To say I am not an athlete is an understatement. I was picked last on every team throughout school ("Awww Mrs. Barsky, do we have to have HER on the team?"). Even in college, the kid with special needs got a higher grade than I did in racquetball. I grew up to be a health coach and even a certified personal trainer, but am still as uncoordinated as ever. Chances are, your 4th grader could beat me in literally any sport.
That's why it's pretty ironic that I spend so much time teaching people to listen to the members of their "inner team." But, the truth is, being able to "hear" your inner voices and identify them is a core skill in health management. Identifying who is doing the talking at any given point in your head is a powerful tool in making good food choices.
We all have several different “people” inside of our minds. It’s rooted in developmental psychology. In healthy people, the different personalities fuse into one cohesive mental state. But, the thing is, we still have the inner voices and thoughts of each of the integrated personalities.
Here are some of the inner team members you might encounter:
The Health Coach
The Best Friend
You may even have others! Here’s a brief overview of what parts of your personality they might each represent.
This is the one we pretty much all know about. It’s the voice that tells you to eat the thing you said you weren’t going to. “Come on. It’s just one piece. Everyone else is having one. You know you want one. It’s not going to hurt…”
No matter how old we get, we always have an inner child. It’s the part of our personality that gets cranky when we are tired or hungry (Hangry, anyone?) or feels mad when he or she has to wait for what they want. Our inner child is much like a regular child in that they will whine and cajole until they get what they want. “But I want a cookie! Can we have a cookie? We really should have a cookie. How come THEY get cookies and we can’t have any?”
Just as we have an inner child, we have an inner parent. But, usually, it’s the voice of our actual parent coming in our own voices. “You better finish all of the food on your plate.” “You can’t just throw that out… it’s wasteful.” “We’ll get healthy food once we’ve finished what we already bought.” It can also sound critical. “Even when you lose weight, you’re still going to have your father’s nose…”
This is one we can often feel coming on when we’ve been “too good.” This is the voice that tells you, “Screw it. Just eat what you want. You don’t have to listen to anyone else or follow some stupid rules. Let’s just eat what we want.”
This is the negative voice in your head that always sees the glass of chocolate milk as half empty. “What’s the point? You have so much weight to lose anyway. This isn’t even going to matter. And when you DO lose the weight, you’re still not going to look as good as you did when you were younger.” Or, “It’s not realistic to eat this way forever.” Or, “I’ll do it later. This really isn’t a good time right now. I’m too busy and overwhelmed.”
The Health Coach
I’m smiling as a write this because I *am* a health coach. I see so many people internalizing what they think a health coach would say! “Don’t eat that! It has too many calories/fat/carbs. You need to be one hundred percent compliant! Get out there and exercise instead. Get your fat ass in gear!” Hahaha, of course not every health coach is like that (ahem…) but we often have an inner voice that’s just as bad.
This is a sneaky one. It’s the inner team member that is constantly tallying up money. “It’s too expensive to eat healthy.” Or even sneakier, “I need to get to work. I don’t have time to plan my meals or exercise. If I don’t pay these bills, no one will.”
The inner partier is the one who wants to binge eat to celebrate. “It’s Taco Tuesday!” “TGIF!” “Sunday brunch.” Every birthday, holiday, or other reason to celebrate, our inner Partier wants us to indulge and have fun.
Many of us have an inner Foodie. This is that person who really enjoys fine food and wine. “This is an incredible meal,” he or she says. “We have to enjoy it.” To this inner team member, “enjoying it” means eating indulgent food as much as possible!
The Best Friend
Finally, we all have an inner Best Friend. This is the person who has our overall best interest in mind. It’s the person who’ll say to you, “Don’t buy seventy-two stale cookies. You’re not a broke single mom anymore.” This is the person we want to call on when making eating decisions, and he or she will help you discover what the other team members really want.
Each of your inner team members has a positive intent when they are talking to you. It’s not about shutting them up. It’s about finding out how they are trying to help you feel good. Remember that behavior is reward driven. When you listen to discover the reward they are trying to get, you can find another way to get it.
The Danger of Ignoring the Inner Voices
So often when we hear these inner messages, we tend to want to ignore them. But what happens is they just get louder and louder until they grab the debit card and the next thing you know you’re sitting in front of a bunch of empty food cartons. The solution is two-fold.
First, use the pause (which we wrote about in a previous entry) to identify who is talking and what they want. Then, hold an Inner Team Meeting. Give every single voice a chance to speak. Really listen to each one. It may seem really strange at first, but believe me it helps! Once you can identify which part of you is making the eating decision, you can then enlist the help of the ones that you want to be listening to.
Here is how to handle your Inner Team:
1. Make a plan for what your meals will be.
2. Before you eat any food, use the pause. "I am going to eat this _____."
3. Listen to the next thought. "I'm eating it because _______."
4. If the voice in your head that is speaking is not the one who has your health in mind, gently tell them that you hear them and that you're going to eat on plan and get their needs met in a non-food way.
Mostly, have an attitude of compassion and curiosity when dealing with your Inner Team. Every one of them wants what's best for you. (Unlike the members of your 4th grade kickball team.)
December Gratitude Challenge Day 8: What's a Happy Memory?
"Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, 'This is the real me,' and when you have found that attitude, follow it. " James Truslow Adams