How much time do you spend thinking about food & weight?
I heard a talk recently on something called “inappropriate attention” (….no…it’s not what you are thinking…keep reading!) That is when we spend a disproportionate amount of our time thinking about something and playing up its good (or bad) qualities to the point we have an unbalanced view of the situation. The best example of this is when you are in a new relationship and you are so smitten with the other person that you spend loads of time daydreaming about that person, playing up all of their good qualities and how amazing they are and ignoring or downplaying all of their bad qualities. On the flip side, if you are angry with someone you likely do the reverse. You play up every single thing they’ve ever done to hurt and upset you, spend hours replying the conversation in your head (what they said and what you wish you had said in return) and you conveniently “forget” about all of the times they were thoughtful and kind.
As I was listening to this talk, I wondered how many people have “inappropriate attention” around food and their weight? How many people spend hours each day entering every single thing they’ve eaten into My Fitness Pal, reading articles in the media about the latest and greatest craze to lose weight, looking through cookbooks, daydreaming about what they are going to eat for their next meal and criticising themselves and feeling guilty over what they ate last? How many people spend a disproportionate amount of time daydreaming about how their life will be different when they achieve a certain weight – how suddenly they believe they will find the perfect partner, their issues at work will resolve themselves and life will just become all rainbows and sunshine?
And here comes the most important question of all….is spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about food and weight helpful? Is it making your life happier?
Of course the automatic reply that I assume will come to mind is, “I will be happy when I’m thin. I have to work hard now, put the effort in now, so that I can be happy and enjoy the fruits of my labour at a later time.” Maybe. But doesn’t it seem a bit ironic that in a quest to achieve happiness by being “thin,” so many people make themselves completely and utterly miserable in the process? Having to “control themselves” all of the time, eat food they don’t find particularly enjoyable, avoid social situations they want to go to, do exercise they don’t like…under the mistaken belief that unhappiness in the short term will lead to happiness later on.
Have you heard the expression, “Where your attention goes, energy flows”? Attention (or what you spend time thinking about) is interesting because you can only truly pay attention to one thing at a time. So as you are reading this post, you likely aren’t paying attention to how the fabric of your shirt feels against your skin. Your brain has filtered out that information as not being important. So then while you are spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about how much you weigh or what you are going to eat, what is your brain filtering out as not being important? If you are spending time thinking about how big your belly or your thighs are, you won’t be thinking about how grateful you are for the amazing things your body can do – that you can see and enjoy the flowers and the sunshine, hug someone when they are sad, run to catch the bus or carry a child in your arms. If you are thinking about how many macros are in your meal, you are not thinking about how much you enjoy the taste or how that food is going to nourish your body and give you the energy to work, play and socialise. If you are thinking about how many calories you are burning on the treadmill, you are not thinking about how grateful you are that your legs work and that you are even able to walk.
So I urge you to try out a different way of thinking (even if it is just for today). Maybe your weight or what you are eating doesn’t need to change at all. Perhaps what needs to change is your perspective…and what you pay attention to.
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