What’s Your Same Old Story?
Call your Wise Inner Parent to help you beat the deprivation-restriction cycle.
Trying to change your habits, you may be surprised to meet your “inner child”.
In the middle of learning to leave without old habits, our toddler selves might be pouting, saying “No! Mine!”, kicking our heels on the floor, and whining.
Waaaaaah! I wanna cookie!
Or, maybe our adolescent selves might be wanting to rebel, break rules, or shock imaginary parents who are, like, toooootally boring and stupid and don’t understand anything.
This sucks! You can’t tell me what to do! I’m eating candy anyway!
What’s your “same old story”?
If you notice your inner brat appearing sometimes, don’t worry.
It can often happen when you try to adjust to a “new normal” and try to break old habits.
In part, this is because we’re often making decisions about today, or tomorrow, based on old stories that we learned a long time ago.
We might have learned stories or scripts about how things “should” go, or how things have gone in the past.
Perhaps stories like this:
- In order to lose weight / be healthy, I have to deprive myself.
- This deprivation should be very strict. I have to make a lot of rules!
- These rules are “all or nothing”. If I break the rules, even just a little, then I am bad and “off plan”.
- Once I am “off plan”, then $%#! it!! I am eating whatever I want!
- Ugh. I feel awful. I am weak. I always fail. There is no hope for me.
- Wait… I probably need more rules.
- In order to lose weight / be healthy, I have to deprive myself further.
And so it goes.
Kind of a lousy story actually.
Relying on past stories and scripts to tell us how to act now rarely helps us.
This is especially true if we’re trying to change… because we’re now experimenting with something new.
One problem is that we can’t always use the past to predict the future.
Your story may have been written when you were 5, or 10, or 15. It may not be relevant now to you as an adult.
Plus, our brains selectively remember things.
We might remember the bad stuff (“I failed!”) and forget the good stuff (“I tried, and stuck with it”).
Or we might remember that something “worked” (like an extreme diet) when it actually didn’t.
Deprivation, restriction, and “food rules” seem like they should work. But they don’t.
There are many reasons why.
- You can’t bully nor belittle anyone into changing, including yourself. Being extra-strict and self-blaming (aka seeking deprivation) doesn’t work.
- Our bodies evolved mechanisms to prevent starvation. These mechanisms can shape our thoughts and feelings.
- Underlying this behavior is an assumption: I am deprived. I can “rebel” or “treat myself” with eating “forbidden foods”.
If you focus on all-or-nothing, deprivation-oriented thoughts such as I can never eat carbs or All carbs are bad, then you will be more likely to see carbs as the proverbial “forbidden fruit”.
Your inner child will throw a rebellious tantrum, and you may find yourself reaching defiantly for the sugar bowl.
How’s that old story working for you?
Time to try something else?
Luckily, we also carry an inner Wise Grownup around with us.
This is the part of your brain that solves problems, understands cause and effect, thinks about long-term consequences, and acts like a good parent.
Client Kym with her nieces
Just like a good caregiver knows when their child needs a nap or is cranky and overstimulated after a long day of activities, your grownup brain can recognize, calm, and comfort your kid brain.
Experiment with a fresh new story.
Next time you catch yourself thinking $%#! you, I’m eating the cake! or Me want a treat! stop for a second, and tap in to that caring, supportive Wise Inner Grownup.
- How old am I right now? (In other words, am I feeling like a toddler who wants a treat or a rebellious teenager?)
- What would my Wise Inner Grownup do or say right now?
Hopefully … your inner caregiver would be kind, loving and compassionate, but honest and firm. They wouldn’t let you over-restrict or harm yourself, but they wouldn’t let you get away with shenanigans either.
(They might also sit down with you for a compassionate, curious chat to figure out how you’re feeling, and what you need right now.)
Especially if you’re a parent role modeling for your kids … why not start by being your own Wise Inner Parent?
Today, try writing yourself a new, grownup story…
A new story without harsh rules and punishment.
A story that’s full of love, wisdom, and compassion.
A story where you sense in to what your body wants and needs, rather than relying on “rules”.
A story that takes you where you want to go, following the gentle guidance of your own Wise Inner Parent.
What are your “same old stories” about food, eating, and your body?
What’s your script for how you think this “should” work?
- Do you expect to feel deprived?
- Do you make strict rules or stringent plans?
- Do you deny yourself certain foods, but then rebound later on?
- Do you engage in all-or-nothing thinking?
- Does your inner dialogue about food make you sound younger than 18?
- Do you criticize yourself harshly?
How is that script or story working for you?
How does it help you? What does it give you?
How does it work against you?
If you tell yourself that script or story for the next 20 years, what might happen?
What happens if you write down or record that script or story?
Try writing down your thoughts and scripts about food, eating, and your body. Then read them. Or dictate to your phone or computer, then play it back.
Seeing our thoughts in writing, or hearing them out loud, can be powerful.
Once you see your stories “on paper” or hear them… does it change your perspective?
Test your stories and “inner voice” assumptions. Is each story completely true, all of the time? How do you know for sure?
What story would you like to have? What could be different?
Stories often start with a prompt, like “Once upon a time…”
What happens if you start a new story with “Hey buddy…”?
Or “Once there was a person who was trying really hard, and ran into some obstacles…”
Write In Your Journal
What’s one familiar script you tell yourself about food, eating, and/or your body?
How’s that script working for you?
Put on your Wise Inner Caregiver hat. Give your inner child some loving advice. What would you say to yourself to help yourself stay on track today?