Anytime you tell yourself you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, you’re asking for a speeding ticket on the highway to the city of Guilt, located in the country of I’M NOT ENOUGH.
Whatever action you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing makes your current task or behavior seem WRONG… Which automatically leads to feelings of anger, resentment, failure, shame, lack of control, etc.
What happens when we SHOULD on ourselves? We create a ton of pressure within ourselves to do or be something which we feel we’re supposed to do. Basically we are telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, we’re not healthy enough, we’re not smart enough, etc.
If we don’t do what we “should” do, or if we do what we “shouldn’t” do, we feel wrong or guilty for our choices. SHOULD-ING strengthens our belief that we can’t trust ourselves, or that we don’t have enough willpower to reach our goals… Both of which are huge piles of POOP.
Many of us use the words SHOULD and SHOULD’T so frequently that the words that follow these phrases (I should workout, I should eat healthy, I shouldn’t eat pizza, etc.) become MORE POWERFUL in our minds than our actual desires.
In other words, our minds’ preconceived ideas about pizza, exercise, eating healthy and glasses of wine make the decisions FOR us, as opposed to what we really want.
Feeling overwhelmed, guilty, anger, or resentful of the things you SHOULD do keeps you feeling stuck… The more you feel you SHOULD do something, the less likely you are to actually DO IT.
SHOULD-ING is often tied into foods because we label foods as “good” or “bad” in our minds (which unconsciously leads to feelings of either happiness or anger/resentment). On a nutritious level, foods can’t be labelled as good or bad because foods don’t have power over their actions. Think about it: good humans are those who help others around them and are kind and loving. Bad humans murder, commit crimes, and take advantage of those around them. Foods can’t do EITHER of those things. Now I understand that you can have “bad” pizza at a restaurant, but that is because of how the restaurant prepared and made the pizza, not because of the pizza itself.
All foods are simply more-nutritious or less nutritious for our bodies. At a biological level, our bodies CRAVE healthy foods because we need those nutrients to survive. A donut may have 500 calories but has little nutrients for it’s caloric count, compared to a chicken breast with veggies that has the same 500 calories but is loaded with nutrients. The calorie count is the exact same, so does it matter which one we eat? YES!
Because the donut contains little nutrients, it won’t keep us feeling full and satisfied for very long. We will quickly feel hungry, and eat MORE foods than we don’t actually need. Because the chicken and veggies contain more nutrients, they will do a better job of keeping our bodies’ satisfied and feeling full for a longer time.
Ultimately, when we associate foods as being “good” or “bad” instead of “nutritious” or “not-so-nutritious”, we feel we have messed up when we eat something “bad,” or we feel better about ourselves when we eat something “good.” In other words, research suggests that we feel BAD about ourselves when we eat “bad” foods, and we feel good about ourselves when we eat “good” foods.
Remember that food is just food. It has no power over us UNLESS we give it power.
So here is the golden question: How do we STOP should-ing on ourselves?!
First, we become aware that it is happening. Start to notice your feelings and HOW you choose the foods you eat. Are you telling yourselves you “SHOULD” or “SHOULDN’T” eat certain foods, or are you taking control over food and consciously choosing to eat foods that you WANT to eat?
In the moment, ask yourself some of these questions: Why should I choose this? Who says that I should choose this? Will this help me reach my goals? Does the BEST, HEALTHIEST version of me want to enjoy this?
Next, try to get as specific as you can with your goals AND your wants. In other words, what not-so-nutritous foods do you truly LOVE? What goals are you hoping to achieve and what’s realistic for YOUR lifestyle? For example, I absolutely LOVE pasta. When I was on my own personal weight loss journey (you can read more about it HERE), I wasn’t willing to give pasta up in order to lose weight… So I decided to eat more nutritious foods MOST of the time, but to still consciously CHOOSE to eat pasta on special occasions (simply because I loved it!)
Lastly, start to replace the word SHOULD with I WILL… I CAN… I CHOOSE… I AM... I WANT.
It’s a complete mindset shift that takes the pressure off of you. It takes the power away from the food and gives YOU the power to make the decision about what to eat without the emotional strings attached to it.
Instead of telling yourself “I should eat more veggies,” try telling yourself “I will choose more veggies.” Or, instead of telling yourself “I want to be someone who exercises regularly,” try telling yourself “I am someone who exercises regularly. I promise that small mindset shift will help you think twice about your nutrition AND your exercise choices.
By slowing shifting your mindset, you take back your power and you OWN your decisions.
This doesn’t mean you never enjoy pizza, but it means that you can CHOOSE when you enjoy the pizza, which is extremely powerful. You also get to CHOOSE to eat more protein and veggies so that you lose weight and reach your goals.
If you can stop SHOULD-ING on yourself, you can remove the stress and emotions associated with foods, and you can take back the power to choose what YOU want to eat.
Does this post resonate with you? Do you struggle with SHOULD-ING on yourself, whether it comes in the form of eating healthy OR any other goal you’re trying to achieve? Drop a comment below!