I got a text from a friend who was coming over to try my White Chicken Chili and a few other things to see if she really did like the food on GAPS after agreeing that it would be something worth trying for just a week to see how it goes. She has been struggling with health and mood problems for years. Not just slightly struggling, but overwhelmingly having her life consumed by being in a state of blah. It has been affecting her work, her family, and her own enjoyment of life. She understood GAPS, how it could help, and had even seen the difference that it’s made in my family first hand.
But the text said, “I hung up with you and then I drove through McDonalds and had 2 cheeseburgers. At least I didn’t have fries. But I don’t think I can do this!”
That got me thinking.
Most of the people who email me are the ones who are already starting dietary intervention, either for themselves or for their children. So I hear with the struggles of keeping on the diet: Figuring out why a certain protocol isn’t working, the cost of not being able to eat rice, oatmeal, or potatoes, or explaining to teachers and friends why you don’t want your kids to be offered cookies or crackers.
You who have already started – even if it’s something like removing all food dye or wheat – you are 80% there! You’ve overcome the thought patterns that say:
- It’s just food.
- Diet really won’t make a difference anyway, I need a ‘real’ cure.
- But I LIKE being able to eat whatever I want.
- Food is one of the pleasures of life, don’t deny that to me.
- But what will I eat?
- Don’t tell me what to do.
- Just a little won’t hurt.
- You only live once!
What is the 80/20 Principal?
80% of the gain comes from 20% of the effort. (more info)
When we apply this principal to making a dietary change, 80% of the effort is mental.
Once we’ve accepted the hard 80%:
- That we can’t eat whatever we want and still feel good.
- That just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
- That ‘have it your way’ really isn’t doing us any good. It’s just a clever marketing ploy that cleverly sells hamburgers by feeding the ego.
We can move onto the effective 20%:
- Food is fuel for our brain and body.
- Healthy food is worth prioritizing our time and effort on.
- Food that is good for us does taste good (even if the TV isn’t telling us it does).
Why is the psychological aspect so hard for us?
When we look objectively at the idea of food, and then how we see food emotionally in our culture, there are so many things that don’t line up.
- We’ve been subject to advertising that chants that we deserve to have whatever we want. And then conveniently places their low-nutrition high-profit food as being exactly what we should want.
- Our food supply is filled with additives and processing methods that change food into an addictive substance.
- We’ve been raised in a culture where this highly addictive processed food is used to shown love and care. When a candy bar releases “love chemicals”, we enjoy giving treats to those we love, knowing that they will (temporarily) make them feel good. This has created a whole social scene that revolves around junk food.
- We’ve been raised in an era where corn and soy get subsidies from the government, so unhealthy processed food is artificially cheap. We value ‘economy’ over prioritizing food spending.
- The microbiome-picky eating connection actually has our gut telling our brain to eat what is healthy for those bacteria, not our bodies!
What ways can we overcome the psychological aspect of diet changes?
Making a change in your habits or lifestyle is always hard.
For those who are parents, think back to 5 years before you had children. Did you ever think that you could willingly get up every 4 hours and then get up for the day at 6 a.m. every day all day?
No, at 18 I certainly didn’t think I could function without my sleep.
Did you realize you could be paying attention to 3 things at once, while still getting work done?
Yet you can. As I write this I just told my 6-year-old to turn off the hose, I’m answering the pretend phone for the toddler and handing it back to him, and I’m half listening to my 9-year-old read a picture book. Parents have this sense, and it comes with practice and persistence.
Breaking down changes into manageable pieces
I’m not any different than anyone else, before we started eating healthy I ate the standard american diet. In high school I ate snickers bars, pringles, and diet pepsi daily. It drives me nuts to remember how many corn dogs and otter pops I ate while I was pregnant with my oldest.
But I made changes, and you can to!
The most effective ways to make a habit:
Start small. Don’t overhaul your diet completely (sometimes a 180 will work for people, but it will burn most people out). Just take out one thing – for instance food dye – and get practice reading labels, saying ‘no thanks’ in social situations, and saying ‘no’ to yourself occasionally. There are many many dye-free options, so this should not be difficult for most people, it will just take a small change in a few foods.
Limit your media. We all think that we’re not susceptible to marketing and advertising, but we really are. That’s why companies spend millions of dollars on advertising – it works. Skip TV, magazines, and anywhere else where you’re exposed to advertising as often as you can. Unfollow brands that don’t align with your goals like McDonalds and Pepsi on Facebook.
Give yourself a time limit. When we started GAPS I said we’d try it for 30 days, and after 30 days it made such a difference that there was no way I couldn’t continue it. Short term goals make things seem less overwhelming. If you commit to eating a certain way for 3 weeks, you can just keep telling yourself that you’ll have Cheetos, the cheeseburger, or a Pepsi at the end of October. It’s not saying ‘no’ forever, just temporarily.
(And here’s where you get to the easy part: At the end of those 3 weeks you’ll feel sick and blah when you eat those foods again, and you’ll realize they don’t even taste that good anyway.)
Make a list of what you can eat for easy reference. We live in an amazing time where tons of fresh food is available to us, focus on being thankful for what we can eat over negative feelings about what we can’t. For a list of what you can eat on GAPS click here.
Want more help?
For a free printable checklist of making simple healthy changes in 30 days, click here.
Great article, Cara. Thank you for your inspiring words! I needed to read that, as I was tempted to break my low-sugar diet with a little chocolate/honey/ghee mixture–I am on GAPS, but addicted to the sugar I can have. I also have to battle with my children’s school, who have treats or junk available almost every day. They bring home their junk candy, and we trade for an opportunity to watch a DVD, coins, or a homemade treat. Even though we’ve been doing this a while, reading what you wrote is a good pep talk to help continue…or at least try–one day at a time!