For the next few weeks in my articles, I’m going to be exploring each of the key points of what we call ‘The Diet Mentality.’ Each week I’m going to briefly explore one key characteristic of this harmful way of thinking and offer you a suggestion of something you can do that week to begin to directly address this issue if it something that you recognize in yourself. For this week though we’re going to start with an exploration of where The Diet Mentality comes from and some background on diets in general:
The Origin of Our Diet Mentality
The Diet Mentality is a way of thinking that has been ingrained in us by messages we receive predominantly from our primary caregivers and our peers. These messages are then often reinforced and enhanced by teachers, coaches, advertisements and media messages, and from diet and exercise programs that we may have tried in the past or may currently be pursuing.
It is easier to understand how we came to be where we are when we keep in mind that as children and adolescents, because we were limited by our brain’s inability to realize that not everything is about, or caused by, us, and because we had no other frame of reference than that of the family in which we were raised (and the community surrounding us), we had no contrast and therefore no ability to see clearly when our parents and peers, teachers and coaches were, themselves, confused in their thinking. We just believed that they were right and we followed blindly and innocently along. (For a more detailed article on brain development and its impact on our lives , and our relationship with food please see: http://www.cedriccentre.com/blog/lets-talk-about-your-brain/)
Why Am I So Defensive About What I Eat?
Okay! This week I’m sharing a simple exercise that you can use to examine that lovely trait: Defensiveness and we’ll answer the question: Why am I so defensive about what I eat? It’ll also help you with the close cousin to defensiveness: Making Excuses. This exercise will help you take the first step to feeling more confident about your actions and less reactive to the comments and questions of others. Sound good? Then read on.
Often we get blindsided by certain comments or expressions or situations in general and, if we’re not grounded we can find ourselves reacting and feeling anxious and behaving as though we have to “prove” that we are right or that we are decent people or that the other person is wrong.
This tactic only ever makes us feel vulnerable, insecure and small. And it is an experience that will inevitably lead us to use our food coping strategy either by getting angry with ourselves and restricting or by feeling small and powerless and binging to numb out and nurture ourselves. Either way we lose.
So, let’s do some reconnaissance this week on this pattern.
- When you feel like you’re put on the defensive (you’re being attacked or judged by others).
- When you’re suddenly anxious or feeling insecure with someone.
- When you feel like to have to have the “right” answer on the fly.
- When you hear yourself explaining your reasons for certain choices or actions or beliefs in a tone other than peaceful and chill.
- When you hear yourself justifying your behaviour; arguing about your rightness; rather than just acknowledging it didn’t work for the other person or that you dropped the ball, forgot, or chose not to follow through.
When you notice these indicators of defensiveness and excuse making, start by zipping your lip. Even if you’re in mid-sentence. Stop talking! Excuse yourself (no pun intended), leave the room/situation as quickly as you can. You can say something like “I need to think about that, I’ll get back to you.” And go!
Before I dive in to this week’s article which is a response to a question/sharing from a newsletter reader I thought I’d share a piece of feedback I received that will help you to appreciate the value of giving this a try:
“Recently I made a comment and was judged for it. I felt terrible because this is an issue I have had before and I want so badly to be a person who is accepted and thought well of. When I went through the questions I realized that the person who had criticized me was likely insecure too and it wasn’t JUST about me. It was a helpful exercise.”
That’s great news!! I love hearing how just a few minutes of conscious, structured exploration can bring such peace and clarity!! Yay!
And now for this week’s question and answer from Anna.
“I so desperately want to be a gracious person but it seems I am always coming out with some comment that is less than gracious or some overreaction. I envy my neighbour who is truly gracious and even though I observe how it is done I can’t get there myself and often feel judged for my reactions and beat myself up repeatedly about this. I realize you can’t become someone else overnight but my progress is so slow that sometimes I feel I am peddling backwards. On the other hand if I’m constantly on guard and managing my image I feel like a boring flat person.”
Thanks for taking time to share your observations and frustrations here Anna.