I was talking with a friend the other day and was surprised by what she said.  I see her at the gym on a regular basis and I consider to be fit and healthy.  She, like me, is in the gym super early (before 5 am) to make sure she gets her workouts in.

So, when she said she “doesn’t really like working out, but likes food more” I was surprised to realize she felt like she had to earn her food by punishing herself in the gym.  I love going to the gym, and everyone who knows me knows it’s one of my happy places.  I actually enjoy strength training and have built somewhat of a support network with my fellow early bird gym enthusiasts who attend spin class at the crack of dawn.

I’ve been an early morning gym regular since I began my journey in 2011.  I got to thinking about it and realized how many people have come and gone over the years, and the relative few who are and have been consistent over the years.

Many people who come into the gym to exercise are coming from a place of punishment, restriction, and self-loathing.  Hoping to strong-arm their bodies into morphing into something we see in a magazine or advertising, they start out full throttle only to quit after a few weeks or months when they don’t see quick results.  Our immediate gratification mindset has set us up for disappointment.

This same approach applied to nutrition and dieting.  Calorie counting, weighing, and measuring every bite of food can be stressful and suck the joy out of our eating experience.  Eating something and then feeling guilty, living in should-land rather than being present to what is actually happening puts us on a perpetual negative cycle.

While it is possible to lose weight with what I call the scarcity mindset, the cost almost always outweighs the benefit.  Deprivation and scarcity leads to a physiological stress response.  Eating in this state virtually suppresses our metabolism, shuts down our digestive power, and our bodies excrete essential nutrients instead of absorbing and assimilating them.  Punishing exercise sets us up for fatigue, injury, and apathy. Restricting food intake leads to similar results.

Of course we know that WHAT we eat is important; but it’s only part of the story.  HOW, WHEN, and WHERE we eat are equally as important.

HOW:  Rushing or eating in a stressed state brings about a stress response.  Our bodies cannot and will not properly digest food under these circumstances.  Experiment with slowing down and being present when you eat.

WHEN:  How many times do we eat when we aren’t truly hungry?  Because it’s lunch time, because there is food in the break room at work, or because we’re bored?  FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out is a powerful belief that can be transformed into the JOY of missing out with the right mindset shift.

WHERE:  Have you ever eaten your food standing at the kitchen counter?  How about at your desk while you’re working?  Have you ever finished your food without ACTUALLY tasting it, and still felt hungry?  Mindless eating robs us of the pleasure and satisfaction of our mealtime.  Practice finding joy and satisfaction in your eating experience.

Now, back to the WHAT:  Have you ever eaten foods you know are not in alignment with your goals?  And then beaten yourself up over it with negative self-talk and guilt? Yep, me too!  Sometimes CRAVINGS have nothing to do with actual physiological hunger.  What are you truly hungry for?

The scarcity mindset leads to constant hunger – hunger for attention, affection, love, acceptance, experience, adventure… the list goes on.  When one of these things is missing, we sometimes use food as a substitute to stifle this hunger.

When we re-frame our view to a mindset of abundance, things start to fall into place.  We have enough time in the day.  We have enough food to sustain us.  We have joyful movement.  If you don’t have what you need or want, give yourself permission to ask for it.  Pause and feel gratitude for all of the things you DO have.  When we focus on abundance, we will attract more of what we truly desire.