A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with a coworker that really made me think about something I now call the <strong>“can’t” phenomenon. I was chatting with a coworker and the topic of healthy eating came up. This is a common occurrence due to the fact I am a dietitian and I often get many questions about what to eat and what not to eat. This particular coworker, we’ll call her Maggie, I have had numerous health related conversations with. The current discussion began with soda, asking if diet soda was really any better than regular. I will veer off the story for a second… The one tip I have on soda; if you can cut soda completely out of your diet, great! If not, diet is best. Regular soda is filled with empty and completely unnecessary sugars – a waste of calories. It is comparable to eating around 10 teaspoons of sugar, imagine that? I’d rather have a piece of dark chocolate or frozen yogurt.
I digress, back to the story.
The topic turned from soda to sweets, another topic Maggie and I have discussed in great length. She stated, “I have no self-control when it comes to sweets, I cannot say no”. She continued, “Even though I know I shouldn’t have another piece of cake or finish off the batch of cookies because I am absolutely stuffed, I just can’t say no”. I waited for just a second, thinking of how to respond and then said “Maggie, have you ever really tried to say no?” Maggie continued saying “I just can’t”. Again I asked, “But have you ever really tried??” She stopped for a minute and shook her head, “I just can’t”.
This conversation really made me think. Why do some of us assume that we cannot do certain things? Could it simply be because we haven’t tried? Are we too afraid? What is it? And this really does apply to so many aspects of life. The major life/love/career opportunities or experiences we may be missing out on because think we can’t. But why can’t we?
This whole topic was very perplexing and got me thinking for the following days. What is the reason why we think we can’t say no or don’t stop ourselves from finishing off the bag of potato chips or having another bowl of ice cream after we are stuffed to the brim? Is it really because we can’t? Or is it because we haven’t tried and succeeded… Yet?
And don’t get me wrong, ice cream, cake, French fries, crispy calamari and the dessert room at Berns, can all fit into a healthy, balanced diet – the key is moderation. For the other situations I described, I am referring to the times we are full and just want to continue eating to fill a void in our lives, or because we are bored or hurting or angry or many other reasons people overeat.
Here’s the thing, is the reason we can’t or better yet, think we can’t, simply because we haven’t yet? Here was the epiphany I had when talking to Maggie, if we say no or do whatever it is we think we can’t do, one time, just one time… then we <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>can</span> and we <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>did</span>. Right? I mean technically if it has been done once, it can be done again. And that is powerful. It is now not just a possibility, but reality.
And that is what I said to Mary, “Just try it one time, just one time, and really try to say no”. Thinking of how many women, myself included, who have had AMAZING accomplishments throughout their lives; bearing children, graduating college or grad school, raising a family, overcoming heartache, moving, death… and there is not one women I know who hasn’t struggled with this “can’t phenomenon” in some form.
Maybe the only reason why we can’t is simply due to the fact that we haven’t. “Just turn away once, just do it and see how it makes you feel”, this is what I said to Maggie. Empowered, accomplished, proud, strong are just a few of the words that come to mind. Because it just takes one time, one time overcoming and making that possibility turn into a reality. To turn a negative into a positive and then be able to draw on that positive experience the next time the situation is presented. Back in control and back in the driver’s seat. That is the part that I love in coming to this conclusion, we have the control, that thing we thought we couldn’t do is not in control, we are. Why can I do it? Because I did do it! That is empowering