“You are fat and will never run a mile!” “Why do you even try? You are a loser!” “You have got to get your eating under control! Why can’t you just stop eating sugar?” “How could you eat that donut?” “You blew it! Eat as much as you want today because tomorrow the diet begins, fatso!”
If you have ever heard these comments directed at you, then you most likely heard them coming from a voice in your own head. Professionals in the field of eating disorders call that voice the Negative Mind, and it hurts you as an individual, and as an athlete, more than you may realize.
It doesn’t matter whether it is an internal or external dialogue that you are being abused by. What do you think happens when you repeatedly tell yourself that you are fat? Whether or not you are actually fat, you are going to behave as if you are, and you are going to believe that you are. Your thoughts define the reality that you live with…make a choice to create a better reality for yourself!
“Whether you think you can
or whether you think you can’t,
– Henry Ford
So, if you are causing your reality to be the way it is because of how you speak to yourself, how do you change it? How do you manifest a body that you love and in the process develop a positive relationship with food? First you need to become aware of your internal dialogue, and then you start practicing the “Thumper Principle.”
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”
– Thumper (Bambi’s Friend)
Take some time to silence your Negative Mind. One of my clients found it beneficial to open a closet door and – figuratively, of course – leave her Negative Mind there for the day. If she ever heard her Negative Mind speaking to her during the day, she would say, “How did you get out?” and she would put it back in the closet and continue practicing the Thumper Principle.
After you have practiced the Thumper Principle for a while, it will be important for you to start speaking to yourself with a kind and nurturing voice. Think of how you would speak to a child, a friend, or a student. Instead of saying, “You are fat and will never run a mile.” Say, “Everybody is beautiful. Some things just take time, patience and practice. You will get there.” Whether or not you totally believe what you are saying does not matter … what matters is that you are saying it, and that you have quieted your Negative Mind.
Some people go so far as to create a positive mantra for themselves, especially if their Negative Mind is highly invasive. Twenty years ago, when I was recovering from Anorexia and needed to buy myself food, instead of allowing my Negative Mind to say, “You can’t buy that, it has too many calories. You can’t buy that either because it has too much fat. Blah, blah, blah!” I would drown out the Negative Mind by saying, “I can eat anything I want; it really doesn’t matter. Everything is okay.” I would repeat it like a song while I was in the grocery store. Cheesy? Possibly. But it works.
So, what does the Negative Mind have to do with nutrition? Actually, a lot! The way you speak to yourself permeates how you feed and care for your body. If you are actively listening to, and believing, your Negative Mind then you are probably not paying attention to your body. You may be completely unaware of what it needs because all of your attention is focused on managing your food intake through degrading comments. You may be feeding yourself too much, or too little. You may be missing a lot of the nutrients that your body needs. Listening to, and honoring, your body’s needs and preferences is the key to attaining a natural and healthy body that you truly love.
Until the next issue, pay attention to how you speak to yourself, and notice if the Negative Mind is the strongest voice in your head. Practice the Thumper Principle – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. After that, practice speaking to yourself with a kind and nurturing voice. This process is simple, but not easy; things that truly matter seldom are.
Rebekah Hennes is a dietitian who has taught intuitive eating to people with unnatural eating habits since 1998. She is in private practice in Culver City. Rebekah is the author of several books on eating disorders and intuitive eating. She was a contributor to the “Eating Disorder Sourcebook”, 3rd Edition, and a reviewer of the American Dietetic Association position paper on Eating Disorders. Rebekah pioneered the Intuitive Food Program at the Center for Change in 1999.
Got a question about food and health? Send it to Crossroads, and we will be happy to help. You can reach Rebekah at firstname.lastname@example.org.