There IS such a thing as too many choices... and it's making you want to diet.

If you aren't familiar with the term "The Paradox of Choice" please allow me to provide a grossly over-simplified definition:

When you have more choices, say with menu items or mutual funds, you will not only be less likely to make a decision at all, but when and if you do, you will be significantly less satisfied with your choice afterwards.

(Barry Schwartz wrote a book of the same name and then gave a very popular Ted Talk)

This ideology is often discussed in marketing meetings and Wall Street circles, but how does it pertain to the health and wellness industry? Or to the idea of food and diet?

Quite honestly, I see the 'paradox of choice' VERY clearly displayed day after day, in my own life, and in the lives of my clients.

Think about it.

 

When you could literally choose to eat anything, at any time, in almost any place, the weight of that choice becomes almost unbearable (whether you realize it consciously or not). 

I assume that those who are reading this right now do indeed have access to nearly anything they could desire to eat:

  • Bananas in January in Minnesota? Yep.
  • Pad Thai on a Thursday night in Salt Lake City? Yep.
  • Grass-fed beef burgers on gluten free buns? Yep.
  • Protein shakes with no chemicals and no sugar and no net carbs??! YEP!

The point is: we actively choose our food, meal after meal, day after day, week after week and therefore what we choose to eat becomes one of the most repetitive (and possibly boring) experiences in our lives. 

Other choices can seem so exciting and special by comparison:

  • Deciding who to marry is HUGE, but you may only do that once (or twice!). 
  • Where to go to college, once (or maybe twice, or maybe not at all).
  • Where to live or what job to take, a handful of times at best.
  • Even smaller things like what to wear, once a day, MAYBE twice for a special occasion. 
  • What movie to see or what haircut to get, happens every month or two.
  • What to eat??? 3-4 times a day... every day... FOREVER.

No wonder we want to make things special, make every choice count in some significant way, spice things up and try the new food fad.

No wonder so many seek the help and guidance of a diet book or a health guru or a fancy & fun meal planning program.

How are we supposed to figure this all out? What if we make the wrong choice? What if what we choose is actually killing us?! What if we could be doing better??!

 

And that last bit is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

 

Because when we fear that we could be "doing better" and we feel the entirety of that responsibility to our health, our bodies, and our environmental footprint... what we choose to put on our plate becomes SUPER intense. 

 

I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: No wonder so many seek the help and guidance of a diet book or health guru or meal planning program.

 

The 'paradox of choice' has left us all feeling a bit out of control around our food and health. We don't know who to trust or what to believe. One day it's gluten-free the next day it's vegan. One day we should fast for 12 hours a day the next day we should eat 6 small meals. 

IT IS ALL TOO MUCH! Our brains cannot handle the choice, and the weight of the precieved or real consequences.

So we freeze, we shut down, we outsource our intuition to the lowest bidder. 

 

If someone was willing to tell you what was 'best' to eat... then plan, shop for, prepare all of your food choices would we do it? 

As we have seen in recent history, with the rise of ready-to-eat shakes and bars and delivery meal prep boxes... yes, yes we would. 

There is nothing wrong with helping ourselves out, by making a hard thing easier. Shortcuts and take-out and canned soup for dinner are all very real and very valid ways of getting through the day.

What I am saying is this: let's take some time to reflect upon the craziness around us. What we are being sold. The idea that there is an Answer (with a capital A) to our food/health stress.

We are seeking the "Answer" because we are overwhelmed with the question.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I explain some of the things that helped me get a clearer head regarding my food choices. AND why I don't take it nearly as seriously as I once did, which resulted in me being happier, healthier, and less stressed out than ever before.

How Mom Guilt, Diets, and Body Shame All Have the Same Roots.

Most of my clients are women, and the majority of those women are mothers.

I don’t have any children of my own and yet still I have the responsibility of guiding these mothers through situations that I cannot personally relate to.

 

BUT, when it comes to their conversations about “Mom Guilt”, I totally get it.

 

I don’t identify with that term per se, but I have felt the same FEELINGS.

Enter, empathy. As a coach I am very well versed in empathizing with people going through all sorts of things, good bad and ugly.

(An animated short about empathy can be found HERE. Hint: it’s NOT the same as sympathy)

 

Below are some of the feelings that my mom clients/friends/family have expressed and that I can personally relate to:

guilt, unmet expectations, sadness, regret, shame, embarrassment, overwhelm, frustration, loneliness, panic, loss of control, wanting things you cannot have, longing for more: more time, money and connection, feeling judged, imposter syndrome, total exhaustion, anger, hopelessness, and never feeling good enough.

 

How can me, having never been a mother, relate to the vast array of feelings at the center of “mom guilt”??

 

Because they are the same feelings that often accompany being a woman, wife, friend, daughter, someone with chronic illness, and self-employed.

 

Because, even more profoundly, they are the same nasty feelings that diet culture thrives on.

 

As a former disordered eater/dieter/health obsessed woman I know those feelings well… every single one of them is what I felt during my years of white-knuckle restriction, punishing exercise, and hating/hiding/manipulating my body.

 

When we peel back the layers of the onion, the feelings of “mom guilt” AND the tragic appeal of the “diet/weight loss industry” both stem from one DEEPLY painful place:

A lack of control and a desperate longing for approval, acceptance, and unconditional love.

 

When someone stands in the truth of their imperfections, lives with vulnerability and humility, and gives up the tireless job of trying to “have it all” only then are they are truly free from guilt, diets, and body obsession.

 

Feeling badly for every missed soccer game or store bought costume or mac n cheese dinner or tear-filled bedtime routine is an endless exercise in self-torture. You are going to miss games, make mistakes, lose your temper, and forget the snacks. There is no way to be “the best mom”. Accepting that fact is the key to being “the best mom you can be at any given moment”.

 

Feeling badly for every sugary donut, fast food dinner, missed workout, gained pound, stretch mark, wrinkle, diet soda, night time couch feast, and failed “program” is a sure fire way to continue in the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, restrict then binge, and “I feel fat” days.  There is no way to control your body, lifespan, or health.

Accepting that you are a living, breathing, complex human being made up of a body with instincts, a soul with emotions, and a brain with thoughts is the key to living with attunement and in peaceful contentment.

 

Your body is the only one you will ever have.

Take care of her, respect her, and accept her just as she is today.

Tell her you know she is doing her best and that you love her unconditionally.

It’s all she has ever wanted. (Just like you, Mom)