The Deprivation mindset

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Well…I managed to go ages without posting anything again. I blame the new job mostly; I have officially started the GP training programme, the next step to being the functional medicine doctor I aspire to be! Working in the sexual health clinic which has been busy, in addition to a hectic summer!

I’ve been thinking lately of why a lot of people find it so hard to eat healthy, and how often if comes down to the “deprivation mindset”.  It goes like this – you see a piece of cake at work, and feel deprived that you can’t have it because of that resolution you made to eat healthy. And then you feel sad/bad. Perhaps then your co-workers convince you to eat it anyway, ’cause it’s “just a treat!”, and so you do, immediately becoming awash with that other unfriendly feeling – guilt.

This is super common, and a lot of people think the solution is to just have more willpower next time. I think that’s an awful solution; willpower is limited and the guilt that comes from “failing” is just unnecessary stress. Why expend energy on willpower and trying to force yourself to do things, when you could instead change your mindset?

I think it’s much healthier to try and switch to a “Gainful mindset”, where instead you make choices based on what you will gain (and this also becomes easier when you love yourself and *want* gain/the best for yourself and those around you). So for example, you might think about how you would gain energy and health from eating a healthier option. And to twist the “deprivation” another way, you might think “If I don’t eat the cake I deprive myself of a tasty sugar rush, but if I do eat the cake I may deprive myself of having energy and feeling good in the longer term”.

This is how I manage to eat well 90% of the time. I don’t eat well begrudgingly because I feel guilty if I don’t; it’s because I genuinely want to, because I love the way good food makes me feel, and because it’s just another level of satisfaction eating delicious food that is ALSO healthy! Eating akin to our ancestors IS a culinary delight, and taste-buds can be retrained!

I’m not saying that one must choose the healthier option ALL the time. But having this perspective may allow you to feel wholly GOOD about all the healthy choices you make, and hopefully less bad about the not-so-great choices. For example, in the cake example above, you might think one day, “actually I want the tasty sugar rush” this time. I know, as a dessert lover that sweet treats can make me really happy (though I normally make my own kryptonite-free treats, so I get to enjoy dessert AND feel good, healthy and energetic ;)). In another example, when faced with the choice of going home early when I’m out at a party with friends, I might decide to go home so I gain a solid sleep and feel productive and well rested the next day but in some cases I may stay out a little later so I gain more social contact with friends, both of which are important to me. It depends on the balance of what I need more. Either way, I focus on what i *gain* not on what I am deprived of.

 

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