Ep #46: The Food Thoughts Stopping You from Losing Weight

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | The Food Thoughts Stopping You from Losing Weight
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Are your thoughts about food holding you back? There are ideas many of us have around food that keep us stuck. Some of you have very strong thoughts and beliefs when it comes to food. In this episode, I’m helping you see how questioning these thoughts, or even giving them up altogether, will help you get closer to your health and fitness goals.

I’m all about making the connection between your eating, moving, and most importantly, your thinking. Your thoughts are not facts, and when you understand how your thought patterns relating to food are sabotaging you, everything changes.

Tune in this week to discover the thought errors around food that might be keeping you stuck. I’m sharing the unhelpful stories we’ve been taught about food by our society and the world around us, how to recognize these thoughts when they appear, and how to make sure they don’t become part of a belief system around food that stops you from making progress.

Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • What thought errors are and how they show up.
  • Some of the specific thoughts that might currently be stopping you from living in the body you want.
  • How thinking food thoughts over and over turns them into beliefs, even if the thoughts aren’t true.
  • Why challenging your long-held beliefs around food isn’t easy work.
  • How to see the beliefs you have about food, and whether they’re helping you or hurting you.
  • What you can do differently so your food thought errors stop holding you back.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #46. Are your thoughts about food holding you back? Tune in, and find out where you might be getting stuck.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s good here, today we’re going to talk about some food ideas that are keeping you stuck. And what I mean by this, is that some of you have very strong thoughts and beliefs around yourself and food. I want to help you see how questioning these thoughts, or even giving them up altogether, might help you get closer to your health and fitness or your weight loss goals.

As you’ve gotten to know me, hopefully, you’re starting to see that what I am about is making the connection between your eating, moving, and most importantly, thinking. So, today I want you to understand how some of your thought patterns related to food may be sabotaging you and keeping you stuck right where you are. I want you to see how your thinking is affecting your eating.

So, I’m calling these beliefs “thought errors”. It was a concept I learned in my coaching certification. Remember, the interesting thing about your thoughts, is your thoughts are your sentences. They are full of adjectives, opinions, and descriptor words. But the key thing to remember about your thoughts, is that they are not fact, even though often we think they are.

But remember what happens when we repeat our thoughts over and over again, those thoughts become your beliefs. They become your truth. And it becomes super easy to confuse your thoughts with the truth and think that because you think it, it must be true. But that is not the case.

Thoughts are not facts. And the problem is, when you have thoughts that become your beliefs, especially about food, you can get totally stuck. Because remember, what you believe, you go and seek evidence to prove correct, even if that belief doesn’t help you.

So, if you’re operating under the belief that every dinner ends with dessert, you may find yourself fulfilling that belief and eating dessert every night. But it may be part of the reason you’re not losing weight. And if that’s the belief you hold on to without questioning it, you may have trouble creating a different outcome for yourself. And for this reason, I think the term “thought error” makes sense and is appropriate. So, we’re going to run with that. Okay?

With that said, I will be the first to admit this is hard. Challenging your long-held beliefs, it’s not easy. Addressing your beliefs around food? Not easy. Add to that, we have been conditioned, as a population, as a culture, and as a society, to see and treat food a certain way. We’re taught that food is comfort, food is exciting, good can solve your problems.

Turn on the TV or go to social media, and it will not take you long to find evidence to back this up. Food is essentially peddled to us as a way of bringing happiness. And it is exactly because of this that we have the obesity problem that we do.

But I’m going to pick this apart for you, and help you see that maybe some of the thoughts and beliefs that you have around food are keeping you from living in the body you want. So, as you listen, I’m asking you to consider which of these beliefs you might have. And if you do have them, how they might be helping you or hurting you. All right? So, let’s go.

First, let’s talk about eating out. This can be related to going to restaurants, ordering takeout, or getting fast food. To put this in perspective, when I was preparing for this podcast, I found a statistic from 2018 that said that 44% of all food spending was on food away from home; 44%. So, we are clearly spending a lot of money on eating out.

I dug around even more and found another statistic that stated, on average, Americans eat out about six times a week. That’s quite a bit of meals, and it’s quite a bit of money. And this, in and of itself, is not the problem. Going out to eat is not the problem. It’s what and how much you get when you go out to eat, that’s the problem.

Most of us know that restaurant prepared food or takeout or fast food is generally not as healthy as a meal you can make for yourself. So often the amount of oil, salt, and fat is much higher when you eat out than if you were to make your own food at home.

And say you do that six times per week, as the average American does. I would imagine that you’re probably going to have a hard time staying in a calorie deficit if you’re trying to lose weight.

Here’s the problem that I most commonly run into when I coach people around this. The thought error is this: It’s the idea that, “Well, I’m out to eat, so I’m going to treat myself and I’m just going to get whatever I want and not worry about it.” That translates to you getting an appetizer, a drink, a big, heavy, greasy something for your main dish, and then a dessert to top it off. Basically, you go all out.

And then, it results in a meal that is way more calorically dense than you would have had at home. If you take this approach, and you go out to eat six times per week, like the average American, you may find it really, really hard to lose weight.

So, let’s pick this apart a little. I’ve said it before, I know there are some people who believe that food is fuel and nothing more. But I don’t believe that. Yeah, food is fuel and you need it to survive, however, food is also culture and tradition and family and memories, among other things. So sure, while on a practical level, food is fuel, it is a lot more than that.

And often, when you go out, it’s an experience, and you want to enjoy that experience. You use food to create the enjoyment of that experience. But here’s the thing, when you go out to eat, on average, six times per week, and you use food to create your enjoyment, that’s a lot of enjoyment. That’s a lot of rich, indulgent food.

So, if you are someone who goes out to eat multiple times per week, you have to make a decision. Are you going to treat yourself each and every time? Are you just not going to worry about it every time you eat out? Or is there a way of moderating so that every meal doesn’t turn into a free-for-all?

I bring this up because, for so many of you, eating out and fast food and takeout is a real challenge or real obstacle on your path to weight loss and eating healthier. And it comes from this held belief of “I’m going to get whatever I want, because I’m at a restaurant and I’m going to enjoy it.” And that ultimately results in choices that do not serve you.

There’s a number of things to pull apart from this example. And I bring this up, because it’s something so many clients wrestle with. Many of my clients are busy and they don’t have time to cook, or they just don’t want to cook. As a result, they end up getting food from restaurants.

But here are some things to consider. It is possible to eat out and not go overboard. But it means you have to think through your decisions and be thoughtful about the choices you make. If you take the stance of “I’m out to eat, I’ll get whatever I want,” and you do that every time you’re out, you’re going to run into trouble. Especially if you eat out often.

What if, instead, you didn’t go whole hog every time you went out? What if you looked at the menu and chose a salad and protein? What if you skipped an appetizer and just had your main dish? What if you left out dessert? Those are options. You have the choice to prove to yourself that eating out does not have to mean “I’ll just do whatever and not worry about it.”

And if you’re scoffing at this, I would encourage you to really think about it. It is absolutely possible to go out to eat and not go off the rails. You can come home from your meals, proud of the decisions you made. Instead of thinking you need a detox the next day; which I do not recommend at all. Okay? But the take-home here is moderation.

Let me be clear, I’m not telling you to not go out to dinner. Okay? I’m also not telling you to skip an amazing appetizer if it sounds delicious to you. However, I am asking you to be conscientious of what you’re doing. How many times are you just not going to worry about it and get whatever you want off the menu? Are you prepared to deal with the outcome of your choices?

I’m asking you to consider a super important point that I learned in my own coaching, it’s this: You can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and have the body you want. It’s competing desires.

I talk about this with clients all the time. You have a desire to look a certain way, you want to feel a certain way in your clothes, you want to live a certain weight, but at the same time you want to go out to eat. And you may want to have the fried calamari, the fettuccine, the tiramisu, and the fancy fruity cocktail. And sure, once in a while it’s okay to have that fun, indulgent, heavy meal.

But when many more, most, of your meals are out at restaurants, you run the risk of over indulging. So, I’m encouraging you to make some decisions in advance to help you with this. In fact, there’s a number of things you can do that might help you with this.

First, give yourself some guidelines. Decide how many meals you will eat that are from restaurants or takeout or fast food. Give yourself a guideline and then hold yourself to it. Like, I will eat out no more than two times per week, or whatever number feels reasonable to you. And then, you stick to it.

Next, decide how and how much you’re going to treat yourself when you are out for meals. Are you going to have an appetizer but skip dessert? Are you going to drink water and forgo the alcohol? How are you going to moderate yourself so you don’t walk out of the restaurant feeling like you overdid it?

And then last, and this, in my opinion, would have the biggest impact, is how can you eat more meals that you cook at home? Again, if you want to get to the root cause, I would argue that for many of you it would be to determine what keeps you from eating at home. Is it that you’re too busy during the week to cook? Is it that you don’t have groceries in the house? Is it that you hate to cook and have no idea what to do in the kitchen? What is it?

If there are specific issues that keep you from eating more meals at home, and you’re committed to changing it, it’s possible. But it means asking those questions to get to the root cause of the problem. It’s only when you start looking for the actual problem that you can come up with solutions to fix it.

Alright, so along those lines, another thought error that I see comes up is this, you’ll tell me that you’d like to eat out instead of eating at home, because the food you eat at home doesn’t excite you. So, let’s pick this apart a little more. Because this belief is likely throwing you off track.

I know I said it earlier, food is more than fuel. And while that is true, I want to offer you this, not every meal has to be exciting, okay? Every meal does not have to wow you. It’s okay, if your food is boring. Let me clarify here, I am not at all telling you to eat foods that you don’t like, okay? That is not it, at all. If you despise green beans, I’m not going to tell you to go force yourself to eat them. If you cannot stand salmon, don’t force yourself to choke it down in the name of being healthy now. I want to make that very clear.

Instead, I’m asking you to recognize that not all of your meals have to be amazing and noteworthy. Your food does not have to be the entertainment, okay? I bring this up because I have coached a number of women and men around this. You’ve told me that if your food isn’t exciting, or if you’re not excited to eat it, you won’t.

The way I see this most often manifest is this, you bring your lunch to work, that you made at home. Maybe you packed a salad with chicken for lunch, and you’ve got it in the breakroom kitchen waiting for you. But then, you grab your salad and you head to a meeting where there’s catered food. Like, Mexican from one of your favorite places, or pizza. Then, you’ve got a choice to make.

Many of you have told me that if your meal isn’t exciting enough, you’re not going to eat it. So, I want to offer you some thoughts to consider about this. What if you got excitement from something else besides your food? What if you decided that it’s okay to be excited by a really great, indulgent meal at a cool restaurant every now and then.

But as a general rule, you don’t get excitement from your food? What would your nutrition and what would your life look like if you decided that food was not going to be the main source of excitement for you?

So, let me tell you what I’ve seen, coaching a number of women through this. When you stop relying on food to provide excitement for you, it starts to lose its power over you. You start to see food as food, but without all the drama attached.

Food becomes less about entertainment, and more importantly, when you stop relying on food for excitement, you can instead focus on other things like the people you’re with, or the conversation you’re having, or the meeting that you’re in, or the vibe of whatever surroundings you find yourself.

When you take the pressure off getting excitement from your food, it opens up brain space for you to focus on other more important things. So, I’ve used this example before, and I’ll use it again because it applies here. I had a client who worked really hard to lose weight and she did all the things.

She most definitely followed my P-C-P method; she had a plan, she practiced consistency, and she was extremely patient. And when she ultimately got to her weight loss goal, she sent me a picture of herself in an amazing dress at a big event. I later asked her to look back and think about what it took to get there.

One of the first things she said was, “Eating the meals I planned for myself, even when I didn’t want to. It was eating chicken or fish, even when I wasn’t excited about it.” And there it is. She chose to honor her commitment and eat the food she planned out for herself, instead of getting takeout. Even if that food wasn’t as exciting.

She didn’t look to all of her meals to wow her. She still ate food that tasted good and met her goals. And she stuck with her plan. But sometimes those meals were boring. They weren’t wild or fancy. And it worked.

So, once again, it’s competing desires. There’s the desire of wanting to be excited about your food, but also the desire to look and feel a certain way. You’ve got a choice to make. Do you choose only to eat food that excites you? Or do you choose to eat food that is just fine, and also keeps you on track towards your goals? Do you choose to get excitement from your food? Or do you choose to get excitement from other things, like the people you’re with or where you’re located?

Remember, you’ve always got a choice. You can choose to eat food that tastes good, but may not have the same wow factor as a restaurant meal. You can choose to believe that all of your meals don’t have to be exciting. All right?

The next thing I want to bring up is the idea that you can’t not to get ice cream with your kids. I know this is very specific, and I bring it up because it comes up all the time. If you don’t have kids, instead it may be in the form of “I can’t not get dessert if my friends get dessert,” or something similar.

I’m just going to offer you this, you can. You can skip dessert. You can go out to ice cream with your kids and not have any, you really can. So, here’s the thing. Many of you who have coached with me have kids, and you’ve made it very clear that you don’t want your kids to have a diet mentality. Or that you don’t want to have any sort of negative influence on their food decisions. And as a result, if you go out for ice cream, you feel you have to get some because it is just not normal to skip it.

My answer to that is, says who? Really. Again, this goes back to our societal conditioning, and what our culture tells us. Our culture tells us, of course, you get ice cream with your kids. Of course, you do. That’s what media and TV and schmoopy TV sitcoms would tell you to do. But whose rules are you following?

If you want to look at societal norms right here and now, it’s the norm to be either overweight or obese, 2/3 of American adults are. But does that mean it’s the right thing to do? When you really boil it down, I’m asking you to decide for yourself. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to. Do you have to get the ice cream? I would argue no, you don’t have to. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.

Let me ask you this, when it comes to sending a message to your kids, what is the message you want to send? When you’re faced with the choice of whether or not to have ice cream, what happens if you’re honest, and simply said, “I’m choosing not to have ice cream today,” and you left it at that?

What happens then? Well, I will tell you, at least in my own experience with my kids, there are a few possible outcomes. They may ask why; in which case I explain, “I decided I’m not having ice cream today.” Just like my eight-year-old decided he doesn’t like chocolate, I made a decision. I made a choice, and we leave it at that. Or I tell them I’ve decided not to have it, and then they go back to eating their ice cream. And that’s the end of it. And more often than not, that’s what happens, they go back to their ice cream.

So, I will also tell you what I don’t do. I don’t talk about how ice cream is bad and it’s going to make me fat and I’m on a diet and I really want ice cream, but I can’t have it because I’m trying to lose weight and I’m trying to be good. No, I don’t make a big deal out of it, for myself or for my kids. I don’t catastrophize and say, “Woe is me; I can’t have this. I want it, but I can’t,”

There’s no ‘can’t’ here, no. I made a choice. I decided I’m not having ice cream. That is not the same as “I can’t, or I shouldn’t have it,” those are very, very different. Okay? And that’s just it. When you’re deciding the message to send to your kids, I want you to do it from a place of empowerment.

This is not about strong-arming yourself through the misery of watching your kids eat ice cream while you’re doing everything you can to use willpower and deny yourself ice cream. No, that is not it at all. Instead, when you do your work, you will be able to make that decision from a clean place. Where you’ve decided ahead of time that ice cream does not fit in with your goals today. And you’re choosing not to have it; nothing more, nothing less.

If you make a big deal about your choice, your kids will too. If you don’t make a big deal about it, neither will your kids. So, decide what kind of message you want to send to them and do that. And that’s it. I don’t make it into a big deal. I don’t insert any drama into it.

I know this may stir up a lot of opinions. And there are some people who might think I’m teaching my kids to feel guilty about having ice cream, or I’m just furthering diet mentality by not having ice cream. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as practicing moderation, and exerting my choice. I don’t make it mean anything more than that. I want my kids to learn moderation.

And so, we do that in a few different ways. First, we don’t go out for ice cream all the time, because I don’t want that to be the norm. I want to teach them that treats are fun. And getting ice cream is fine, but we don’t do it all the time. And second, I want them to learn moderation. Who else is going to teach them moderation except me and my husband?

I don’t make it mean that my choice to not have ice cream is teaching my kids to deprive themselves. Here’s why, because I’m not depriving myself. I’m making a choice that I feel good about. That’s it. If I acted all deprived, and made a big issue of it and brought in the drama, then yes, I could see how they would get the wrong message from me.

But instead, I’m not deprived. I am just fine without the ice cream. And that is a huge difference. All right? So, along the same lines as ice cream, I want to dive into this next one for a minute.

The other big food thought error that I run into, is actually not related to food, but instead alcohol. For many of you, alcohol is a key factor in your inability to lose weight. And most commonly, the thought error I see comes up is this: It’s not normal to not drink when I’m out at a dinner and all my friends are drinking. And again, my answer to that will be, “Says who?”

I want to share what most commonly comes up when I talk through this with a client. I had exactly this come up just a few weeks ago. My client was explaining that she has a number of work dinners with her colleagues, and it is not uncommon that one or more bottles of wine are ordered and show up at the table.

She was explaining that it didn’t feel right to her to not be drinking while all the rest of her colleagues were. And when I asked why, she explained that she was worried what they would think of her. And then I took a little further and asked, “What are you worried they’re thinking?” And she answered, “That I am a dud.” Okay, so, so interesting.

Here’s where I’m going with this. So, what happens if your coworkers think you’re a dud? What is the worst that happens? You feel something, right? You feel something. And I would argue then, unless they tell you this outright, you really have no idea what your coworkers are thinking of you, right?

Unless they are being 100% honest and blunt with you, or unless you are a mind reader, you really don’t know what other people are thinking about you. You have no idea what other people are thinking, if you choose not to have a drink. Sure, I guess they could be thinking you’re a dud. But they could also be thinking, “I wish I could be more like her and make that decision.” We really have no idea.

With that in mind, do you want to act in a way that you think will win the approval of your colleagues or your friends or whomever you’re with? Or do you want to act in a way that is in integrity with yourself and uphold the commitment you’re making to yourself, and take the risk that someone might have an opinion of you? Which do you choose? Whose opinion of you matters more, yours or your coworkers?

The other fascinating thing I will point out about this is, that often what we are worried that other people are thinking about us, is what we are actually already thinking about ourselves. So, I had another client who was hosting a party and his friends really liked to drink. We were talking through his approach to this party and how he wanted to handle himself.

He was having a really hard time with what might happen if he decided not to drink. He shared that he was worried his friends would think he wouldn’t be any fun if he stopped drinking. And when we really dug into this, we were able to pick apart that it was actually my client who was worried that he wouldn’t be as fun with his friends if he decided not to drink at his party.

This gave us the opportunity to talk about who he was becoming, by making all of the positive changes he was making for himself. And how he was living into this new identity. And that part of that new identity was to be someone who didn’t drink.

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating, when you change your habits, you change who you are becoming. I was able to help my client see the connection that he was making between being someone who drinks and being fun. And it was once we were able to make that connection that we could question it.

So again, some of my most favorite questions to ask about these and other thought errors are: Is it true? So, is it true that in order to be fun, he has to drink? No, of course not. But he had to believe that to be true for himself. First, he had to believe that it was possible that he could still be fun around his friends without alcohol.

And then second: Is it helpful? No. Thinking, “My friends won’t think I’m fun if I’m not drinking,” that is certainly not helpful. My client thinking that he won’t be any fun if he’s not drinking? Not helpful. And that’s the whole point here. Your thought errors around food are generally neither true, nor are they helpful.

These four thought errors are some of the most common ones I see, and they’re getting you nowhere. Okay, so to review the four common beliefs related to food that are keeping you stuck. First, “When I go out to eat, I’ll get whatever I want.” Again, if you are someone who eats out often, this can be a big problem.

Next, “My food should be exciting.” Next, “I can’t not get ice cream with my kids.” And last, “It’s not normal to skip drinks if all of my friends are drinking.” So, I know that these are four very specific examples of beliefs around food. And I know there are many others, so here’s some other examples of thoughts about food that might be keeping you stuck:

I will feel left out if I don’t have what they’re having. Everyone overeats. I should be able to eat whatever I want. Cutting back is not normal. Food is pleasure.

So again, I want to make this clear, you can enjoy your food. But if you are constantly looking for food to provide you with pleasure, you’re going to have trouble having a balanced relationship with yourself, with your body, and with food. And my point here, by bringing up these examples, is to reiterate that the most important tool you have to change your eating, is your thinking. Okay?

That’s why it’s “eat, move, think” always. They are entirely intertwined. Your thoughts create your beliefs around food. If you want to change the way you eat, the first step in the process is changing the way you think about food.

In my earlier example, if you think it’s normal that every meal ends with dessert, it will only make sense that you want sweets. It will make sense when you have major resistance to changing this behavior. That’s why it is essential to examine the thoughts that are driving your behaviors, and then ask those two key questions: Is it true? Is it fact? Is it true that every meal must end in dessert? And then, is it helpful? How does it help me or hurt me to think that every meal must end in dessert?

And it’s only when you’re willing to see your thoughts and own them and recognize that they are not the absolute truth, that then you can start to change them. But it means you have to be willing to change your beliefs about yourself and about food.

And while this work is most definitely not easy, I will tell you wholeheartedly that it is absolutely worth it. Because what happens when you do this, food starts to lose power over you. So, whereas before, you might feel compelled to have dessert every day or that every meal out is reason to go off the chain or if your friends are drinking, you have to drink, you might start to see things a little differently.

You realize that you can think differently, and practice thinking different thoughts. Thoughts like, “I’m choosing not to have dessert today. I don’t have to go all out on my food just because I’m at a restaurant. I don’t have to drink just because my friends are drinking.”

Do you see the difference here? It’s about making an empowered choice based on your powerful thoughts. If you want to permanently change the way you eat, you have to first practice awareness of your thinking. Then you can work to change the way you think. And then go and take action to prove yourself correct.

And the result? You are in charge. You are in control of your food decisions. And that feels really good. All right? So, there it is. I hope this is helpful, and that some of these examples cause you to think about your own food thoughts.

What food thought errors are you holding on to that are keeping you stuck? What beliefs about food are not serving you? Are your thoughts true? Are they kind? And most importantly, are you willing to choose different thoughts that will give you a different outcome?

This right here, this is the work. This is not an app, or counting points, or following an eating window. This is changing your mindset, and it’s essential. And if you want help with this, let’s talk.

So, this is just another component of what I do with the women and men I coach. We find out what your thought errors are around food. And then, we question them in a kind way so that you can take ownership over your thinking, and ultimately your eating. It is most definitely a powerful process, and it will last you longer than any diet. So, check out my website, go to www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact and tell me where you’re getting stuck. Then let’s get to work and change it. All right?

Thank you again for hanging out with me and I will catch you again next week.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know, making that change starts with how you think. And that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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