Would you get in your car and start driving without any sense of where you’re going? Would you begin a home renovation project without any idea of what you want the finished product to look like?
And yet, this is basically what we’re doing every time we start another diet or make another promise to ourselves that we’ll eat better.
The truth is that, when it comes to our efforts to make healthy choices, we tend to spend an awful lot of time thinking about what we don't want but very little time thinking about what we do want.
We don’t want to have all these cravings. We don’t want to feel tired all the time. We don’t want to weigh this much.
But if we switch that around and really start thinking about what we do want, we begin to form a clear and compelling vision for the healthy body, lifestyle, and attitude we want to create. The result is a whole new energy and power propelling us toward our health goals. Here’s why:
Your brain is trickable.
Your brain isn’t very good at distinguishing between what’s real and what’s imaginary. This is why the placebo effect can completely upset a drug trial and why your heart pounds and you get sweaty when you watch a scary movie.
If your brain vividly imagines something to be true, it will send signals to your body to act as if it is real.
We can use this to our advantage when it comes to food and lifestyle choices because if you can clearly see and believe a vision of a vibrant and healthy you, your brain will believe it to be true and naturally begin to gravitate toward the choices and behaviors that more closely align with that vision.
You'll get the upper hand on cravings.
Let me give you two scenarios.
Imagine you’re at a birthday party and are presented with the choice of eating the ice cream cake, which is cool, sweet, and delicious, or not eating the ice cream cake because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” Obviously, the ice cream cake wins—hands down.
Now, what if you’re at that same birthday party and the choice is now between eating the delicious ice cream cake or making a different choice that will bring you one step closer to your amazing, exciting, to-die-for vision? Suddenly the ice cream cake doesn’t always win. You’ve stacked the deck a little bit in your favor.
So how do you go about creating a vision like this for yourself? Here's the two-step process that I’ve found to be most effective:
1. Start with words.
Since very few of us have spent any real time thinking about what we actually want to create for ourselves in terms of our relationship with food and our body, this can be a tricky exercise, and often people don’t know where to start.
For this reason, I always suggest starting with a simple list of words. Think of words that capture the way you truly want to feel. This could be words like vibrant, confident, flexible, energetic, proud, capable, sexy, healthy, strong, peaceful, grounded, in control, comfortable, excited, fulfilled, valuable, inspirational, etc. Make the list as long as you like.
2. Write a story.
Next, keep those words in mind as you begin to write a story. Start with a scenario that you’re already familiar with in which you tend to struggle with making healthy choices, such as family get-togethers, evening time after the kids are in bed, or being away on vacation.
Now, rewrite that scenario in the way that you would love for it to unfold. Take some time with this. Really engage all of your senses as you write this new story for yourself.
What do you hear, see, smell, and taste? What are the thoughts that go through your head? How do you feel about yourself and your body?
The more vivid the vision you create, the more powerful it’s going to be later in moving you toward the choices and behaviors that will most closely align with it.
Once you create a vivid and truly compelling vision for the vibrant, joyful, healthy life and body you want to create, it becomes your “North Star” as you navigate around a world of challenging food and lifestyle choices.