It’s the classic story of junk food trying to keep control over someone that wants to become healthier in their food choices. You want to eat healthier and you have done your research. You know what your body needs to be healthy. Unprocessed foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean meats, wholegrains, low-fat dairy.
You know that you need to, and you really want to, limit the junk. You want to make sure the ‘Sometimes Foods’ are only eaten, sometimes. But there you go again. Someone brings it into your space and you eat it…lots of it.
“I’ve got no self discipline”, “I’ve got no will power”, “I’ve got no control”, “I can’t stop myself”.
Do these lines sound familiar?
Guilty, deflated, demoralized. This negative self-talk can become a mantra of helplessness and it does nothing to promote good self-esteem or happiness. Rather, it is likely to set you on a course to giving up even trying to make healthy choices.
It’s time to get positive and take control!
- Give yourself permission to eat it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but psychology tells us that a sure-fire way to really, really want to eat something, is to tell ourselves we ‘can’t’ have it. Once you ‘give yourself permission’, stop and think. Ask yourself these two questions. Do I really want it and why do I want it? It puts you back in control.
- Remember your goals. Where does healthy eating fit into your big goal? Set some small, measurable goals around healthy eating that will help you make healthier choices, for example:
- I will eat 2 pieces of fruit every day
- Before I eat chocolate, I will have a glass of water
- On Sunday afternoon, I will spend 10 minutes planning this week’s meals
- Record what you eat for a few days. But don’t just write it down and forget about it – reflect on your habits and choices. Identify the situations or people that help you make a healthy choice and those that derail you. Once you know this information you can develop some strategies to prevent being derailed.
- Enlist help. Ask your friends and family to help you by not bringing unhealthy food when they visit. Catch up with a friend for a walk instead of coffee and cake. Willpower is limited so make it easy for yourself to say no.
- Make it easier to make a healthy choice than an unhealthy one. “Out of sight, out of mind” is actually quite true when if comes to non-hungry eating. If you do have ‘sometimes’ food in the house, hide it behind the better choices. Don’t keep the biscuits next to the teabags, or the chocolate next to the coffee mugs. Perhaps throw it in the bin in a moment of strength. Food is not more wasted put in the bin than put into your body if you don’t need it.
- Don’t camp next to the food table at a party or function. So many people struggle to stop eating when there is a range of delicious things right in from of them. Choose what you want to eat then move away.
- Find a way of giving yourself the opportunity to say no. A post-it stuck on the biscuit jar saying ‘do you really want it?’, can be all you need to remind yourself to consider whether you really want to eat something, before you just go ahead and scoff without even thinking.
- Give yourself time. If you are not sure if you are about to eat out of hunger or for non-hungry reasons, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Go and do something while you wait. If you still feel like it after 10, go ahead and have it, but set another timer before going back for more!
- Practice eating just a small amount, slowly, mindfully. Instead of pushing a whole handful of maltesers in your mouth while watching TV or hiding from the kids, take your time. Look at it, smell it, taste it and process what you are tasting. Consider how you are feeling. Do you actually like it? Do you actually want more? If you consciously ‘tune in’ to the experience of eating, you will be more satisfied when you are done, and likely eat less of it.
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- Don’t look back. So you ate a whole lot of high energy, nutritionally poor food. Don’t stress. You are allowed to eat whatever you like, it’s your body. Be kind to yourself. You made your choice, there is nothing you can do about it now. Accept it, try to learn from it and move on!
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