One thing that many people get wrong about dieting is, well, dieting. When weight loss is seen as a goal in itself, the true changes that you need to make to your relationship with food can’t be made. This is why many people lose weight and then gain it back. They get stuck in the dieting mentality, meet their goal weight, and then revert back into bad habits.
If you truly want to lose weight and keep it off, then your entire attitude to food has to change. Doing this isn’t easy, and is why so many people spend years with fluctuating weight that never truly stabilises. When you switch your focus to changing your relationship with food, you will find that losing and maintaining your weight is far easier than you ever imagined it would be.
Below are five different things you can do that can help to alter the way you interact with food. If you can adopt these behaviours, thought patterns, and strategies, you should be able to alter your relationship with food for good— and experience a myriad of health benefits for having done so.
Disconnect food from reward
We’ve all done it. You achieve something great or tackle a task you’ve been dreading, so it seems only fair to “reward” yourself with a slice of cake or sweet treat. This seems like natural behaviour, but it’s actually rather damaging when it comes to encouraging a healthy relationship with food.
Try and reward yourself in other ways, such as by treating yourself to a new book or catching up with friends. Rewards don’t have to be food-based to be gratifying; doing anything you a) wouldn’t normally do and b) enjoy can be a reward in and of itself.
Disconnect food from punishment
This goes hand-in-hand with the above; food isn’t a reward, but it’s not a punishment either.
The situation where food is used as a punishment most commonly occurs when you’ve slipped from a preferred eating plan. You’ll tell yourself that as you had that Chinese takeaway last night, you’ve got to be “punished” by eating nothing but salad for the next three days. Food shouldn’t be a punishment; it’s a form of sustenance and nothing more.
If you’ve slipped on your eating plan, don’t sweat it. Maybe exercise a little more than you would have, but otherwise, it’s water under the bridge, and all you should focus on is improving your willpower in the future.
Understand what hunger is
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a marked difference in hunger and appetite. Learning to appreciate this difference is a key component of improving your relationship with food.
- Hunger is when you are physically hungry; i.e. when your stomach is rumbling.
- Appetite is not a physical sensation; it’s when and what you feel like eating.
Hunger and appetite tend to go hand-in-hand, but not always. If your relationship with food isn’t the best, then there’s a good chance you mistake appetite for hunger frequently. Just because you want to eat doesn’t mean that you need to eat. Unless you’re physically hungry, you don’t need to eat, so always ask yourself where the drive to eat is coming from. If it’s coming from a physical need, that’s fine, but if you just want to eat for emotional reasons, then eating might not be the best idea.
On a similar note, a huge number of people mistake thirst for hunger. This might sound odd, as they are very different physical feelings, but it can and does happen. If you feel hungry, then it’s worth drinking water to see if this alleviates the issue. There’s really no downside to giving it a try— if you really are hungry, then drinking water should help satisfy you until you’re ready to eat, and better hydration is always going to be a plus!
Change your experience of food
The physical act of eating food is about more than obtaining the nutrients we need to survive. It’s a tactile experience; the smell of food as it prepared, the feel of it in our mouths, the sight of a well-arranged and Instagrammable plate. Even food shopping can be fun if you like visiting markets and touring farm shops.
Learning to see food as something that provides sustenance and nutrients, rather than a delightful sensory experience, is a key part of changing the way you think about food in general. Opting to follow a meal replacement plan is the best way to achieve this; you’ll still get the nutrients you need, but without the sensory pleasures that can tie you to the cooking and eating process. The full range of UK products from Isatonic and similar brands are examples of that taste good and provide excellent nutritional sustenance, but without all the emotional attachment you may have to shopping, preparing, and eating food. Understanding that food is primarily the fuel your body needs, rather than an experience, can drastically alter the way that you view food in the future.
Keep a “food” diary
Keep a food diary, but with a different spin. Rather than writing down what you eat, write down when you eat and how much you ate. For example:
- Thursday. Ate at 6pm after long day of work. Ate more than I should have.
- Sunday. Went for a walk with the dog. Ate dinner at 7pm. Ate a normal amount of food.
That’s all it needs to be; just keep it basic. This is a useful tool for identifying potentially stressful situations and understanding when you may over-eat, which in turn can be helpful for prevention of similar occurrences in the future. You can also identify days and circumstances in which you ate what you intended to and nothing more; you can think try and replicate these circumstances in the future.
By altering your relationship with food, you will be able to achieve the weight loss and maintenance that you have always wanted to. When you achieve this, you will find that your attitude and your body are far healthier as a result. Good luck!
**This is a collaborative post. For more information please head over to my disclosure page.