Transform Your Mindset, Transform Your Relationship with Food: Using Affirmations
Of the many tools I use to help my clients heal their relationship with food, one of the simplest—yet potentially most effective—is the use of affirmations. Here’s how it works:
Much of our relationship with food is rooted in the stories we tell ourselves about food, which in turn are governed by the ongoing beliefs we hold about food. But here’s the thing: many of these stories and beliefs are inaccurate, and they end up holding us back from living our best lives.
So how can we change these stories and beliefs?
One way is through the power of affirmations. Now, I know some of you might be skeptical. You might be thinking, “That sounds too simple. How can repeating a few positive phrases really make life-altering differences?” Well, to be honest, when I first learned about affirmations, I had a similar, dubious response.
But I’m now I’m sold on the practice.
Affirmations Are Scientifically-Proven Tools That Can Help Reprogram Thoughts and Beliefs and Create Lasting Change
Our beliefs and stories about food directly influence our attitudes and behavior. For instance, we might say things like, “I can’t resist sweets.” But ask yourself, who creates our stories and beliefs? The answer is, of course, we do!
So the good news is, we have the power to change those stories; if we can create them, we can un-create them and replace them with more empowering beliefs!
True, these long-standing negative beliefs about food and our bodies can be hard to shake. And that is why I recommend putting in the effort to replace them with new, empowering affirmations.
That’s where affirmations come in. By repeating positive, empowering statements to ourselves on a daily basis, we can begin to shift our beliefs and attitudes around food. And the more we repeat these affirmations, the more they become our truth.
How Affirmations Work
When we tell ourselves unhelpful things about ourselves—things like “I’m powerless around food” or “I hate my body”—we create the assumptions that program our lives and our choices. And these negative assumptions are not accurate.
Consider this: someone saying “I’m powerless against ice cream” is telling themselves a little fib, even if they don’t realize they’re fibbing. Affirmations are a way to counter-act the fibs. In the beginning, many people don’t completely believe in their affirmations. And that’s fine, because I look at it this way… if you are repeating little fibs to yourself (like “I’m powerless against ice cream”) that end up working against what you really want to create, why not tell positive, affirming little things that feel like fibs to yourself, that actually support what you want to create?
Because the truth is, if you put enough energy into these positive statements, they may just become your real truth. It’s that whole “fake it ‘til you make it” concept; when we repeat affirmations consistently over time, we start to internalize them. Affirmations help us reprogram our brains. They allow us to create new neural pathways, new ways of thinking and feeling about ourselves and the world around us… and they establish the context for a more positive and empowering mindset.
How Do We Create Effective Affirmations?
First, we need to identify the issues we want to change. This would involve taking a hard look at our beliefs and attitudes around food, and recognizing where we might be holding ourselves back. Perhaps the struggle is with Emotion-Triggered Eating, or there are negative body-image beliefs. Write these issues down, and then pick the one or two that are most pressing. Once you’ve identified these issues, you can start to craft affirmations that address them directly.
Let’s pick a common issue for an example. Say someone feels bad about their thighs, and wants an affirmation to heal their feelings about that part of their body. So to create an affirmation, they’d follow these guidelines:
It’s helpful for affirmations to start with your own name, to really take ownership. So it might begin with, “I am Susan…”
Affirmations should be set in the present, not as an aspiration. So you’d generally say “I am” or “I have” rather than “I will” or “I will have” or “I hope to be.”
Affirmations should be phrased in the positive, as opposed to the negative.
So let’s take the last two items. Instead of saying “I will stop hating my thighs” Susan might say “I accept all of my body.” If she wanted to be more specific, she might say “I honor the strength and beauty of my legs, which carry me with grace and ease.”
I recommend ending affirmations with a statement of gratitude or spiritual acknowledgment, perhaps with something like “for all this, I am grateful, my legs are there for me to serve my good.”
So the affirmation in this example might say “I am Susan. I love my body and honor the strength and beauty of my legs, which carry me with grace and ease. My legs are there for me to serve my highest good. For all this, I am grateful.”
If your issue is wanting to change some behavior, say, feel more in control of when you choose to eat, your affirmation might be, “I am Jo. I trust and honor my body’s needs by eating when I am hungry, and stopping when I am satisfied. If a food appeals to me but I am not hungry, it is ok to eat it or choose to save it for another time; the choice is mine. I am grateful that food is there for me to nourish body and soul, and serve my highest good.”
And whenever Jo is confronted with doubt or shame about thinking about eating, or going to the fridge, Jo can use the affirmation to feel more empowered.
The key with affirmations is to make them personal and specific to your own experiences and concerns. And it’s important to repeat them consistently, ideally every day, so that they become ingrained in your mind and heart.
Incorporating Affirmations into Daily Use
Affirmations are most effective when they become part of your daily routine. Start small, with just one or two that really resonate with you.
Write them down, repeat them to yourself in the mirror, post them on your fridge, or set them to pop up as phone reminder memos—whatever works for you. It is fine to read them as you say them, or if you choose, to memorize them. If you recite them to yourself ten or twenty times each morning and night and use them every time you feel your issue is being triggered, you may start to feel empowered over issues that previously felt unbeatable.
A Final Word About Affirmations
I suggest you commit to saying your affirmations every day for at least 66 days, which is the amount of time it takes for something to become a habit. They might feel a little silly or uncomfortable at first, but with practice, they can become powerful tools.
Of course, affirmations are just one tool in the toolbox. They’re not a magic solution that will solve all our problems overnight; healing our relationship with food takes time and effort, patience and self-compassion. But when used in conjunction with other strategies, such as mindfulness practices, affirmations can be a powerful catalyst for positive change.