3 Tips for When Rebellious Feelings Kick In

If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ve probably experienced feelings of rebelliousness. These tend to crop up after you’ve been following the diet religiously for a while and the initial glow has worn off. Instead of feeling excited about it and pleased with your self-control you start resenting being told what to eat – or more specifically what not to eat.


And once you’ve gone through this a couple of times, it can be very hard not to feel rebellious again anytime someone talks about food as good or bad, or suggests you should avoid certain foods.


The problem is, this rebellious feeling can interfere with you thinking clearly about the other person is suggesting. You may be tempted to ignore the advice even if you suspect it might be helpful, at least in part.


I was reminded of this when I recently read The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Maximize Cognitive Health and Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by Lisa Mosconi, PhD.


As the title implies, Dr. Mosconi has been searching what might be impacting the health of women’s brains, causing them to be more susceptible to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s. And just as importantly, what women can do to protect themselves against those types of problems.


One of the key areas Dr. Mosconi focused on was food, which didn’t surprise me. What we eat impacts us in many ways, so it makes sense that our brains might also be affected. And much of what she said aligns with other things I’ve heard – and probably you have – over the years:

· Focus on whole foods vs. processed foods

· Go for complex carbohydrates over simple carbs

· No to trans fats, but yes to unsaturated fats and, in moderation, saturated fats

· Get plenty of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables


I’m not arguing with her suggestions, but what got to me was the reference to good and bad carbs, foods that should be avoided “at all costs” and the strong weight focus. I give her credit for not saying dessert or sweets are completely off-limits, but the implied judgment behind some of the language got the rebellious part of me going, which made it hard for me to focus on what she was saying.


After thinking about it, I came up with a few ideas to help calm that rebellious side, and I wanted to share them in case you’ve found yourself in the same boat.


Forget about perfection

The first thing to remind yourself is not to be a perfectionist. Food suggestions like the ones in The XX Braincan often make it feel like you have to do everything exactly right, but that’s not a good goal.


Trying to be perfect will only make you feel bad about yourself and will probably bring out your rebellious streak even more.


Instead, take what makes sense for your and try applying it. Maybe it’s not feasible for you to cut out all processed foods, but you could reduce them. Or you could try replacing a one simple carb with a complex one, at least to start.


Remember, it’s still progress to make any change, even if it’s small, in the direction you want to go.


Find a good balance

It’s also important not to let worrying about the food suggestions take over your life. If you’re stressed that you’re not doing it “right” or if you’re thinking all the time about what you “should” be eating, you’re not doing yourself any favors.


Stress, after all, is a huge health concern, as Dr. Mosconi noted. And stressing all the time about your diet… or trying to find time for a bunch of food prep…. or spending money you don’t have on fancy ingredients – all of this could backfire and the stress could undo any health benefits from eating the suggested foods.


We all only have so much time and energy, and while it’s important to pay attention to your food, it doesn’t help if you feel bad about yourself because you don’t have time to do everything. You need to find a good balance.



Focus on doing what you can in a way that won’t overburden you and is sustainable.


Adjust as you go

And finally, you can always make more changes down the road.


For example, say you want to cook more, but you don’t have time to cook all your meals. You could start with cooking a few, and later, if you have more time, you could start cooking more.


Or say you want to switch to all organic produce, but you can’t afford it right now. You could start by going organic for the dirty dozen (i.e., the top 12 foods with the most pesticides), or maybe even the top 6 in the list. If you later get a raise, you could consider adding more organic items to your meals.


Adjustments like these are always possible, and you may do better by making small tweaks over time instead of a big change all at once.


Rebelliousness can go too far

Being a little rebellious isn’t a bad thing. It can remind you to question and not take everything at face value.


But it can also go too far, especially if it’s more of a knee-jerk reaction based on old habits, such as when someone talks to you about food choices. It can keep you from listening to what the other person has to say and seeing if any of it makes sense for you.


In those cases, it can help to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re not striving for perfection. You can take whatever part of the advice – if any – works for you, and you can always adjust as you go. Hopefully remembering those things will help if you find yourself in that situation.

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