Do you ever have those times when you eat something and then later regret it?
Maybe you ate too much or maybe you made a bad food choice.
Now think back to that moment just before you made your choice; what thoughts were going through your mind? How did you justify your decision?
If you regularly overeat or struggle to make good food choices then your brain has probably become very good at justifying your choices because justifications help us feel less guilty. You may not be aware of it, but it’s there, lurking at the back of your mind. It’s possible to become too attached to these justifications (or excuses, reasons, explanations – call them what you like) so instead of getting the results you want – improved health, weight loss – you live with the reasons why you cannot succeed.
How many of these justifications do you or have you used?
“I always have a takeaway on Saturday night”, “I always have ice cream when we go to the cinema”, I always have dessert after my main meal”.
“I deserve it”, “I don’t want to miss out”, “I just can’t say no”
“I need a few drinks to help me relax”, “I always eat too much when I’m stressed”
“I’ve got a cold”, “I’m pre-menstrual”, “I’m tired, I need some energy”
“Everyone else is eating, I don’t want to feel left out”, “it would be rude to say no”, “I’m being sociable by eating this way”
Pleasure and satisfaction
“I won’t feel satisfied until I have some more”, “it looks so good I have to have some”, “I really enjoy my food”
“It’s only a small amount”, “just this once”, “I have a slow metabolism”
“It’s wrong to throw food away”, “it’s rude to leave food on my plate”, “it will have gone bad by tomorrow so I’d better eat it now”
“I don’t have time to cook”, “I walk right past the takeaway on my way home”
“I’ve lost some weigh so it’s OK”, “I burned off 500 calories at the gym earlier so I can treat myself”, “I’ve been so good I deserve it”
“I’ve already blown it today so I might as well keep on eating this way”
Low self esteem
“I am an overeater”, “I have no willpower”, “I’ll always be overweight”
Past and present upsets
“I’m feeling sad”, “I’m bored/lonely/depressed”, “eating helps me cope”
Some justifications will serve you well, for example “I am eating because it’s 4 hours since my last meal and I’m hungry” is a very good reason to eat. But I know that I’ve certainly used some of the less-than-honest justifications listed above before now. Do you use any of them regularly? Maybe you were nodding your head as you read through the list and recognised some that you would like to overcome. I’m going to write in more detail and give you some suggestions on how to let go of your justifications in my next article, but for now try this…
- Start by recognising the justification when it arrives in your mind. Do this without judgment; don’t label it good or bad, right or wrong, simply acknowledge that it’s there.
- Ask yourself if the justification is serving you well or not. At this time you may start to argue with yourself by playing the “Yes, but” game to try and justify the justification!
- Take control. When you notice yourself making these justifications remember you always have a choice;
You can choose to satisfy the desire and take the consequences (eg. guilt, regret)
You can acknowledge and accept the desire and choose the benefits of being in control (eg. high self esteem, good health).
Which justifications do you/have you used? Is there one you’re struggling to let go of?