What comes to mind when you think of food?
What comes to mind for me are feelings of comfort, joy, family, and energy. How we view the food we eat, what we see it as being, impacts our whole attitude towards it. In my opinion, food is good! It is part of creation and provides nourishment, strength and even celebration. So therefore I often find myself asking “Why shouldn’t I indulge a little?” As soon as that thought crosses my mind, it’s as if I have already given myself permission to overeat without even realizing it.
Too often I have ordered an oversized, artery clogging, calorie-dense dessert after dinner (all for myself of course), knowing I probably shouldn’t but also telling myself “it’s okay because it’s a special occasion.” Or every time my mom or a family member serves me a heaping plate of food, “I have to eat it all or they will be offended,” I think to myself. Or that feeling of failure when I realize I just accidentally ate the whole bag of popcorn while watching Scandal. What about year after year of feeling regret following the holiday season because of weight gained from overindulging. Isn’t the purpose of Thanksgiving to stuff your face? No! Can you relate to these situations?
My excuses to overeat were becoming more of a habit. One day I just realized there would always be something to celebrate, someone offering me more food, a movie to watch, or a special event to attend. If we are being really honest with ourselves, we know that we often overeat those foods that AREN’T so good for us—I know this is true for me. I was undoing all of my hard work at the gym by overeating. I was tired of feeling so out of control and decided to overcome this consuming habit. Overeating doesn’t just destroy your physical progress, but actually increases body fat and results in negative health impacts like chronic diseases. My health and my life are more important than buttery popcorn, decadent desserts, and greasy fries. Is yours? I’m determined to start 2016 off with better habits and that includes overcoming overeating!
Why don’t I have more self-control?
I would ask myself this ALL THE TIME. I realized part of my overeating was because I wasn’t paying attention while I ate. I noticed I would often overeat if I had my dinner or snack while watching TV. I was also more likely to mindlessly munch if I was stressed and rushing, because I would inhale my food instead of taking time to chew it properly.
Food addiction is another main reason it can be difficult to stop eating when we’re full and satisfied. If a diet includes many processed foods high in saturated fats, added sugars, and salt, the body becomes addicted. It begins to experience similar changes in the brain as drugs cause and dependency develops.
Restrictive dieting can also destroy any chance of self-control you might have. Labeling any foods as “off limits” usually leads to overeating later on, because we always want what we can’t have right? 😉 And the final blow to our lack of self-control is sabotage. Yes, our willpower is sneakily crushed by things like advertising, fad diets, convenience, social and cultural pressures. I mean, seriously, I get hungry just looking at Pinterest!
How do I overcome overeating?
Everyday we make several decisions when it comes to what we put into our bodies. If I was going to overcome overeating and break the cycle, I had to implement some strategies. So here is what I came up with, what I continue to practice daily, and what I find works for me.
Yes, we were made to consume food, but food was never supposed to consume us. You can overcome overeating by addressing your mindset first. Reinforce your commitment to your health by immersing your mind and spirit in positive experiences, whether it be a book or self care practices (like a warm bath, getting a massage, speaking out positive affirmations). These things make you feel good about yourself and bring you confidence that overindulging in food will not.
Stop mindless eating by pausing before a meal to bring awareness and gratitude to what you are about to eat. Give your meal your full attention by not eating in front of the television or even at your desk at work. Break your food addictions by eating nutrient dense foods made with whole, unrefined ingredients. Foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and unrefined tubers/starches provide a higher nutrient value are not as calorie heavy as processed convenience foods. They are also generally higher in fiber and are more likely to fill you up at a lower calorie cost. While we should strive to eat healthier foods, if you’re REALLY craving something allow yourself to give in to that craving, but in moderation. Give yourself permission to have a little, otherwise you’ll binge on it later.
When it comes to societal sabotages, all you can do is learn to recognize them and develop healthy habits strong enough to overcome them. Change the channel when you see a food commercial (if it has a commercial, it’s probably bad for you), plan to leave half of your meal, check the menu in advance and plan to order a healthier dish, share your dessert, and don’t think it is OKAY to eat something you know is bad for you just because every one else is eating it.
The struggle to say “NO” to temptations may be painful in the moment but it’s just that- it’s momentary! Don’t trade healthy food for junk food. Don’t give up the fulfillment of a healthy life for a temporary moment.
A few more tips:
• Make it inconvenient! Stash your unhealthy foods on a high shelf or behind a stack of heavy plates. Your less likely to eat it if it’s hard to get to.
• Out of Sight, Out of Mind– Hide that candy dish that’s always sitting on your desk.
• Eat slowly and drink water between bites, chew food thoroughly. It can take 12 to 20 minutes for food satisfaction signals to reach the brain. Give your body time to process what you’re giving it.
• Don’t Skip meals– Waiting more than 3 hours between meals will increases your chances of overeating at your next meal.
This holiday season, I believe that you can overcome overeating. I won’t lie to you and say it’s easy. It’s something I have to be mindful of often, but keeping these tips in mind I find myself overeating LESS often. That’s what I strive for, progress not perfection! Do not start 2016 off with resolutions that reflect failures from this year. End 2015 by defeating destructive behaviors like overeating. It will take a lot of work but be persistent in your efforts. Hardwork pays off.