Guidelines to Change Your Relationship with Food
It is an unfortunate reality that many of us have struggled with our weight and continue to do so. We have all tried the latest fad diet from South Beach to the Mediterranean along with the exercise trend du jour. Sometimes we see some moderate results, but the majority of us struggle to maintain them. The reason for the lack of long-term success is likely due to not addressing the underlying issue: Our relationship with food.
Many factors can impact our relationship with food. These factors can range from our upbringing, our history of dieting, viewing food as a reward, or our inability to manage stress. Add to that the fact that we need to eat food to live. It is clear to see why our relationship with food is a complicated one.
If that sounds all too familiar, take a look at the guidelines below. Use these guidelines to keep yourself in check while putting in the effort to change your relationship to food. These guidelines can be critical in leading you to a healthier weight and much healthier well-being.
1) Continually Assess Your Hunger
This sounds a little too simple. However, many of us begin eating without even asking ourselves this question. The truth is that sometimes the answer is no. We are not hungry at all. We are just using foods as a means to stave off boredom, stress, or cravings. At times, we are just eating thanks to a social activity or celebration we are attending. The list of reasons is a long one. Though we know these reasons may drive our behavior, we still neglect to ask ourselves if we are hungry. The next time the urge to eat strikes, take a moment to truly assess your hunger level. Be honest with yourself when it comes to determining it. Do I really have an empty stomach? Do I need to fuel myself? The bottom line is that when you assess your hunger and determine that you are not actually hungry, you give yourself the opportunity to change your behavior. Text a friend. Make a cup of black coffee. Try literally anything else besides mindless eating. Perhaps some redirection in the form of a quick distraction is all you need. Plan ahead to have some tasks lined up for when you assess your hunger and find eating is not physiologically necessary. You will be armed with a new behavior the next time a snacking urge hits.
2) Continually Assess Your Fullness
As much as we wish it were true, it is not easy to interpret the body’s feeling of fullness. What may satisfy one stomach may barely fill up another. Consider that when you see the portion size you are served at a restaurant. The entrée may be king-sized with enough calories to sustain you for an entire day. If this is the case, don’t eat the entire thing just because that is the portion size. Make sure you are enjoying your meal. Rather than eating the whole thing and leaving none for the doggie bag, continue to check in with yourself throughout the meal and ask, “Do I Really Want to Keep Going?” Take a moment to consider if you are full or not. When you get to a point near fullness, stop eating, and ask for that take-home bag. Your dog will thank you.
3) Learn How Food Makes You Feel
We have all walked past a bakery and gotten a whiff of the fresh baked goods that have just been pulled out of the oven. If the smell does not trigger you, the sight of a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies just may. Before you know it, you are breaking out of your wallet and ready to make a purchase. You buy the cookie. You eat the cookie. The cookie tastes amazing. But shortly after, you start to feel just a tad uncomfortable. Perhaps you feel a lot uncomfortable. Maybe you are even bloated and sick. Though the urge to eat the sweets and the happiness they brought were brief, that feeling of grossness can linger for hours and even have an impact on the balance of your day. The next time you smell the temptress that is fresh baked goods, stop and ask yourself, “How do I feel after I do things like this?” Remind yourself that the joy will be fleeting, and the unpleasant feeling will last most of the day, and then reconsider if that is the choice you want to make.
4) Explore Healthier Alternatives
Committing to healthy eating does not mean that you will never again indulge in some of your favorite treats. It does, however, mean that sometimes you can make a better choice. A good way to explore this is to find healthier alternatives to unhealthy foods that you still enjoy. Instead of eating fries with your burger, perhaps a fruit cup is an option. Instead of carb-heavy pizza, you might equally enjoy some hearty meatballs. There is no need to let perfection be the enemy of making a better choice. You don’t have to choose the ‘healthiest’; just explore the idea of ‘healthier.’
Remember these guidelines and make sure to have them in mind when making food choices. Doing so will go a long way in helping you to redefine your relationship with food. You will be thrilled with the positive impact this will have on your long-term health.