We are creatures of habit. We have amassed lots of habits that have been developed over the years that sometimes become subconscious.
We are not aware of the things we do until we purposely take notice of them. For instance, observing the thought that leads to the action of us reaching for the biscuits. What was the thought? Were we feeling upset?, distressed?, depressed?, angry?
If you find you want to reach for the packet of biscuits, catch yourself in that moment. Examine your thinking. How are you feeling? What state of mind are you in? What is your mood? Disrupt your pattern by forming a new one.
Rather than indulging your craving, count back slowly from 100. With each number you find yourself wanting the cookies less and less. This is because you are disrupting your usual pattern of behaviour and consciously replacing it with a new one. You’ll find that after 100 that cookie won’t be as tempting as it was.
Emotional eating can also extend to happiness too. Childhood habits can see us overindulge for doing something good which can spill into adulthood where we treat ourselves with food for rewards. This is fine as long as it’s periodically.
There are ways to treat yourself other than eating. Why not get your nails or you hair done? Why not treat yourself to a nice hot bath and a facial? Why not have a healthy lunch with the boys or the girls? There are other rewarding ways to treat yourself that are not based around tempting treats. It’s just a matter of thinking a little outside the box and replacing old habits with new and healthier ones.
If you find yourself reaching for that tempting delicious high fat food because you have nothing else to do, why not call a friend for a chat? Why not take up a sport and meet up with your friends instead? Guaranteed you’ll have so much fun you won’t even be thinking about junk food.
Some strategies for avoiding emotional and boredom eating:
Keep a food diary which details time, places of eating, who with and how you are feeling emotionally can help to uncover patterns and triggers for eating.
Keep a journal and write responses about the following:
· What triggers your eating behaviours?
· What kinds of things would you like to change about your eating?
· How easily can you make changes to your eating?
· What helps you the most in sticking to your eating goals?
Try to restrict simultaneous activities with food, e.g. eating at your desk at work or you will tend to associate food with a place you spend many hours of your day.
Visibility of food is a strong cue for eating – whether it be at home, in your car or office. So put foods away out of view (hide the biscuit jar etc.)
Distract yourself from the food/drink – you may decide to eat anyhow, but give yourself the opportunity to make that a conscious decision rather than a reflex one. Most urges do not remain consistently strong, they peak and subside.
Don’t allow yourself to get over hungry – environmental, social, emotional cues are the hardest to ignore when you are hungry. Instead of focusing on how you feel now – try to visualize how you will feel after you have eaten (which will usually be feelings of guilt or regret if it was a bad food choice).
Exercise to take you mind off eating, a jog around the neighbourhood or a quick boxing bag session will usually do the trick for me.
Plan your own strategies – only you can pick the best options for you. If you are given ‘solutions’, it is easy to argue why they don’t work for you.
Expect lapses - if you do over eat or eat something you would have preferred not to, do not punish yourself – this is more likely to lead to a cycle of bad eating.
It should be a healthy appetite that drives us to eat. When our energy needs replenishing because we’ve depleted our energy stores our appetite signals for us to eat. It is a simple biological reflex. We get hungry, we eat. Sometimes our hunger is more psychological than physical and thinking our body is hungry, we feed it.
If you have eaten your last meal within the past 2 hours more often than not it will be thirst which your body can sometimes interpret as hunger. If you know you have just had your last meal within a short timeframe ago, try drinking a glass of water then waiting 10-15 minutes for the brain to register it. If you are still hungry after this time period then have another glass of water.
Sometimes we eat out of boredom. If you find yourself sitting around and instinctively reaching for the fridge or the pantry, catch yourself.
It’s all about replacing bad habits with good ones because that is what will make your weight loss a permanent success. It goes far deeper than losing weight for the sake of it but rather arming you with the tools to make sure you really succeed this time.
Why we need a permanent solution is because we are reprogramming ourselves and our attitude towards our food. Look at this way, it took years to form these habits and it will take a little time to break them and create newer healthier habits in its place.
Nothing is more apparent then when we eliminate all of our favourite foods at once. Our body goes into shock, tries to override our good intentions and sabotages our efforts. Another diet bites the dust simply because we weren’t aware of how we conditioned our bodies over the years.
Our bodies are marvellous pieces of machinery and will stop at nothing to preserve us at all costs. That means that if we drastically reduce our food intake our body will shut down our metabolism to force us to eat. When we do, we binge and gain back all the lost pounds we fought so hard to lose. Don’t hate your body for that, it is just doing what comes naturally.
So how do we get around this? Work in alignment with your body. Introduce changes gradually. Don’t shock your body or it will thwart your best intentions to lose weight.
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My name is Dave Hagger, founder of Seriously Fit Bootcamp
As a fitness professional I frequently meet people who want to lose weight but just have no idea where to start.