For those struggling with obesity, one part of the struggle is often an unhealthy relationship with food. Sometimes, developing a better attitude towards food and eating before weight loss surgery can help you either avoid the need for surgery, or prepare yourself for greater success and long-term results afterwards. Learn to develop these ten crucial habits to build a healthy relationship with food:
Mindfulness is the key to eating to nourish the body rather than for less purposeful reasons such as boredom or obligation. Pay attention to the signs your body sends that indicates hunger. Also, use your senses to enjoy your food when you eat. When you train your mind to think before eating you ensure that the food is necessary and serving the purpose of fueling your body.
Be Aware of Your Emotions and Food
To lose weight, you will spend a lot of time considering what you eat, when you eat, and how you eat it. Some diet programs carefully time meals and snacks to ensure your blood sugar remains stable, while others will focus on controlling food groups or counting calories. Yet the “why” behind eating is just as important. Eating can be an extremely emotional experience that impacts self-esteem and emotional behaviors. People may eat because they are stressed, bored, sad, angry, or happy. Realistically, life is stressful and overwhelming at times. If you are turning to food for comfort, you may be contributing to your weight struggle.
Turn to the Right Choices for Comfort
Stress eating is a very real problem, but not just because you are eating when you are not hungry. So-called “comfort foods” are often full of sugar, because sugar signals the feel-good receptors in the brain. We start to feel better after eating sugary foods, and that makes us want to keep eating. However, this is actually a negative spiral, as your brain is tricking you to pursue unhealthy eating habits.
Instead, when you feel the need to eat in order to trigger those feel-good receptors, consider turning to exercise. A little rigorous exercise can trigger the same feelings, without adding unneeded food to your diet. If you are hungry, eat whole foods like fruit instead of processed food, and enjoy the benefits while also fueling your body with healthy foods.
Enjoy Everything (In Moderation)
No food is “bad” or “off limits” for someone with a healthy relationship with food. Instead, people who have a healthy relationship with food understand that moderation is the key. They enjoy their favorite unhealthy food choices from time to time, but in small, single-serving portions. They also don’t allow occasional treats to evolve into multi-day unhealthy binges. As the saying goes, all things are good in moderation.
Use The Right Timing
One of the keys to enjoying unhealthy foods as occasional treats is to time the indulgence appropriately. If you decide to have pizza when you feel extremely hungry, you are going to eat more of than you should. Instead, enjoy these less healthy treats at a time you are mostly full. Then you can have a smaller portion, give in to the craving a little bit, but avoid the temptation to overeat.
Stop Eating When You’re Comfortably Full
Fullness, like hunger, starts off small. In fact, if you’re not being mindful, you may not even notice that you are getting full until you are completely stuffed. At this point, you have overeaten. If you are practicing mindful eating, learn to stop when you are no longer hungry. In order to recognize this point of fullness, eat slowly without distractions like TV or internet activities and be sure to drink plenty of water.
People who treat food in a healthy way are often those who eat breakfast. In fact, the Mayo Clinic indicates that regularly eating a healthy breakfast can help you lose weight and maintain your healthy weight by reducing hunger, encouraging healthy choices, and providing more energy throughout the day to encourage more physical activity. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Be sure to include a healthy amount of protein and fiber in your breakfast to reduce hunger and cravings.
Don’t Take the Whole Bag
Sitting down with an entire bag of potato chips or the entire pint of ice cream is a recipe for over-indulging. Instead, take a serving size portion and eat it while the bag or container remains closed and stored. This will force you to think before reaching for another bite once you’ve finished your serving.
Don’t Snack on Treats
A “snack” is a small serving of food designed to provide energy and satiate hunger until a meal. In some diet plans, snacks are an important part of the overall weight loss process because they help keep blood sugar levels stable. A “treat” is an unhealthy, feel-good food that is acceptable on occasion, but not on a regular basis. Those who have a healthy relationship with food know the difference.
Give Yourself Permission to Enjoy Eating
If you’ve struggled with weight, you may find yourself feeling guilty when enjoying a treat or struggling to enjoy your meals. Those with a healthy relationship with food, on the other hand, are those who take the time to really enjoy the foods they do eat. Instead of gobbling down a sandwich on your way from one meeting to the next, take an actual lunch break so you can savor the flavors. You will find the food is far more satisfying when you slow down long enough and give yourself permission to enjoy it.
Remember, weight loss is a journey that challenges you both emotionally and physically. If you find that your relationship with food is part of your problem, keep these tips in mind to help retrain your thinking and improve your eating habits.