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Outside your Comfort Zone: how to find freedom

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One of the challenges I consistently encounter is that the restrictions of a diet allow you to ignore underlying issues. It doesn’t matter whether those are emotions, health issues or just relationships that need attention.

Following someone else’s rules hides the fact that you seek out food as a panacea for life’s challenges.

  • Are you feeling angry? Stuff it down by eating something!
  • Need comforting? Grab the ice cream.
  • Are you feeling tired? Scoff down an energy bar or drink.

But, are you living if you are ignoring underlying issues? If you’re angry: what are you frustrated or feeling powerless to change? When you need comforting, who could you call? Do you need a hug or to focus on loving yourself? If you feel tired, do you need more rest and better sleep? Is a change of lifestyle actually in order so that you no longer feel constantly tired?

If you escape the confines of diet, size and weight, you begin to experience life with all the highs and lows. Most of us never develop this level of self-awareness. It’s an uncomfortable place to explore, requiring that we dive into each of our triggers and emotional responses.

What does emotional eating allow you to hide from view?

outside your comfort zone, ditch the diet, face the feelings, Beth Gray, coaching, healthy living, lifestyle choices, compassion, courage, creativity

Habits & lifestyles

We are not merely human beings – we are human ‘becomings ‘. Each habit that we adopt, whatever it might be, forms, and shapes our future self.  Eating is a daily practice that shapes us, not just physically!

Exercising choice when you eat

Every time we sit down to eat, we face choices.

Awareness and mindfulness

The first is whether we will practice awareness and mindfulness of our body, our environment and our internal state (emotional or mental).

Practising awareness can be uncomfortable if we customarily move through life focused on stimulus, rather than our internal response.  This includes noticing whether we are hungry or whether we are eating for any other reason.

If we are not hungry, will we still choose to eat? Or will we honour the message from our body and wait until it requires food?

How do you eat?

Secondly, we face a choice of how we eat.

We control our environment to some extent: will I choose to honour “rest and digest” or will I continue in a stimulated (fight & flight) zone of doing while trying to eat.

Our bodies do much better when we sit and dedicate time exclusively to eating because we send the subconscious message that it is time to rest and digest the food. The great thing about physical hunger – as opposed to a craving – is that we might decide not to eat yet in a state of activity.

Sometimes, it is better to wait until we can sit down to eat in peace and tranquillity. Will waiting thirty minutes or an hour mean that you are less stressed when you sit down to eat?

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What do you eat?

Thirdly, what will we eat?

Food should fill our senses and not just our stomach. It should be our nutrition and energy, as well as a source of joy and enjoyment. Do you enjoy how your food makes you feel: are you enjoying aroma, taste and texture? How does it make you feel thirty minutes or two hours later? Do you regret the choice later?

Our bodies regularly give us feedback about the food we choose. Feedback includes:

  • clarity of mind or foggy brain
  • lethargy and tiredness
  • energy levels
  • the ability (or not) to sleep deeply regularly
  • feeling crowded or full shortly after eating
  • gassiness or bloated
  • light and easy

Stop and get moving

Finally, we face the choice of when to stop eating and return to activity. This choice requires the same level of internal awareness that we started with.

  • Am I honouring my body by stopping my eating before feeling crowded or full? Have I listened to what my body has to say about “enough”?
  • How do I feel physically, emotionally and mentally?
  • Am I ready to get back to movement and activity, or do I need to rest for a few more minutes?

Every choice influences what we become

Our relationship with food is merely a reflection of our relationship with self. When you feel love and compassion for yourself, you make better choices for your body.

Do I choose to honour and respect myself in the way that I eat and drink?

The habit of how, when, and where we choose to eat impacts every aspect of life, including:

  • how productive you are
  • your energy levels after eating and while digesting
  • choices about exercise and movement
  • whether or not you can sleep deeply and well every night
  • the relationships that you have (do they have the same eating habits that you have?)
  • the activities that you can carry out.

All of your day-to-day choices impact your health and wellness.

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The challenge to get outside your comfort zone

One of the problems with comfort zones is that they become familiar. Take a moment now to note your comfort zone when it comes to food and eating. Do you sit down to eat, or are you eating on the run?

Are you comfortable following a diet that someone else has set, which controls things like:

  • portion size;
  • calorie intact;
  • types of food that you are allowed to eat; or
  • when you are allowed to eat.

One of the reasons that comfort zones work is that they allow us to be more effective and efficient. Great comfort zones will enable you to dive deeply into developing yourself.  As you work within your comfort zone, you grow – taller & with deeper roots.

The question is: are you growing and developing within this comfort zone that you’ve built?

“Unless you do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Caged-in by your comfort zone

What happens when nothing new is happening?

If we stay too long in any position, our muscles start to atrophy.  If your leg went to sleep while you were sitting down, you would get up and move around and shake it until it was completely awake and all the blood had come back to all nerves and movement was fluid once more.

Why would you not do this with your life?

At that point, ask yourself – am I still on the top of my game? Am I innovating in my life, health and well-being – moving with the changing climate & conditions?

When we have success (as we have when we start a new diet), there is the temptation to think we’ve done enough.  But is this keeping us on top of our health and getting to know yourself better?

The consequences of staying put

What happens if you stay on a diet? You atrophy.

It’s much like only doing one exercise or one workout. The muscles get used to that movement and stop developing. Change is often a good thing!

And if you manage to lose the weight you wanted (or you get bored or stop getting results), you go back to life as it was before the diet. Before you know it, you’ve started to put the weight back on and lose the physical conditioning that you had gained by being on the strict regime.

Nothing changed within.

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For the change to be effective: you have to change!

If you’ve lived continuously by someone else’s rules, when you stop, you find yourself in limbo – in a space that no longer works effectively.

If we are not living & developing, we are withering.   It doesn’t matter how big or how old the sequoia is in the forest – if it stops growing, it is dying!

Is it time to get to know yourself, your body and your triggers to grow beyond where you are?

Getting outside your comfort zone

Start by considering three words:

  • compassion,
  • creativity, and
  • courage.

If you lived with deep compassion for yourself and others in your life, what choices would you make about eating and drinking? How would you choose to love and respect your body each day?

Is the way that you are living life at the moment supporting your creativity? For example, if you overeat and are always tired and lethargic after a meal, is your creativity being stifled by brain fog? If you are living on a diet, are you feeling constantly hungry and unable to get in flow? How does your lifestyle support creativity in the ways that it shows up for you?

Finally, do you have the courage to love yourself as you are today? To truly get to know yourself in a way that allows you to make changes? What does moving forward with courage in your life look like?

To get outside your comfort zone, you will need to ditch the diet of the rules you’ve been living by and face the feelings about everything that comes up in life! If food was not available: what would you have to face?

This is where you will find your freedom to grow. It will be uncomfortable, but undoubtedly worth it.

Choosing opportunities – identify your vision and values.

If you want to ditch the diet, I’d suggest you start with identifying your values and vision. This creates the opportunity to be the best version of you – a human becoming!

The person that will change your life is you!

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If you want to live without rules, then you need a guiding light that you create.

  • What do you want?
  • Why do you want it?
  • How will you get it?

For me, for example, I want to be in excellent health because I have a 7-year-old daughter. I want to have the energy and physical strength to keep up with her in the years to come. I’m not looking to have a great beach body that others praise and admire: instead, I’m looking at stamina, health and well-being. That is my why, and it influences the questions of what and how I go about creating this.

If you take away the diet and restrictions: what do you want and why do you want it?

What do you want to have? be? do? create?

“Are you motivated? Are you coherent? Is your intention aligned? Are you feet, tongue, heart & wallet congruent?  That intention shines through.”

― Peter Guber

Use hunger as your compass.

There is no need to be afraid of feelings of hunger or cravings, especially when you learn to differentiate physical hunger (needing food and nutrients) from another hunger or craving.

Like any other emotion, hunger can be resourceful or unresourceful.

  • How will you choose to use your hunger? Do you let it guide your respect for yourself and your body?
  • Will you allow it to be a compass that shows you the way? Do you listen to what it shows you?
  • Are you hungry to create, to move or to have? Perhaps you’re hungry for knowledge and learning. On the hand, it might be a hunger to satisfy your curiosity.
  • What satisfies you in life?
  • What do you need in your life to have energy and vitality?

Support moving forward

Start by looking at who is supporting you. One of the reasons that diets and personal trainers work is because you have someone supporting you and providing you with accountability.

If you choose to live without a diet, you need that very same support and network that will allow you to discover yourself!

  • Which members of your family or friends can support you and help as you move through this?
  • Do you have a mentor or coach that will ask you the right questions?
  • Do you have a professional adviser to turn to when you lack information? This might be a nutritionist, dietician or even a health coach. They will think in terms of rules and diets (most likely), but explain to them what you are looking to create for yourself and find the right one that supports the journey.
  • How will you discover what you are hungry for?

As you move outside your comfort zone, regularly check that you are receiving the support you need.

Ready to move outside your comfort zone?

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How to ditch the diet for more love and respect

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There is only one expert in your body. YOU. 

A nutritionist can tell you how many calories a portion may have – but only you know how much energy you have after eating! A food that may be “good for you” might cause you bloating and discomfort. You are the one that is aware of the effects.

If you choose to ditch the diet, you decide to enjoy all food that your body thrives with. Not because someone else tells you what is right for you: but because you love and respect your body enough to listen to how it responds.

What is a “diet”?

Take your pick of online dictionaries to look up: 

“A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons”
“The kind and amount of food prescribed for a person for a special reason”

But who does the prescribing of what course of food you will restrict yourself to? The person that created the diet prescribes.  How well does THAT PERSON know your body? When you are on a diet, you have handed over the control and power to another person.

If you don’t have control and power to decide, are you responsible for the outcome?

How much love and respect for yourself are you building up as you unconsciously hand over the control to an external source?

Whether you are following a particular diet or counting calories, the restrictions are always external measurements. Never internal. They don’t indicate how well you feel, whether you easily digest that portion of food, and whether the amount is truly right for you at the moment you eat it.

In most cases, a diet is always time-bound. We’re looking for that “end date” — as soon as I finish this diet I’ll be able to go back to eating whatever I want.

But what happens when we finish the diet is that we go back to the same choices we were making before. We haven’t learned the skills of healthy eating. And we haven’t honestly dealt with the cause, only some of the symptoms.

Which one of these diets have you tried?

It doesn’t matter how far back we go; we find a culture of diets and external rules and restrictions. Some of these are amusing, if not down-right frightening.

The fad diets of the ’70s

Who would have guessed that some of the diets that we see around today were around in the ’70s?

  • The Master Cleanse – also known as the Lemonade Diet
  • Cookie diet (I want to know what this was!)
  • Total Starvation (seriously? I will not look this one up!)
  • Diet pills
  • The grapefruit diet (seems to show up every decade)
  • The Sexy Pineapple diet (yum! And it’s sexy! And we know what pineapple does for us.)
  • Israeli Army diet (which has nothing to do with the Israeli army!)
  • Last Chance Diet
  • 7-day Milk Diet (I’m guessing that the milk industry was behind this!)
  • The Sugar diet (wow! When they considered sugar to be an appetite suppressant)
  • And my personal favourite – the Wine & Egg diet. Seriously. Wine. Eggs. Coffee. What more does a girl require?

And then we get to the fads of the ’80s

  • The Cabbage Soup diet
  • Cottage Cheese diet
  • Beverly Hills diet
  • Elizabeth Taylor diet
  • Hello Jenny Craig!
  • Fit for Life diet
  • Liquid diets (protein shakes)

What do we see happening in the ’90s?

  • Low-fat foods diet
  • Ornish diet (whoever he was)
  • Atkins diet
  • South Beach diet (wonder how that was different to the Beverly Hills diet?)
  • Blood types diet
  • Natural hygiene diet (basically prolonged fasting, different from intermittent fasting and at least not the starvation diet!)
  • Fen-Phen pills
  • The Zone diet
  • The Sugar Busters diet (at least they weren’t using sugar any more as an appetite suppressant)
  • Liquid diets
  • Nice to see you back again Cabbage Soup diet

I don’t think I need to continue – you are probably starting to see the trends!

Everyone has a solution. Restrict this. Eat that. Pay me, and I’ll tell you how to lose 20-pounds before summer so that you can look great at that family gathering.

Do you have one diet for summer and ditch it for the holidays?

We spend all this time, money and energy to lose weight and look good for moments during the year. Often, we try to impress people that we can’t stand, but somehow give their opinion of our size and weight importance.

Do you really care what Uncle Frank thinks of how you look in that dress?

We put all this stress and strain on ourselves with the restrictions.

But how about facing the triggers of why we eat.

How triggered were you during COVID lockdown and “stay-at-home”?  What steps did you take to address the emotions? Or did you simply eat them and stuff them down?

Restricting the food does not address the underlying emotional issues of why you are eating more than what your body requires.

So, summer arrives or a special holiday and we work ourselves into an emotional mess of how to handle those days when you simply forget the diet.

  • Is it a cheat day?
  • Perhaps you’re making a plan for how to stick to your diet with all of the family and work gatherings that you have.
  • Just say no to all those invitations, because you didn’t want to see them anyway?
  • Perhaps you should just take your food and make everyone else feel bad while you eat healthily and they gorge themselves.
  • Or why not just partake of a liquid diet from the liquor cabinet – it probably has fewer calories.

And when it’s over, you beat yourself up, because you should have just ditched the diet and indeed taken care of yourself!

Rather than try to keep up to some external standard of good food / bad food – why not start to take the opportunity to get in touch with yourself and make your own rules about how to live your life and rewrite your relationship with food?

Ditch the diet so that you can feel good about yourself.

Could you handle no diet – no restrictions and no rules? How would it feel to be entirely responsible for your health and wellbeing? Could you be guided by internal cues, rather than external rules?

The Ditch-the-Diet Program will teach you to examine and analyze in many ways, including:

  • How does this food make me feel?
  • Does it give me energy or make you sluggish?
  • Do I feel light after eating it, or was it too heavy?
  • Does it make me bloated or gassy? How does my digestive system respond to it?
  • Can I think better after eating this or do you get brain fog?
  • How am I sleeping at night? Do my eating habits impact my sleep patterns?

But ditching the diet is more than just internal mindfulness about how your body digests and responds to the food. There is also the aspect of being present with:

  • Why am I eating?
  • Do I enjoy eating here, like this? The setting and environment? The people I am with? The presentation of the food?
  • Your thoughts and emotions – not just about the food, but the whole eating experience.

Ditch the diet out of respect for your body

I encourage you to consider the possibility of reclaiming your power over your relationship with food.

In the short term, this is harder than any diet! But, the rewards, in the long run, are priceless!

Ditching the diet allows you to ditch all the external control factors:

  • Counting calories
  • Excluding one food group
  • External numbers such as size or weight
  • Labelling of food as “good” or “bad.”

This allows you to adopt a new relationship with your body.

Exercise your power: ditch the diet.

Notice both your internal and external environment before you eat. What are the factors and motivation for eating and to stop eating?

  • Why am I eating?
    • Because I’m hungry
    • It’s time to eat (external)
    • I’m tired and need energy (do you need to eat or do something else to get your energy levels up?)
    • I’m bored or upset (does eating resolve the core issue, or simply stuff it away?)
    • Peer pressure and social (external)
  • How am I eating?
    • Relaxed
    • Tense
    • In a hurry or on the run
    • Pressured
  • What am I eating?
    • Is this what I want?
      • Do I enjoy it?
      • Does it taste good?
      • How does it make me feel as I digest it?
    • Does my body need it?
      • Am I hungry?
      • Is this what my stomach wants?
  • How much am I eating?
    • Who decides?
      • My eyes?
      • Perhaps my tongue and taste buds – pleasure sensors?
      • Or my stomach and digestive tract?
  • When do I stop?
    • Have I had enough?
    • When I ran out of time?
    • Because I got interrupted?

How you do anything is how you do everything.

They say that if you fix your relationship with money, most other things in life will fall into place for you. I would say that the same is true for your relationship with food.

If you can get honest with yourself about your relationship with food, and how you are using food to swallow your emotions, or numb pain, or pad some feelings — then you will be mindful of all the other areas of life where you are making similar choices.

Ditching the diet may be the best decision you EVER made – because you start to get real! Rather than having someone else call the shots for you, you take back your power.

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