How to change your mindset towards food
If you’re prone to overindulging ‒ snacking on unhealthy foods and grazing when you’re not even hungry – it may be time to change your attitude towards food.
“When you ask people why they overeat or snack they hardly ever say it’s because they’re hungry,” says registered dietitian Rebecca Dunn, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.
“People eat because they’re bored, lonely or upset or out of habit, often saying they don’t eat very much – but some snacking is done unconsciously while standing at the fridge or they are just too embarrassed to admit it.
“Women may have gradually increased their portion sizes so they end up eating as much as their partners or eating their children’s leftovers. Weight gain creeps up on people,” she says.
Keeping a food diary
One step towards changing eating habits is actually acknowledging what you are eating and a food diary can really help.
“Writing down everything you eat is a good reality check. Often people genuinely don’t realise they are eating too much,” says Rebecca.
“There are some good phone apps that keep track of your calorie intake ‒ some you simply scan the bar code on the product to record your exact calories intake,” she confirms.
Being ready to change
“When I see patients who seek to lose weight through hypnotherapy I always stress they must be willing and ready to make changes to the type and perhaps amount of food they eat,” says clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Lynda Hudson. “It is impossible to use hypnosis to make someone do something they don’t want to.
“I know there is scepticism about how hypnosis can help – but it involves inducing a pleasant state of deep relaxation where the patient is receptive and focused, and helping them change their unhelpful beliefs and attitudes around eating, making positive suggestions about how to make those changes, including guided visualisations of happily putting these changes into practice.
“To do this I’ll first discuss with a patient about possible triggers for bad eating habits – sometimes it’s an emotional trigger or just a stressful life ‒ then discuss strategies for dealing with this and any obstacles they may need to overcome.”
Lynda records sessions so that patients can take a CD away to regularly listen to and top up their resolve.
Psychological strategies for changing
- Find a positive mantra: “It helps if patients find a phrase that helps them feel positive when they resist fattening foods – try telling yourself ‘I want to be slim more’ or ‘I don’t want that now’ when you’re wavering by the biscuit tin,” says Lynda.
- Set aside a set time to deal with stress : “Sometimes it helps to externalise your worries and sources of stress by writing them down and allowing yourself 15 minutes a day to deal with them,” says Lynda. “This can help you stop reaching for food.”
- Use distraction techniques: “If you’re snacking out of habit do something to distract your brain from food,” suggests Lynda. “Try a quick walk round the block, a glass of water, phoning a friend or listening to music.”
- Savour the taste and flavour: “You can focus on the taste of food rather than the quantity to help reduce portion size,” suggests Lynda.
- Enjoy a surge of positive emotions when you resist temptation or start seeing results: “It helps if you have lots of intermediate goals and then you can congratulate yourself, building up your self-esteem as you achieve each one,” says Lynda. “They can be small things like a slacker waistband on your jeans or someone complimenting you on your weight loss for the first time.”
More ways to change your mindset
- Ask yourself how you will feel after you’ve eaten an unhealthy food or huge portion: “Often it’s just stopping to think before you eat which can put the brakes on making a bad choice,” advises Rebecca. ’When you realise that you’ll only enjoy a few minutes of pleasure, then spend all day regretting it because you feel you’ve failed or you feel bloated or uncomfortable, it might stop you diving into the fridge.”
- Don’t ban any food: “If you do, it seems to become more appealing, you obsess about it and it’s not sustainable in the long term,” says Rebecca. “If you want chocolate don’t deny yourself totally but limit yourself to a few squares and take that into your daily calorie allowance.”
- Be patient: “The slower the weight comes off the longer it will stay off, so try not to get too fixated about achieving dramatic weight loss in a short space of time – be consistent and persistent, looking to the longer term,” says Rebecca.
- Think small changes: “It’s all the small changes that add up,” says Rebecca. “Try eating smaller portions but also make calorie saving swaps such as substituting sugar for sweetener in tea/coffee or full sugar drinks for diet/zero varieties. Also fill your plate with half vegetables or salad which are packed with nutrients and low in calories. These changes really mount up and help towards your weight loss goal.”
For more information on healthy eating visit our Diet and Nutrition Centre, or if you’d like to investigate changing your mindset or positive mental thinking we have some very useful articles in our Stress Centre.
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