Falling off the Wagon
Falling off the wagon is a phrase that’s bandied about quite a lot. It may be something you hear your friends say or something that you say yourself. And it can make you feel disheartened, disillusioned, discouraged, perhaps a bit of a failure and, let’s be honest, getting on and off something can be very tiring too. But what do you actually mean if you say you’ve fallen off the wagon? Is it that you feel like you’ve eaten one thing you shouldn’t have had? Or that you’ve had a few days where you’ve eaten lots of things you think you shouldn’t have eaten, or you’ve eating a bit too much and are feeling bloated?
Whatever it means for you, I don’t believe ‘falling off the wagon’ is a particularly helpful phrase and thinking like this is not the best way of living. I used to think like this so I know what it’s like, but I’ve learned that it’s much better to live life normally and eat normally. I want to help people break free from that kind of thinking and language – and that’s totally possible! Watch the video or read the blog below for three ways you can stop yourself using this kind of terminology…
- 1. Replace ‘ridiculous rules’. Have you got any ‘ridiculous rules’ in place? These could be rules like ‘don’t eat too many carbs’, ‘don’t eat after a certain time’, ‘chocolate is bad’, ‘don’t eat white pasta’ or ‘don’t eat crisps’. They are those rules inside of that have perhaps come about from your dieting history, from your past experiences, from other people, or from magazines. Wherever they have come from it might be that you’ve swallowed them in one big chunk, or it might be that over your lifetime you’ve drip fed them to yourself, or other people have drip fed them to you, and they have fed a dieting mentality.
- So subconsciously you are saying to yourself ‘I shouldn’t have this or that’, and that’s part of the problem; you have an internal policing system that doesn’t need to be there.No food isn’t inherently bad, and no food is absolutely inherently good. It’s possible to eat healthier foods for wrong reasons and possible to eat ‘bad’ foods for the right reasons. So, we need to try and recognise when we’ve got these little rules going round in our heads and ridicule them. Ask ourselves where we’ve learned them from. And then, of course, we need to get rid of them and replace them with the truth.
I love saying ‘no food is inherently bad’ and ‘all food can serve a purpose’. These are much healthier things to say to ourselves. Because food can be for nutrition, but it can also be for enjoyment. God could have made us not to need to eat, but he didn’t. And he created food for our enjoyment as well as to be nourishing to our bodies.
2. Make sure your ‘wagon’ is not too restrained. If you fall off a wagon, it’s probably because it’s too small and too uncomfortable. The reason you fall off something is probably because you don’t find it very easy to be on it in the first place. It’s too restrictive and it’s easy to lose your balance! If you’re restricting anything in your life: your food, time watching tv, or being on your phone, you know exactly where your mind and thoughts will go. If you are restraining yourself, the moment you have some weak resolve, or something happens to put you in a stressful situation, it’s those restraints that will fail. And so, your wagon could be too restrained or too strict.
Imagine you could eat anything with no negative consequences, you might not feel the need to finish off a big bag of crisps or a whole bar of chocolate or have a second slice of cake. If you knew you could have anything at any time, you might think differently, and your eating might naturally fall into a healthy pattern. So, you need to take away those strict restraints and make sure you know you can eat anything you want at any time – everything is permissible.
But the key is to discern what you really want to be eating. Do you really want to be eating foods or taking actions that prompt those feelings of falling off a wagon? The question to work on is ‘what do I really want to eat’? not just for instant gratification, but from a perspective that takes account of your whole health and wellbeing. It’s easier said than done and takes a bit of work, but stepping back and using the ‘adult’ part of your brain to look at the bigger picture in considering what you actually want is key. So, you have permission to eat anything you want, at any time you want – if you really want it.
3. Blur the lines. Try to avoid having strict lines, or ‘black and white’ rules, like counting calories or points, as this can be dangerous. I know that when I did Weight Watchers and I had a daily limit of 20 points, if I actually had 21 or 22 points, instead of thinking ‘that’s OK I’m still quite close to my daily goal’, I’d just have a blowout because I felt I’d blown it or I’d ‘fallen off the wagon’. Having these strict lines naturally leads to you feeling you are either on or off something, succeeding or failing.
Instead, soften the lines; so rather than saying ‘I’m a person who eats rubbish’, can you say, ‘I eat healthily most of the time and that’s my only aim’? That way you won’t feel on or off something. If you can tell yourself: ‘I feed my body good food most of the time’, ‘I’m really mindful of what I eat most of the time’ or “I eat mostly nutritious foods that serve my body well, but I can eat some foods that aren’t particularly nutritious but which I still enjoy” then you are more likely to have a healthy and balanced approach to what you eat.
If you need any more help in this area, you may want to consider our online End Emotional Eating course. You can find out more details about this and our other online courses here.