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On Starting: Thinking About Thinking

LifestyleRobyn Downs6 Comments

The Living Within series is about moving away from extremes toward eating and living from and for a place of joy.

Let’s think about our thoughts. The voices that are constantly in our head, narrating our lives. The subtle, habitual thoughts that have so much power over our actions, yet we often don’t even realize they're there at all. 

But first, let me back up. 

A few weeks ago I started this series [a series with no name--suggestions welcome!] with this: On Quitting Extremes: Toward Living and Eating in Joy and Pleasure. It stems from my obsession with the notion that we can move beyond extremes toward a place where eating and exercise are grounded in joy and pleasure. 

So. Eating and living from a place of joy and pleasure. Is this a radical concept? For me, my friends, it is. Radical.

Until very recently for me, eating and daily movement were attached to end goals, extrinsic motivations, and “shoulds.”

And So. Many. Rules. 

Which makes adopting a life truly grounded in well-being difficult. Because eventually goals and shoulds and rules lose their effectiveness. 

And then shame and guilt can come flooding in. Shame-guilt-shame-guilt-shame-guilt and suddenly there’s the all too familiar downward spiral and negative self-talk and crushing negativity about something that could be such a source of pure joy. 

I mean, we are talking about food and movement here people.

Pure, glorious, life-giving food. Fresh veggies, vibrant fruits, crusty bread, melty chocolate; I mean, seriously. We’re also talking about energizing, restorative soul-nourishing movement. Stretching, running, sweating, hiking. Using this beautiful body to its full extent. This is the good stuff. 

So why the guilt and shame? How does life-giving and soul-nourishing ever turn into shame and self-loathing and self-criticism? There are many ways to look at this, sure, but I believe it starts with thinking about our thinking. Meta, I know.

On Starting: Thinking About Thinking

Take a minute to think about your inner narrative. The thoughts you think on a daily basis when it comes to food and movement. Have you ever thought about it? I mean really thought about it?

I’m not talking about your thoughts related to what or when to eat or move. Not the thoughts about what to make for dinner, or what snacks to pack for afternoon hunger pangs, or which workout to do tomorrow. 

I’m talking about that little voice in your head that narrates the relationship. The one that’s constantly playing in your head. Whispering quietly enough that you may not even realize it. I promise, she’s there. 

Listen to that voice. What is it saying to you? What’s the loop it plays in your head right before that first bite or first step. And what’s it saying after?

I’m convinced this is where we need to start. Just start listening. Listen and learn.

Tuning into this voice has been a bit of a revelation for me, even if it's an uncomfortable one. Sometimes it’s hard to even recognize. If I’m distracted, stressed, multitasking or otherwise tuned out to the present moment (which, let's be honest, is a lot of the time) it’s hard to even hear at all.

But I’ve made a point to start to actively monitor and take note.

I've noticed the loop that says that I need to finish everything on my plate.

And one that says that I need a big serving because I’m starving and because I might be hungry later.

And that I should not ever waste food.

And that I deserve the treat because I’ve had a hard day. 

Sometimes the inner-voice is so powerful it seems undeniable. Uncontrollable even. It’s become such a part of my everyday existence that I didn’t even know it was there. I figured this is just who I am. And that everyone else thinks exactly this same way.

But you know, I don’t actually think this is who I am. I don’t think it’s who you are, either. It’s simply the thoughts we think. 

And thoughts can be changed. 

This is good. This is a start.

So, step one. Recognize the thoughts. Simple.

When you sit down at the breakfast table and take the first bite. When you’re eating in the car on the way to work or shuttling around children. When the 4:00 pm sugar craving strikes. When you take the first step of your walk. When you’re halfway through dinner. When you’re in the middle of a run. When you’re rummaging around in the pantry at 10:00 pm. When you skip a workout.

Please hear me when I say, this is not about judging yourself. Let the judgement go for a bit, okay? It’s simply the act of noticing.

Notice the patterns and loops. Take note. Write them down. 

For the next week, let’s think about our thinking.

Then, if you’re up to it, let’s talk about it. Here, in the comments, or on social. Or keep it just for yourself. This really is about you. 

I’ll think, too, and be back soon for the next installment. Until then!



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