Two years ago, I miscarried my first pregnancy at eleven weeks. But in an effort to find control during a sad stage when I felt I had none, I began getting acupuncture to balance my health and up my odds for the next time. One of the things my acupuncturist suggested was a food plan that wasn’t for the weak: No caffeine. No dairy. No wheat. No alcohol. No refined grains. No cold drinks. No raw vegetables. Some terrible-tasting teas. And a gagging supplementation of spoonfuls of blackstrap molasses I had to pinch my nose to get down.
The next week, I went in on the verge of tears.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I mean . . . I hate it! I just don’t know how to eat anymore.” My voice quivered as I explained the walls I’d hit that week. I’d wanted a salad, but it was raw, so I thought I’d get a sandwich, but I couldn’t have the bread. Pasta was out. Icy smoothies were out. And when my husband got a slice of pizza, I couldn’t have that, either—“not even the ‘salad’ pizza with cooked veggies on top!”
My acupuncturist patiently nodded and then said this: “I’m hearing a lot about what you can’t eat. What about what you can?”
Aargh. She was right. And I’ve since learned this is true of lots of things in our lives, especially in our health. It happens when a cholesterol issue keeps you from eating the steaks you love, an allergy issue takes gluten and your favorite pizza off the table, or when you blow out your knee and can’t play basketball or run to the car. When our health suffers, it’s natural for us to think about what we can’t do, but we’ll have an entirely different experience when we ask what we can. Do the can-can. And marvel when you realize this: The list of what you can do is so much bigger than what you can’t.
If you focus on what you can’t have, that is all you’ll see—and every dieter knows how that works. The minute you eliminate certain foods, they’re all you think about. And studies have shown that by trying “not” to think about things, it’s exactly what you will. In 2007, when psychologist James Erskine, PhD, had participants taste and rate some chocolate, one group was asked to think about chocolate; one group was asked not to think about chocolate; and the third wasn’t told anything about it. The result? The group instructed not to think about chocolate not only recorded more thoughts about chocolate, they ate more chocolate! The suppression of thoughts led to the exact opposite.
It’s a law of the universe, really: What you give your attention to, you will attract. If you think you’ll never get the job or won’t be able to get your date to like you, you’ll create such a negative energy within you, you’ll probably prove yourself right. And like that chocolate study, if all you’re thinking about is how you can’t have Ring Dings and ice cream, beware the road that leads to 7-Eleven. From now on, turn your back on the restrictions and shift your attention to what’s open.
Life has so much to offer. It’s an endless bounty of things to see, do, eat, experience, and love. So the next time life becomes the buzzkill of the party by telling you what you can’t do, focus on what you can. You’ll be blown away by how much bigger that list is, and all the better for it.Back to all excerpts