How can food have such a hold on us, even when we feel determined to achieve our goals?
There are so many times when I feel terrific and don’t plan to eat any unhealthy food. Then suddenly…WHAM!
Image from Cliparts.co
I’m down for the count. I’ve lost the food battle, again!
We might not be able to win every battle, but is there a way to prepare for these struggles with food? It helps if you know what you are up against. Then we might have a fighting chance.
Food is Comfort So much of the unhealthy food out there gives us comfort: pizza, chicken wings, potato with butter and sour cream, creamy pastas, popcorn with butter. It makes us feel good!
How to Fight Back? Ask yourself: do you want to rely on food to make you happy? Or, are there other things in life to focus on that give you joy (hobby you love, spending time with friends/family, pursuing goals and dreams)?
Food is Celebration All cultures seem to have food as a focal point of celebrations. Whether it’s cake at a birthday party, a buffet dinner at a wedding or drinks and dinner out to celebrate a promotion, we eat when we celebrate.
How to Fight Back? This one is tricky. I say enjoy the food at celebrations and try to focus on eating healthy at home. Indulge when you are celebrating, but remember to indulge with limits. You don’t have to have three cupcakes…have one.
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Food is Addictive Many of the foods we grew up with, and find tasty, are the ones that have addictive qualities. Processed foods that include high levels of fat, salt and/or sugar are some of the culprits we find hard to put down, or that we crave. Foods like potato chips, salted nuts, cookies etc. Even foods like cheese and meat have addictive qualities.
How to Fight Back? If you give up a certain food, you may be able to beat your addiction to that food. If you binge on cookies, maybe cookies should be off limits, period…no weaning off period. Of course, this is easier said than done. But, it is possible.
Food is Social Even when we feel determined to eat well, and have had success for a period of time, it’s difficult to eat healthy foods when we’re in a social situation where everyone else is eating chicken wings and pizza.
How to Fight Back? Eat a healthy portion of food BEFORE you head out to your event. You may not totally stick to the healthy approach, but at least you will have less room in your stomach for the bad stuff. If you are caught off guard and cannot plan, have a healthy salad first, and then indulge.
Food is Everywhere Even aside from social settings, food that we know is not nutritionally abundant is all around us: grocery stores, advertisements on television or radio or in magazines, recipe postings on social media, billboards as we’re driving, restaurant signs etc. It’s difficult to turn away from all that!
How to Fight Back? Try to look at all the images and words around you as annoying advertisements. Healthy food doesn’t need big billboards. An apple is healthy: you know it, and I know it. Try to look at all the other stuff as an annoying advertisement, calling desperately for you to eat it. It’s desperate because it has little to offer that is good.
Restaurant Outings Even if we eat well at home, it can be very tempting to eat the less healthy choices when we dine out. It is possible, but it means examining the menu and asking your waiter for dishes with substitutions or asking for special requests. Sometimes we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. Sometimes, we just aren’t sure how to get a healthy meal at a restaurant without ordering a boring salad without dressing.
How to Fight Back? Look at a menu and see if you can come up with something that will be tasty, but also healthy. You can ask for a pasta in tomato sauce (most restaurants can cover that one), or you can have a salad with dressing on the side. Enjoy the dressing, but in small amounts. You control how much you consume. If you enjoy potato or rice, try to get that with some vegetables. Instead of focusing on your food for your entertainment, focus on the company.
Food as a Treat When we’ve eaten well for a period of time we deem successful (a morning, day, a week, a month) we feel proud of our efforts and reward ourselves with food. We justify eating unhealthy food when we feel we deserve it as a treat or reward. Unfortunately, this can put us right back where were started and keep us on the diet cycle.
How to Fight Back? Choose something other than food as your reward, such as time to yourself to read, get a manicure or have a nice hot bath. Maybe a walk in the park can be a reward or a new piece of clothing.
Need more ammunition?
Educate yourself about food. Learn what companies do to make it addictive. Find out more about what’s in your food and about different ways of eating.
Connect with others who also battle with food. Support each other. Learn from one another. You can connect with people you know and also with people online.
Ultimately, we can’t let food win. Stay on guard and keep fighting!
Wishing you a healthy journey.