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Last Updated on June 14, 2021
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Trying to eat a healthier diet isn’t as simple as you might think. After all, you just need to eat more good foods and less junk food and sugar right? If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. The fact is, humans are creatures of habit and there are a number of emotional and behavioral issues around controlling our relationship with food.
Learn to cook healthier foods for social events
Most people associate social occasions with eating. Whether you’re going to a wedding, a party, getting together to watch sports or for games night, there’s usually a lot of takeouts, alcohol, and calorie-rich food. So instead of working your way through an entire pizza trying to work out what is the largest NFL stadium then topping it off with a tub of ice, why not learn how to make better substitutes?
No one wants to go to social events and not eat so get in some less calorific snack and learn how to cook your favorite dishes but substitute lower-calorie ingredients.
Be mindful when you’re eating
How often do you eat while you’re doing something else? Watching TV, scrolling on our smartphones, working at your laptop? Not being present when you eat can cause you to eat too much and not realize when you’re full.
In addition to the health considerations, you’re also missing out on the food too. The taste, texture, and how much you’re enjoying it. Learn to eat mindfully and you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience a lot more. You’ll also be more in tune with how your body needs and reacts to food. Usually, if we’re doing something else, we eat out of habit, but if you’re eating mindfully, you’re less likely to eat when you aren’t hungry.
Don’t label foods as good and bad
Many of the diets today demonize particular food groups. Whether it’s carbs, meats or sugar. This can lead to unhealthy relationships with food. Unless you’re cutting out foods due to allergies or intolerances, or because you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, then you should not label foods good and bad, instead, look at moderation. Eating a takeout isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s only every so often, but if you’re eating one every day, that’s where the problem occurs.
Really unless you an elite athlete in training, there’s no reason not to focus on a balanced diet where everything can be eaten in moderation. It will really make a difference to your life when you’re not categorizing your foods in this way and you won’t have guilt for those foods you used to consider as ‘bad’.
Exercise for mental and physical health
If you’re trying to lose weight, then about 80% of that will rest on what you’re eating rather than how much you’re exercising. However, there are so many benefits to exercise that can actually improve your relationship with food. Exercise can give you energy and improve your mood, which means that if you’re prone to emotional overeating, you could see an improvement in this area. Feeling more confident about your body can also give you the motivation to make better decisions about what you eat.
Even if it’s just going for a short walk every day, any increase in your usual activity levels is good for you. Don’t think you have to go from zero to working out in a gym 6 days a week. Go at your own pace and your confidence and stamina will build along the way.
Don’t get too hungry or too full
It can be easy to make bad decisions when you’re very hungry, which is why most nutritionists recommend never going shopping on an empty stomach. You’re more likely to go for fast energy and that’s usually in the form of junk food or high-fat snacks.
Similarly, don’t fill yourself up too much either. Feeling full to the point where it’s uncomfortable means that you aren’t learning from your body when you’re full. Don’t get into the mindset that you have to clear your plate every time. This is something that is usually drilled into children as they grow up. It’s OK to stop eating when you’re full if there’s still food left. If you find you’re constantly leaving food, then start cooking less of it.
Identify emotional triggers
Emotional eating is a big problem for many people and the emotion that triggers it can be different for everyone. For some it is stress, for others, it is bereavement or other triggering events in their life. Some people even eat more when they are happy and less when they are sad. The important thing is to recognize your emotional triggers and try to prepare for them or find other ways to deal with the emotions. This could be anything from seeking professional help to finding a hobby or taking up exercise. It will be difficult, especially if you’ve been falling into the same patterns your entire life.
Keep a food journal
Sometimes we’re just blissfully unaware of what we’re eating and how it relates to our health. One thing you can try is to write down everything you eat in a week. Don’t leave anything out, write down every little pinch of food and drink that passes your lips. When you come to look at it at the end of the week, you’ll probably be quite surprised by what you see, but it can give you the kick you need to make changes.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or just improve your health, your relationship with food is very important. If you think that you have or are developing an eating disorder, you should talk to a professional straight away. It’s not going to be easy for a lot of people as you are trying to undo the habits of a lifetime, but with some planning and coping tools, you should be able to change your relationship with food for the better.