Never Eliminate. Replace.
When it comes to health and fitness, we tend to promote, encourage, and even believe in the “go big or go home” mentality. The “all or nothing.” The “cold turkey.” It’s the “no pain, no gain” mindset.
All too often when we finally decide to get healthy and fit, we believe that we have to suffer and give up everything we have known and loved. But, this has proven time and time again to result in binge eating and self-sabotage.
Change is hard, even good ones. We naturally seek comfort and familiarity, even if we know it’s unhealthy for us. So, the trick is REPLACING one thing with another, rather than trying to eliminate it all together.
For example, I love movie theater popcorn, and every time I went to the movies, I used to buy a large (Yes, that big ol’ bag that’s bigger than my head), super buttery bag all for myself (No, I don’t share). I have tried to eliminate this option before, and always ended up either giving in and buying one mid-movie, or getting a different and very unhealthy snack.
So, now I just buy a kid-size popcorn. While it is still super buttery and unhealthy, it is at least a much smaller portion. And, I only go to the movies about two or three times a year now anyway (#momlife).
I used to eat sweets when I was overly stressed, or if it was my time of the month. I tried to just not buy anymore sweets, thinking that if it’s not in my house, then the temptation would be gone. Wrong. I obsessed over the absence of my sweets. And, when the opportunity arose at the store or a restaurant, I would binge. Hardcore. It was like this inherent fear of, “I may NEVER get to eat this ever again!” I ended up consuming more sweets than before trying to quit.
So, I had to figure out a new replacement instead. I used fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth. I started with the sweetest ones, like apples and bananas. As it got easier, I started using watermelon and berries. And then, I started replacing some of the fruit with vegetables, like snow peas and carrots. Today, I no longer have the sweet tooth, nor the need to indulge during my time of the month.
When making healthy choices, think about what you are going to replace it with, not eliminate.
Instead of drinking soda, what will you replace it with? Maybe flavored sparkling water?
Instead of having white bread, maybe replace it with whole wheat.
Instead of going to the bar Friday night, maybe replace it with a night in learning a new home recipe with a friend or loved one.
The key is replacing one thing with a better choice, and not creating a void. Eliminating makes us feel like we are losing something, which then leads to obsessing and longing. Replacing, however, fills that void, and leads to better choices in the long run. One thing to consider, though, is doing less aggressive replacements, like my examples above. Sparkling orange water still has the carbonation and sweetness like soda, so there is some familiarity there, but it is also a better choice than soda. Maybe eventually, it could then just be regular water with freshly chopped up cucumbers and mint.
Small, methodical replacements leads to bigger, better, and more permanent positive changes.