Is your Instagram feed swamped with images of delicious foods, ranging from brownies to smoothie bowls, signalling mixed messages to your tastebuds on what you fancy? Let alone what your conscience is telling you to eat, after being bombarded with the latest celebrity bikini pictures.
Here are top tips to help you have healthier relationship with food, as opposed to constantly counting calories and obsessively thinking about what you’re putting into your body.
- Don’t label your foods
For a healthy relationship with food, start by not associating them with being ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ “People talk about themselves in terms of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to how habitually they eat or drink things, or whether they snack. ‘I’ve been bad today’, might mean someone has had a chocolate bar or muffin with their coffee. Or ‘I’ve been good’ can mean they have abstained from the biscuit round in the tearoom. We also tend to pass their language, and the concept, on to our children, making them feel ‘bad’ for having an ice cream and ‘good’ for eating broccoli. Often this creates stress and complex feelings, which can actually accentuate and increase the behaviour rather than curb it,” explains Psychologist, Corinne Sweet.
- Avoid seeing food as a punishment or reward
“People learn behaviours quite often with a punishment and reward value. ‘If I finish my homework I can have some chocolate’, or ‘after a hard day at work I deserve a drink.’ Work cultures also are full of punishment and rewards, involving food and drink: the office party, a group meal out, a social event or celebration, cakes at leaving ‘do’s’ and birthday drinks.
“Temptation will always present itself. You have to be prepared, and be aware, ahead of time, that when you go somewhere, visit someone, go out for a meal, that temptation will be right there, in front of you. You have to plan a course of action to curb your vulnerability to being seduced by something you know will trigger your need to snack. This may take effort and time, as we often hang on to what is familiar, but if you stick to it, you will soon be reaping the rewards for a little thoughtful decision-making, retraining and application of willpower – with a little help from your Slissie friend,” explains Corinne.
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- Opt out of emotional eating
If you’re feeling a bit low, are you more inclined to add extra cheese and have a few extra biscuits? “When you do get a craving, stop and think, are you really hungry or want to eat because you are feeling certain emotions? Recognising the difference is half the battle and if you are eating because you are lonely or angry then think of other ways to change that feeling rather than food, maybe a walk in the park or phoning a friend,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar
- Leave the ‘clear your plate’ club
Try not to get sucked into the pressure of eating every scrap of food on your plate. “Try and pay attention to how your stomach is feeling and eat slowly, rather than eating everything that’s in front of you. It’s important that you eat to feel satisfied, as opposed to stuffing yourself,” says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at Superfood.uk the online shopping destination for all things health and wellbeing.
- Don’t ‘save yourself’ before a meal out
“Don’t miss meals leading up to eating out, for example don’t miss lunch thinking that it is going to be helpful in avoiding extra calories because you are eating out that evening. If you miss meals, your body will think there is a shortage of food, slow down your metabolism and hold on tight to your fat stores. And there is nothing more guaranteed to rev up your appetite so that you end up eating more at the meal,” says Marilyn.
- Be less specific
Trying to find the perfect partner who ticks every single box can be a tricky task and if you’re too picky you can make it unrealistic. Similar behaviour towards weight loss can also end in disappointment. Having a range, such as losing three to four pounds, may lead to a more successful outcome than if you aim to lose precisely three pounds in four weeks, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
- Time of the month? Don’t overindulge
When surfing the crimson wave, do you constantly think about food and allow yourself to binge on all your favourite treats? “The chemicals in our body- dopamine, serotonin and cortisol all play a role in appetite regulation. Hormones in your body, including sex hormones, affect these. This is why when you have hormonal fluctuations, such as just before menstruation, you may find yourself with a bigger appetite and in search or sweet or fatty foods. To help beat the fatty cravings try a snack including protein and complex carbohydrates. Try eating a boiled egg with some vegetable sticks or some oat cakes with nut butters,” says Shona.