Do you feel like you cannot keep your eating habits? How do you get the roller coaster feeling when it comes to food of being really good for a while and then really “bad”?
This is because of what we call the start-stop cycle, and there are some behaviors that are so common that will keep you on the cycle.
But first let’s define what this start-stop cycle really is.
What is the start-stop cycle?
The start-and-stop cycle is a continuous pattern that people may experience while pursuing healthy eating that prevents them from experiencing a sense of balance, ease, peace, and freedom while eating.
When you’re on the start-and-stop cycle, you eat “perfectly” for a while, but because it’s too restrictive and difficult to care for, you get bogged down in the long run. This time is followed by guilt that directly leads to the feeling that you need to “reset”.
The challenge with the start-and-stop cycle is that for the most part you are really trying to eat well and do what you think is best for your health, but these eating habits are exactly the things that do Preventing you from being in tune with your healthy eating habits and in some cases it can even lead to unhealthy eating habits.
Let’s take a closer look at each phase of the start-stop cycle to better understand what can cause you to get stuck in that cycle and where to best focus to get out of the cycle.
The all-in phase
We call the first phase the “all-in” phase. Typically, you enter this phase after you feel like you have gotten “out of hand” or “out of hand” with your eating habits and decide that you will invest more energy and effort in regaining control and healthy again eat.
What this often looks like is restricting and regulating the amount or type of food you eat.
This could either mean going on a new diet, plan, or detox, or creating your own rules that you believe will keep you posted.
Here are a few examples of what the all-in phase can look or feel like:
- Avoid certain foods
- Counting calories, macros, points
- Diet, detox or plan
- Skipping meals to save calories
- Your food choices don’t feel comfortable or satisfying
- Strive to always eat “perfectly”
- Follow trends or diets without first thinking about whether they are in line with your body, lifestyle, and vision of health
- Constantly worrying or feeling busy or obsessed with your food choices
- Rigid diet or fitness routines
In many cases, your focus may be on “getting it right” in such a way that you can achieve a certain result, or achieve “perfect” eating habits, that you feel like you are running out of mental energy or all of your willpower and motivation stay on track.
You’ve probably tried any of these things at some point, or maybe you’re just doing some of these behaviors, and that’s fine.
We often turn to this solution because we are eager, motivated, and sometimes desperate for change, and just want something to finally work. Also, it may be because you simply don’t know of other options that will lead you to eat well without engaging in these behaviors.
The off-track phase
If you don’t learn to rephrase your thoughts and let go of these short-term corrections, one of two things will happen after this “all-in” period.
Either you burn out or give in around food that you have classified as prohibited, or you face a situation where this rigid way of eating doesn’t work and leads you to it get off-track, that’s the next phase of the cycle.
There are many factors that can cause you to go off-course, including:
- Cravings for foods that you have banned
- Emotional eating, like stress eating or eating when you are bored
- Routine change
- Distracted or senseless eating, like eating while watching TV
- Situational or environmental factors such as looking at snacks in the office or eating out
- Special occasions or holidays
- Health conditions
- And so much more
Feeling like your eating habits are off track is completely normal. We are human!
The key difference is that some of us are easily able to reflect, adjust, and realign our regular eating habits with confidence and flexibility, while those on the start-stop cycle experience guilt, frustration, and internal pressures feel stress or other negative emotions as a result of their choices.
And because the way you ate was really difficult to maintain, it can often come to a lengthy period, e.g. For example, to a week, a month, or many months if you are not paying attention to your nutritional needs, if you can regain the time, willpower and motivation to start over.
I’m sure you can relate to it by saying things like “I’ll start again on Monday” or “I’ll start after summer when I have more time” or “I’ll start again after the holidays, where there are not so many sweets in them. “
All of these things are an “all-out” mentality where you say if you’re not 100% “in” then it’s not worth it.
The guilt phase
If you are in this cycle, you will feel guilty at this point for being off track or not.
You may say to yourself, “I have to reset,” “I’ve been so bad,” “I have to eat this,” or other thoughts along those lines.
That guilt then leads you to seek ways to try to reverse or make up for the “bad” decisions by being more rigorous, rigid, structured, and moving forward so it doesn’t happen again. This brings you back to the “all-in” stage I talked about earlier.
If the guilt is severe, it can also lead to helplessness and a lack of control, as well as self-criticism, which can lead to poor self-esteem, a bad mood and affect your mental health.
It also leads you to look for ways to undo the “bad” decisions you made and be more strict with yourself so that it doesn’t happen again.
What keeps you in circulation and prevents lifelong eating habits
While this start-stop cycle may look different and have different degrees of severity for each of you, it is safe to believe that you have already found yourself in this cycle and see how easy it can be to repeat this cycle several times.
This cycle continues to repeat itself in similar variations of the same pattern until you consciously decide on a solution that doesn’t require you to limit yourself or feel guilty.
One of our members shared the reason she joined The Mindful Nutrition Method ™ because she has struggled with the start-stop cycle for 30 years.
She finally decided that she no longer wanted food to occupy her mind. She didn’t want to be stressed about her food choices. She wanted to love and empathize with the body that enabled her to live a beautiful life for years instead of feeling like an enemy. She wanted to feel safe that her actions were supporting her daily feeling and long-term health.
Are you keeping the measures you have taken in this start-stop cycle? Or do they help you find peace and serenity when you consistently eat well?
How mindful eating can help you get out of the loop
The cycle continues as these decisions, behaviors, and mindsets do not help you identify, navigate, and overcome the potential challenges you face on your wellness journey.
And this is where mindful eating plays such an important role in your journey.
Our goal is through mindful eating to become more aware of what we eat, how we eat, and why we eat so that we can take action that will help us better align ourselves with the wants and needs of our unique bodies. When we do this, we will be better able to find the root cause of many of our unhealthy eating habits and overcome challenges in ways that will help us create lifelong, healthy eating habits.
1. Bring awareness into your body and experience all about food
With my mindful eating method, we first practice sensitizing our body and gaining experience with food. We use check-in strategies, journaling, and mindfulness to help us become aware of what, how, and why we are eating.
This helps us become more aware of our eating habits and tendencies so that we are clear about what works and what doesn’t for our bodies and what works and what doesn’t for our lifestyle.
2. You practice compassionate curiosity to uncover your challenges
With a strong awareness of our eating habits, we can then use what I call compassionate curiosity to uncover the specific challenges we may be facing at this point in time without judging ourselves. Our goal here is not to feel bad or guilty, just to get curious about why we are experiencing something, to empathize with ourselves because we are human, and then find the best way to move forward.
Challenges will look different for everyone. For some, they may find they are struggling with stressful eating, while others realize that cooking is more of a block for them, and others may have digestive or health issues and are looking for ways to get the best nourishment your nutrition.
3. Identify deliberate actions to align with your wellness vision
With a newfound awareness of what to focus on and compassion for yourself on this journey, you can then figure out which actions will best assist you in aligning with your unique wellness vision. In contrast to the start-stop cycle, which always puts you in the reset phase, with mindful eating we focus on developing practices that will best support you in the long term.
Again, this is unique to each person, depending on where they are on their journey and where they are in their life. But no matter what, every person has a clear idea of where to spend more time, develop certain skills, and deepen their practices to best support them.
How to get out of the loop and find consistency and balance with the way you feed yourself
How do you break the cycle?
They realize that you deserve to put energy into self-sustaining ways that are supportive and sustainable. You do this by doing some deliberate act for yourself right here.
Do you think you can let go of the need for a short term outcome and make the decision to have a more positive food experience?
If you’ve just said yes to yourself, check out our free workshop on “Letting go of diets and rebalancing the way you feed yourself”.
In this workshop I will dive deep into this cycle, why you got stuck in it and how you can really get out of it for good.