The typical person decides that they are FINALLY going to do something about their extra fat or unhealthy eating habits. They pick a start date, usually Monday, and spend every minute up until then eating the foods they won’t be able to eat after Monday. They say “goodbye” to them, making sure they get one last indulgence of everything they will miss. They buy all the food that they think is healthy for them and stock their pantry with it in preparation for the big life change. They go to bed dreading eating a vegetable omelet for breakfast instead of their usual sugary cereal. They shiver at the thought of salad at lunch instead of take out. But it must be done! It will be for the best and all the struggling and starvation will be worth it in the end. Right?
The I Can’t Diet
But then Monday comes, and they sit down to their vegetable omelet. Yuck. All they think about is the cereal they can’t have, and that is all they want. This tastes nothing like cereal, I don’t care how healthy it is, they think to themselves.
By lunch they have spent the entire morning grouchy and angry. “Why can’t I just eat the foods I love and lose weight? It’s so unfair!” They pick at their lunch salad. Disgusting. They think fondly of this past weekend, when they so freely enjoyed pepperoni pizza. It was so cheesy and wonderful. They can’t believe that they’ll NEVER get to eat pizza again.
When co-workers ask them to come enjoy birthday cake in the break room, they say “I can’t. I’m on a diet.” They grumble to themselves how this diet is ruining their lives and how miserable they are. They complain to anyone who will listen about how all they want is a freakin’ ice cream sandwich! But they can’t. Ice cream sandwiches are in the “never again” column. They can’t eat them or they’ll never lose weight.
Somehow, the foods they can’t eat seem to smell even better than before, seem to look that much more delectable. They’re up on this illustrious pedestal, and only the lucky people get to eat them and not gain weight.
This continues for a bit. Some might give up after a day, maybe a week, maybe they even force themselves to lose some weight. But it’s never permanent, because they are always faced with the foods they “can’t” eat at parties, social gatherings, restaurants, and stores. It’s a completely negative experience that they can’t wait, subconsciously, to get out of.
The mentality of “can’t” creates a perspective from the dieter that they are missing out on something great. They can’t join in the fun. They aren’t worthy of it. They’re left out.
The Power of “I Don’t”
Now change the phrase from “I can’t” to “I don’t”. Suddenly, the phrase takes on a completely different philosophy. “I don’t eat that” implies control, leaving something behind that isn’t good, a belief that you abide by.
Instead of feeling like you’re being left out of a big party that everyone else can participate in, you feel like you’re making the choice, like you know something that the rest of them don’t know and are in full control of your habits.
So now, when breakfast time comes, you’re not thinking about the things you can’t eat. You can really taste the vegetable omelet for what it is, because you’re not comparing it to the cereal on the pedestal (which didn’t actually taste all that awesome, now that you think about it). Maybe it’s not so bad, and I bet with some added spices or even some chicken, it would be even better! You are now able to focus on the things you CAN eat that you actually enjoy!
At cake time, when asked to join in on the birthday celebration, you join but bring your own healthy snack. When the cake is passed around, you say “Thanks, but I don’t eat sweets”. You feel in control of your choice, you feel intelligent, and the person who passed you the cake wonders what you know that they don’t.
The memories of the junk food you left behind are fading because you aren’t focused on them as something you want but can’t have. They’re beneath you. You only treat your body with respect and feed it the foods that make it healthy. The Can’t mentality makes the junk food positive and the diet negative. The Don’t mentality achieves the exact opposite. Don’t is a definitive statement that won’t be questioned by you or those around you.
Changing from “I Can’t” to “I Don’t” puts YOU in control and gives you a belief system to abide by rather than a rule to follow. Try it with a habit that you are trying to change and see how it feels.
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