"Never again," you tell yourself. You have the best of intentions. But then, "Maybe just once more," you think, "I'm really stressed out," or "I deserve a treat." Without even fully realising it, you've fallen back into a negative pattern. You start berating yourself for being weak. You swear for the umpteenth time this will be the last, but even you don't really believe it. We all have them. Our vices.
One of my big ones is around food. I have a really sensitive stomach and when I overindulge or eat certain things, I end up feeling really sick. Plus, as cliche as it is, I'm hoping to lose a few pounds before my wedding. I hardly have a restrictive diet (as I've talked about before), but I know when I avoid certain foods and eat mostly clean, whole ingredients, I feel a lot better. And mostly I eat really well. Veg bowls, green juice, and superfood smoothies are my jam.
Yet I still often find myself chomping my way through a giant bowl of french fries or slurping up a bowl of pasta that ultimately makes me feel queasy. I use food to comfort myself when I've had a bad day or to celebrate my hard work or something good that's going on. But inevitably I use my indulgence as a reason to berate myself. I've acted out of alignment with my intentions and I feel terrible about it.
We cycle through negative patterns so mindlessly that it can feel impossible to transform them. But when we bring the two main principles of lifestyle design - clarity and intention - we're able to take control of our lives and create habits and patterns that we feel good about.
Here are the steps I've been using to transform my patterns with food. They can be used in any area of your life to create real, lasting changes.
Identify the pattern. If you don't see a problem, you're never going to fix it. Get clear on exactly what the negative behaviour is and why you want to change it. Write that ish down to remind yourself.
Figure out what you're getting from it. If you overeat, are you getting comfort and pleasure? If you're constantly dating men who treat you badly, are you craving love? If you're always spending your way back to zero, are you using money to celebrate or is that just where you're comfortable financially? Identify what's motivating your behaviour.
Choose a new behaviour that's aligned with your values. How can you fulfill the desire you identified above in a positive way? Or how can you replace the belief that's guiding your behaviour with something more empowering? You could reach out to a friend for comfort. Cuddle with your cat or a bestie when you're yearning for love. Dance to your favourite songs to celebrate. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible and don't worry if they don't seem like the perfect substitute. You can start generating the experiences and feelings you desire, and the more you find little ways to create them in your life, the more you'll crowd out your desire for the negative behaviour.
Look out for triggers. What situation usually set off this pattern for you? Go into these knowing how you want to react, whether it's what you'll say to someone or yourself, and what behaviour you're going to choose instead.
Use progressive language. I recently heard Amy use the term "progressive language" on her podcast and I love it! It perfectly encapsulates the approach I've been taking to affirmations over the past few months. Rather than affirming something that simply isn't true (ie. "I have a completely balanced relationship with food") and creating major cognitive dissonance, you affirm your commitment to creating a change (ie. "I am committed to changing my relationship with food in a way that fuels and nourishes my body and transforming negative self-talk to improve my body image.") The key is to change your internal dialogue. If you're telling yourself that you deserve a treat, you could switch that and say that your body deserves to be nourished with the best possible foods.
Be gentle for yourself. You might have to go through a lot of "last times" before you finally transform this pattern. That's okay. It's a process. Rather than berating yourself if you fall into the pattern again, give yourself a pep talk. Use your progressive language and recommit to making a change.
Often our lives feel like they're something that happen to us but we have the power to choose a new direction or begin a complete transformation whenever we please. And if things feel completely impossible or overwhelming, ask for help. Talk to your doctor, see a therapist, enlist your best friend's support, or hire a coach. Even the highest level executives and world class athletes need someone in their corner, supporting their growth and development, so there's no shame in getting your own guide or cheerleader.
And if there's any way that I can be of service, just let me know.
Love & wildness,