How to crush self-limiting beliefs

We're largely conditioned to view nutrition as a health-oriented extension of the culinary world: salmon poached in green tea, a vibrant salad dressed in a bright basil vinaigrette; sweet potatoes roasted to a crisp in the oven, seasoned liberally with chili powder, cumin, and Spanish paprika. The questions I receive most often - what to eat after a workout? Can I have gluten if I'm not intolerant? Where will I get my calcium if not from dairy? - follow suit. Nobody asks me (not directly, anyway) how they can mend their broken belief system or overcome addictive patterns of behaviour, and fair enough; these are better discussed with a qualified psychotherapist. That said, they definitely play into our overall wellness and subconsciously inform our eating decisions every day.

But what we've come to call nutrition is really a marriage of many different fields, including -- most significantly -- psychology.

People are generally amenable to making dietary changes, especially the kind I endorse (who doesn't like the prospect of eating more fat?) But habits, coping mechanisms, and our own self-sabotaging beliefs tend to mute the benefits of a vibrantly coloured, satisfying, and nutrient-dense eating plan. Self-limiting beliefs are particularly detrimental because they, like dragons in a fairytale, often rest dormant in our subconscious until someone (or something) awakens them abruptly from their sleep.

I've seen this happen in myself. After many years of being told my writing wasn't strong enough (among a few other things) to get me through university, I internalized many of those beliefs. I'm a painfully slow learner, and my mom spent a lot of time teaching me how to write when I was a kid, showing me how to structure and focus my wayward thoughts and ideas. While the disappointment of churning out seemingly mediocre work stung like little else, the thought of giving up on writing was even more painful.

So instead I wrote more. I learned to write even when I didn't feel like writing. I read all of the young adult titles at the Amherstburg public library - every single last one. When my writing classmates cited writer's block, I read poetry and my favourite fiction titles and an embarrassing number of blog posts until my voice resurfaced. I enrolled in every workshop I could, took every class I was qualified for, sent in a piece to every free contest, and eventually developed an interest in topics outside of the self-indulgent ones I'd been partial to and learned how to write about those. Since I wasn't a good writer I never paid attention to conventions; I studied the way words sounded when strung together, clever poetry (Why Things Burn by Daphne Gottlieb was a long-time favourite), colloquial language, to hair colours and personal motives. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my bedroom closet, there's a (very kind) rejection letter penned by Joyce Carol Oates herself, which I kept because guys, it's Joyce Carol Oats. When I was looking at graduate programs, it was only through the encouragement of an ex-boyfriend that I chose a creative writing stream over literature -- and to my amazement, got in.

Had I listened to my teachers and not pursued writing, I never would have done any of that. I never would have learned how to work consistently and diligently at a goal; how to overcome obstacles; how to be resourceful; how to keep at something blindly, driven by threadbare hopes and dreams. I wouldn't have learned anything. It took me a long time to realize that the naysayers who crossed my path weren't there to hold me back; they were there to test me.

Changing habits, making new lifestyle choices, incorporating new foods, all of that, is at once an overwhelming and amazing adventure. It doesn't (and won't) all happen in one go. It's about consistent work - and asking yourself what's holding you back. As this article on limiting beliefs states so wonderfully, "If I'm confused, I'm about to learn something."

1. What beliefs are you holding on to that are not true? (Are more fact/myth than fiction)

2. How would your life change if you believed anything was possible?

3. If you believed you could cultivate healthy eating habits, improve your fitness, and manifest physical changes, would your food choices change?

4. Does so-called junk food actually make you feel better once you've eaten it?

5. If you believe you can't cook healthy meals, what about your world would shift if you believed you could?

What are your favourite tools for crushing self-limiting beliefs?

Sarah Berneche

Sarah Berneche, 14 Denison Square, Toronto, ON, M5T 1K8