Making the Shift From “I Can’t” to “I Can”
I was working with a client today who thought she would just one day wake up and be cured of her emotional eating habit— that somehow she’d just be freed from bingeing or eating when she wasn’t hungry. I told her that change is not immediate and not a stroke of magic, it takes practice. When you make a decision to change the way you eat, it is not a decision you make once, it is a decision you make every day. She didn’t like this answer at all and told me she didn’t think she could do it.
I grabbed a piece of paper and asked her to draw circles representing the dominant thoughts, emotions and feelings that she experiences daily. She drew a big circle in the center and wrote inside of it, “People Pleasing”. She drew another large circle and wrote inside of it, “Fear”. In a third circle she wrote, “Unworthy”, and in much smaller circles she wrote the words, “Free”, “Happiness”, “Joy”, and “Love”.
I then had her draw on a separate piece of paper the dominant thoughts, emotions and feelings that she would like to experience daily. Her “Happiness”, “Free”, “Joy”, and “Love” were much bigger. As we did this she began to realize that the things she tended to focus on were negative, constricting, and not very helpful. Her self talk that she “couldn’t do it” was really bringing her down.
I had her stand up and take the posture of her favorite superhero. I could see she was uncomfortable feeling powerful and it was hard for her to lift her chin. Although, as she moved through her embarrassment she began to fully experience her own power and her own worthiness. She laughed and I saw her energy totally shift.
I then asked her to sit back down and move into the circles of fear, doubt, people pleasing and unworthiness. She slumped in her chair and felt small, insignificant, and weak. I had her shift back and forth between the two circles several times until she got the point I was trying to make— in order for her to have what she wanted, she needed to experience what she wanted, and actively practice it.
I told her that the more she practices shifting her self-talk from negative to positive, the more she practices shifting her focus from what is wrong in her life to what is great, and the more she practices using her body to open and acknowledge her own power, the closer she will get to reaching her goal.
When you make a decision to change the way you eat, it is not a decision you make once. It is a decision you make every day. The wonderful news is that the brain is adaptive and loves to be on autopilot. Things become easy when they’re done repetitively and eventually the brain takes over and you won’t even think about it. It just requires a shift from I can’t… to I can.