Be wary of absolutistic thinking.
Absolutistic thinking is when you are convinced there is only one way to accomplish a goal, one way to believe and think about something, and ultimately, one way to live. It is common and easy to cultivate if you are not careful.
Absolutistic thinking relies on words such as must, should, always, never or have to.
As it relates to eating and body image:
I must eat perfectly today. I should never have dessert. I have to lose weight before this event.
You can spot this type of thinking not only with the preface words (must, should, always, etc.), but also by the irrational thoughts that follow them:
I must eat perfectly today so I can finally get some control in my life. I should never have dessert because any taste of sugar will completely ruin me. I have to lose weight before this event or I will never be able to enjoy it.
None of the reasons for the statements above are rooted in absolutely truth. You may have told yourself them, and they might be what you currently believe, but they are narrow and demanding, and they likely promote stress because they are rooted in fear and negativity. They keep your life very small and very fragile.
It would be dogmatic to say absolutistic thinking is always harmful. It can be very helpful in the right context, but often, within the context of eating, it is overgeneralizing and removes personal responsibility from your own inner anxieties and exterior occurrences.
The next time you hear yourself thinking absolutistically about eating, try replacing the statements with truth.
In reference to our examples above:
I would prefer to eat specific foods today because I believe they will help me feel more in control. I realize this is only a feeling. Food is not magical and does not grant me supernatural self-control, and if I eat foods that I do not prefer, I will not “lose control”, whatever that means. The foods I eat affect my health, but do not contribute to the order or chaos of the world.
Sugar is not always healthy for me, but it does not “ruin” me. I am an adult. I am always in control of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If I do choose to eat sugar, I will also choose to live responsibly afterward.
If I am honest, I would prefer to lose weight before this event, but if I don’t, I can still have an enjoyable time. My weight does not determine how happy I am or how pleasant events may be. It actually has nothing to do with the event and I’m better off resuming sustainable weight loss and enjoying the people I see and the things we do. Other people can think anything they want about my body without it affecting how I think about it.
What do you think about replacing absolutisitc thoughts with truth? Is this something you already do? Do you find it helpful?
Leave a comment to share your opinion!
Image from Polyvore.