- Manage stress
One of the most important aspects of being in charge of how much you eat is not using food to deal with stress or overwhelming feelings. Notice this does not say to avoid stress (not possible), but to manage it. How can you better manage your stress? Can you reframe your thoughts to see more of the positives in any situation? Can you exercise or meditate? Delegate some tasks to others.
- Eat regular meals, and snacks if needed
Sticking to regular meal times keeps you biochemically in balance. Getting overly hungry or nutrient depleted will send your brain and body into “famine mode”, and the urge to overeat can be very strong and impossible to resist. Always honor your body’s hunger and fullness signals in terms of quantities. Some days you will need to eat more, some days less.
- Increase your “wantpower” (vs. willpower)
Some may say to avoid all temptations. Don’t keep junk food or binge foods around because they take too much willpower to resist. This may be okay for a while, but can you avoid every tempting food situation forever? Wouldn’t it be more empowering to not really care about these foods anymore? Restricting and forbidding certain foods typically makes you want them even more. So avoiding temptations can actually backfire into a binge. If you are in a diet/binge cycle the first step to recovery must be to release the restriction (scary I know, but necessary). Tell yourself you can eat whatever, whenever you want. For a while you may eat ice cream at every meal; however, if you are paying attention to your body and how you feel, this won’t continue I promise. Eventually, your body will crave the veggies and salads you previously forced yourself to eat. The body naturally wants to be healthy and in balance. However, in cycles of dieting and overeating, you ignore our body wisdom. “wantpower” is about giving up diet mentality and restriction (which drives overeating), and allowing your body the trust & freedom it needs to lead you to healthy balanced eating. Once you develop “wantpower” you naturally choose the foods that make you feel healthy, strong and full of life, and those once forbidden foods are “just food” and not as alluring anymore.
- Stop dieting
We already touched on this in #3. The hunger and deprivation of strict dieting will trigger food cravings and the urge to overeat. Instead of restricting/counting calories and having forbidden foods, focus on hunger directed eating – eat when you are physically hungry, stop when you are comfortably full and satisfied.
- Be mindful and inspired
Be present when you are eating. Turn off all distractions so that you can notice when you get full, and really taste and feel satisfied from your food. If eating has turned into a hobby, start thinking of ways you can enhance the joy and inspiration in your life.
- Get enough sleep
This one is huge and overlooked. Lack of sleep causes hunger hormones to increase. If you’re tired you may want to keep eating in order to boost energy; being tired is like pseudo-hunger. Research shows that the vast majority of people need at least 7 hours of sleep for the body and mind to function optimally.
- Listen to your body
Practice distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger. Physical hunger comes on gradually and does not feel urgent (unless you get overly famished). It can be satisfied with any food, and once you are full you can easily stop eating. After eating you feel satisfied and recharged. Emotional hunger will come on suddenly and feel urgent. Typically it will be a craving for a certain type of food. Emotional hunger doesn’t get satisfied and you eat more than you normally would. Afterward, you feel guilty and upset with yourself. Learn to sit through urges to eat when not physically hungry. It is just a feeling that WILL pass. By eating you are fighting the feeling, rather than just allowing yourself to feel it. Remember unpleasant feelings cannot hurt you, so you don’t need to react or fight them, just let them pass by.
- Keep a food diary
Write down what you eat, when you eat, how much, and how you’re feeling when you eat and after you eat. You may see patterns emerge that reveal connections between your moods, your sleep, and what and how much you eat. You will also learn what foods feel good to your body and satisfy you, which will help you develop “wantpower”.
Find Freedom With Food
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7 Essential Steps to Find Freedom with Food