of habit change advice in the health care setting notes that

“Automaticity strength peaked more quickly for simple actions (for example, drinking water) than for more elaborate routines (for example, doing 50 sit-ups).”

This means choosing a small habit and being consistent has much more power to it than going hard at a bigger habit for smaller amounts of time. 


______________________________________________________________________________


Experiment: take one of your health goals and break it down into the smallest version of itself. 


Examples: 


A goal of losing 5kg could be broken down into going for a 10 minute walk after each meal

A goal of sleeping at 10pm each night might look like going to sleep 5 minutes earlier than your usual midnight bedtime. 


Time-Frame: Consistently repeat this for 3-6 months, then progress when the goal seems effortless.


Exp gained: consistency badge, Sword: Habit crusher, Power-up potion for future habits and the confidence shield.




Conclusion


This works. If you can fill your mind with a single thought, overpowering all others, you will soon find that breaking up with your downfall foods is effortless.


Let me know how you go in the comments below!




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