11/17/2014 01:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get Off of the Tightrope and onto the Path

Dieting is like walking a tightrope: Nik Wallenda makes it look easy, but for the rest of us, one misstep and it's all over!

Mindful eating is a wide path that's nearly impossible to fall off of. You have flexibility and options so you can make decisions based on what you want and need in any given situation. When you make a choice that doesn't work out well, you simply observe the consequences, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.


It sounds simple -- and it really is -- once you've learned some new skills and had some practice. The hardest part for most people is letting go of the long pole -- the rules -- that they've been clinging to for so long. While they were walking the diet tightrope, those rules were essential for maintaining their balance: "What can I eat? When should I eat? How much am I allowed to have? How long will I have to exercise to burn it off?"

Before they actually learn how to eat mindfully, people find it really hard to believe that it could "work" for them: "But you don't understand. I am an emotional eater" or "I am addicted to sugar" or "I'll just lose control" or "How will I know when, what, or how much to eat?" I get it. It's really difficult to let go of something that was so crucial before.

On the wide path of mindful eating, rules are simply unnecessary. In fact, they get in the way because those old rules keep you stuck in old patterns. Picture trying to walk along a path with that long pole getting lodged between trees or buildings!

The issue usually comes down to trust: "I can't trust myself around food." In other words, "If I don't have rules, I'll fall off the tightrope." Exactly. So come down off that tightrope and we'll teach you how to walk along this beautiful path instead.

For health and wellness professionals: This analogy is really important for understanding the necessity of shifting away from a paradigm based on teaching people how to walk a tightrope. Sure there are a few who are able to learn that skill, while the rest keep falling to the ground. It is time to stop debating about whether umbrellas or poles work better, and start teaching people a more grounded, balanced approach!