The 5 Things You Should Do When You Feel Guilty About Breaking Your Diet
This weekend, after months of working on a positive mindset and more self-love, I was somehow launched back into my past ways of thinking.
Whatever it was, it nearly ruined a good part of my two days off.
I was reminded of the girl I used to be in the first few years of college, the girl letting life pass her by because she was(miserably) eyeballs-deep into My Fitness Pal and Crossfit.
It didn't matter that I'd put countless hours and effort into loving myself. I just had a few of those days.
I'm smart enough to know that low points along the path to body-image recovery are unavoidable, and no journey is smooth sailing the entire way.
In the past year, I've had a lot of these low points. Each time, though, I become a little more prepared to deal with them.
Here's what I do (and what you can do, too) to recover from a bad body image day:
1. Don't punish yourself.
This is the most important recovery tip out of the five. Having a bad body image day does not excuse you lashing out on your body.
Do you ever remember a time when treating something with hate actually fixed the problem?
I've seen countless tweets, posts, snaps and texts of people saying, “Going to the gym to work off that [insert treat] I just ate.” This mindset is destructive; there is no better word for it.
Training your brain to believe you cannot enjoy food without burning it all off after makes it impossible to indulge without guilt.
If you're feeling bad about your body, don't force yourself through grueling workouts if you're sore and uncomfortable.
More importantly, do not skip meals or tell yourself you aren't worthy of food.
“You had a doughnut for breakfast. You don't need to eat a burger for dinner. Way too many carbs,” my inner mean girl scolded. You have to shut her down.
Many times, your body telling you you're not allowed to eat something is actually a cry for real nourishment. Don't confuse the two.
Eat for fuel, and remember that deprivation and restriction will only make you feel worse.
2. Try not to look for unnecessary validation.
We all like compliments. Being told you're beautiful, skinny, pretty or successful is one of the most gratifying feelings.
Sometimes, though looking for compliments can add extra tension to relationships.
I find myself doing this once in a while to a friend, to my husband or to my family.
“I just feel like I work so hard and never get anywhere,” I'll say robotically.
They usually reply with something positive that I know I want to hear, which helps for a total of one second.
After the compliment is gone, however, that instant gratification is gone with it.
Remember: The best validation needs to come from within. YOU need to feel good about YOURSELF.
Waiting around for others to tell you how wonderful you look adds extra anxiety to the body image struggle.
Don't add stress to your positive relationships on your bad body image days by looking for ways to get compliments.
3. Nourish your body.
When I say “nourish,” I am not talking about a total detox.
Multiple articles exist on the web telling women that to recover from a poor day of eating, it helps to cut out all dairy, carbs, fats and sugars.
These are usually the articles that have links to tea detoxes and feature ways to “lose 10 pounds in a week.”
If you're struggling because your eating patterns have been disrupted with parties or events, or you've indulged in lots of tasty food for any reason, you do NOT need to remove any food groups from you next few days.
What you should do is simply be mindful of what your body wants. Intuitive eating is a practice that must be learned, and there are a lot of resources regarding it.
But, simply listening to your appetite and hunger cues is crucial.
Do you feel parched? Drink water.
Are you exhausted, but hungry? Eat something with lots of vitamins, minerals and protein.
This doesn't have to be eight almonds and a PowerBar. It can be a delicious meal packed with nutrients.
It might even contain sugars, healthy fats and carbs.
These things are not the enemy; they are fuel. Although it's 100 percent OK to have treats if that's what your body wants, you will find that sometimes your body wants true nourishment.
In these moments, give it the healthy and enriching foods that it needs.
4. Build your arsenal.
Whenever you have a bad body image day, the best thing you can do is be prepared to deal with it in healthy ways.
Dana Suchow, mastermind of Do The Hotpants, refers to having a “toolbox” of resources to help get you through the bad days.
Save articles about body positivity that resonate with you. Cleanse your social media of thinspo accounts or anyone who makes you feel a lesser version of yourself.
The more tools you have to turn to on your bad days, the easier they will be.
The body positivity community online is incredible. These girls and guys show you that you are not alone in your struggle.
Use these tools to help overcome the bad days whenever you need to.
5. Remember, it doesn't happen overnight.
Recovery from disordered thoughts, eating, compulsive exercising and self-loathing is not an instant fix.
Changing a paradigm that you've been programmed to believe for years can be incredibly difficult to change. It can take months, even years, to really feel the changes.
The brain is a powerful and stubborn thing. It takes slow, patient coaxing to shift your mindset.
All you can do is take it one day at a time. Be nice to yourself when you look in the mirror, and realize you are doing the best you can.
Sometimes, I will look at myself and think this:
In this very moment that I stand here, I am doing everything I possibly can to love myself. I will not punish my body. I am worthy of enjoying food. I do not need to ‘earn' anything.
Find your mantra, and chant it in your head over and over until you start to believe it.
Each little step in recovery is one larger step toward self-love. Although it can be daunting to look forward when you've been sucked back into the cycle, you can pull yourself out.
Eventually, the bad days become fewer, and the good days start to overcome them.
You'll get there, I promise.
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