Don't Should on Yourself

Many years ago, my wonderful friend Jan was explaining to me how she counsels patients on making small changes in their diets in order to lose weight. She told me that one of the major stumbling blocks people experience with weight loss is guilt. It isn't just an inability to follow a particular meal plan or exercise regimen, although that can certainly be a factor. Rather, often it is an overwhelming sense of failure at not being able to do what they believed they “should” be able to do.

Because her clients were constantly telling her “I should eat better,” “I should exercise more,” “I should not have had those cookies, because now I am a bad person,” she came up with this wonderful phrase: don't SHOULD on yourself.

Isn't that a wonderful piece of advice? Well, you absolutely must watch how you say it, and who you are with when you say it; yet, when stated slowly and clearly, it does cover a lot of ground.

Think about it for a moment. What do you experience when you think you haven't done the things you “should” have done? How do you feel when you didn't meet your exercise goal? When you didn't lose all the weight you thought you should lose in a week? Probably not good. Why do you think this is true? Generally it results from setting a goal that is impossible to meet, like running five miles every day (when you have never run before!) or deciding to eliminate chocolate from you life (are you crazy?). And, when you are unable to meet your goal, you feel terrible. For some reason, while we often say “patience is a virtue,” we are unable to apply it to very personal situations such as improving our health by losing weight and beginning to exercise. We set amazingly unrealistic goals (lose 25 pounds, run the marathon) and expect to be able to accomplish these goals – yesterday. Then, when we realize we cannot possibly live up to these expectations, we conclude we have failed, never realizing that failure was the only outcome we should have expected.

Being “at peace with food” involves a taking a journey to develop a new relationship with food. Instead of being marked by frustration and disappointment, by fear and competition between you and the food you eat, food eventually takes its place as one of the many activities in your life, along with family, friends, working and being active.

Being At Peace with Food, and with yourself, allows you to make choices to improve your health that are more realistic. You learn to move more slowly, realizing that you are not in a race to become healthy. Rather, you are developing a new relationship with yourself, and new relationships, if they are to be good ones, take time. You are able to set small, realistic goals, beginning at a slow pace, and increasing over time. For example, you start by walking an extra five minutes three times a week, and build up to 25-30 minutes three times a week. You realize that you are full after eating two cookies, so you don't eat five. You learn to appreciate smaller portions, because you know you are allowed to eat more if you want to.

Finally, you learn how to change behaviors because you want to, not because you should.

Become At Peace with Food: Stop Dieting and Lose Weight

NOTE: Information in this site should not replace any medical advice you have
received from your primary care doctor or other medical professionals.