When I first started eating more healthy, I would use travel as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. After all, here I was traveling in this exotic location, and I had no other choice but to gorge on pizza, pasta and dessert, right?
Because I had an unforgiving "I HAVE TO eat healthy" mentality in my every day life, travel was my way of rebelling against myself.
It was the only way I had of giving myself a break from the healthy food prison. It was an excuse my mind had to create so I could eat the foods I wanted.
And then something strange happened. I noticed on a trip that I was eating more pasta and pizza and dessert than I actually wanted. That I also sometimes felt like having something lighter, like a salad, yet my mind would yell: You can't have salad, you're on holiday, eat as much of the 'forbidden' foods while you can!
My I have to eat healthy mentality clearly wasn't working for me.
So I decided to try an experiment: Instead of telling myself that I HAD to eat healthy, I started telling myself: I can eat whatever I want.
Transforming healthy eating into a choice instead of an obligation changed everything.
Here's an example of how this new way of approaching healthy eating works:
Recently, I was out at a restaurant with my husband. The bread basket arrived and it looked delicious. I noticed the first thought that popped up was: I would kill for a piece of that bread along with a tension in my body and a mix of both feeling deprived and rebellious at the same time.
Instead of reacting to this, I simply noticed the thought and sensation and feelings that were showing up, without immediately reaching for the bread. And then I told myself: I can eat whatever I want.
And when I said these magical words to myself, it was as if a space opened up. I COULD have a piece of that bread if I wanted to. I considered the possibility. And in that space of choice, I decided not to -- not because bread is 'bad' or because I would be 'bad' for eating it, but because I know the effect it has on me -- that it makes my body feel 'bad'.
Because here's the thing: You never HAVE to eat healthy. There is no food police. You are an adult and you get to decide what to eat. Nobody is forcing you to eat certain foods or not eat certain foods. So if you choose to eat or not eat something, it needs to come from a place of choice -- a choice that takes you a step closer to something greater than food that matters to you. For me, healthy eating is about feeling light and energetic in my body, so I can feel fully alive and vital to life.
This experiment helped me to realize that when you view healthy eating as something you HAVE to do, you simply end up rebelling against yourself at some point. Language often gives this away: If you use words like SHOULD / HAVE TO / NEED TO (I shouldn't eat this / I have to eat that / I need to make more of an effort) this means it is an obligation.
If, instead, you view healthy eating as a choice, as something you are choosing to to do because it matters to you -- this changes everything.
And in this space of choice, you no longer need to rebel against yourself. You might choose to eat that bread and fully enjoy it without guilt. Or you might choose not to eat it because you know you won't physically feel great eating it and you choose, instead of eating that bread - to feel great in your body.
Either way, you get to decide because, well -- you can eat whatever you want.