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|Here are the four things you need to do when things go sideways to put the past behind you and get back on track|
Evenings, weekends, travel, we all have our trigger times and situations when we tend to overeat, eat the wrong things – or both. Often, we’re left feeling like we have no idea how to gain self control over food.
We might be tired, out of our regular routine, or enjoying time with friends or family who don’t share the same goals in terms of healthy eating or healthy living. Too often we let these slip-ups derail us for weeks and do far more damage than they need to.
Here are the four things you need to do when things go sideways to put the past behind you and get back on track – fast!
1. REPLACE JUDGEMENT WITH CURIOSITY
When we make a choice that we’re not thrilled about, our immediate response is often to beat ourselves up about it. We feel guilty, frustrated and ashamed and we start to tell ourselves that we’ll never get better at this, never lose the weight, never really change, never figure out how to gain self control over food.
And, even though we don’t like feeling this way, there’s this belief that we need to punish ourselves for our unhealthy choices. That if we don’t shame ourselves for eating the brownie, that we’ll just go crazy and eat ALL the brownies.
Guilt, shame and judgement are the way we keep ourselves in line and control eating habits for weight loss.
But this belief could not be farther from the truth. You can’t shame or guilt your body into changing. In fact, doing so actually has the exact opposite effect.
Let me explain.
Neuroscientists have shown that stress – including negative emotions like shame, guilt, frustration and anger – shift the brain into a reward-seeking state. This means that your brain feels bad, which immediately makes it want to feel good.
The result is that you end up craving whatever you brain associates with happy feelings – food being one of the biggest.
Another reason why judging ourselves for a poor food choice results in more poor food choices, is the “What-the-Hell Effect.”
The what-the-hell effect describes a specific psychological cycle of indulgence, regret, followed by more indulgence. It’s what happens when you eat one cookie that you didn’t mean to eat, feel guilty about it and then decide “Well, I’ve already ruined everything, so what the hell, I might as well keep going.”
I know we’re all familiar with this one.
The what-the-hell effect happens because giving in makes you feel badly about yourself, which motivates the reward-centre of your brain to do something to feel better. And what’s the easiest, fastest, most familiar way to feel better? Usually the very thing you feel bad about doing in the first place, and the cycle continues.
So, we can see that guilt, shame and frustration don’t work, but what do we do when we feel those familiar old habits of judging ourselves showing up?
Well, I encourage my clients to replace the judgement with curiosity.
Curiosity doesn’t judge. Curiosity allows whatever happened to simply be a fact, and instead of judging it, begins to examine the reasons behind it.
Why did you eat the cookie?
What triggered that choice?
Were you hungry or was it a feeling or situation you were trying to deal with?
How were you hoping the cookie would make you feel?
Getting comfortable with asking these kinds of questions is going to make you far more likely to have self control when eating going forward than the judgement, guilt and frustration. What you’ll find is that, where judging yourself for eating the cookie immediately makes you want to eat more cookies, getting curious about eating the cookie allows you to relax, pause and does away with the craving to eat more.
This approach will give you a whole new insight into your relationship with food, and – even better – it will give you information to work with as you move towards transforming that relationship to one of true health, balance and ease.
2. MAKE A PLAN
Willpower is a finite resource. If you try to rely on it entirely to help you make healthy choices for every meal, snack and drink during the day, as well as getting you out to move your body, you’re going to fail.
You simply don’t have that much willpower (no one does).
People who succeed at consistently making healthy choices have a plan. Decision making takes more willpower than anything else. Will I eat a salad for dinner? Pasta? Leftovers? Take out? Which is better? Which is worse? It’s exhausting, and when our brains feel exhausted, the worst possible choice usually wins.
People who are able to have self control over eating know before they go to bed the night before what they’re going to eat the next day. They know when, where and how they’re going to get some exercise in. They plan it all out either the night before, or even days before (Sunday is a great time for planning your healthy week ahead) and then, when they’re busy, stressed or tired later on, they don’t have to rely on willpower so much.
Yes, it requires some willpower to stick to the plan, but not nearly as much as analyzing the myriad choices, making the right one, and following through.
Make it easier on yourself and plan ahead! On Sunday, sit down and plan your meals and snacks for the week, batch cook as much as you can, clean and chop whatever ingredients you can for the meals you’ve planned. Also plan out when, where and how you’re going to move your body. Will you be going to the gym on Monday and Wednesday after work? Yoga class on Saturday morning? Long walk with the dog on Thursday? Make a (realistic) plan that will work for your week and then you’ll only require enough willpower to follow the plan.
3. VISUALIZE WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE TO YOU
When it comes to our health, we tend to put a lot of focus on what we don’t want. We don’t want to weigh this much, we don’t want to be tired all the time, we don’t want to crave the junk, etc. But, here’s the thing, it’s very difficult to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.
For this reason, you need to know more than just what you don’t want – you need to very clearly know what you do want.
What do you really want? How do you want to feel? What would success look like for you? Go beyond just, “losing 15 pounds,” or “having more energy.”
Ask yourself WHY?
Why do you want to lose 15 pounds or have more energy?
What would losing 15 pounds or having more energy mean for you? How would your life change as a result?
It’s important to know these things, not just so you can set clear goals, but because the brain’s power of visualization is amazing. Our brains create what we believe to be already true. Quite literally, whatever you focus on, expand. So, simply by defining what success would look and feel like for you, and spending just three to five minutes a day visualizing that as already here, you will subconsciously begin to feel more naturally drawn to the healthy choices and behaviors that support that vision.
Learn more about how to create a clear and compelling vision for your success that will make the healthy choices feel easier in this free three-part video series.
4. EMBRACE THE FACT THAT CHANGE IS HARD
Your brain is wired to avoid change and discomfort. To your brain, change and discomfort mean danger. Your brain is always going to encourage you to stay on the couch, zone out on Netflix, and eat lots of sugar, salt and fat. This equation feels familiar and safe to your brain, and for that reason, it’s going to continue to make that feel like the best, most comfortable, choice for you.
Motivation to eat differently or work out may come in little bursts here and there after you watch a YouTube video, read a health book, or see a friend looking fantastic, but those little bursts will fade quickly. And, if that’s all you’re relying on, your brain’s prehistoric survival programming will soon kick back in and you’ll find yourself back on the couch in front of the TV eating potato chips.
So, what do we do? What’s the secret to gain self control over food?
The way we get around this is to start changing the way we think about cravings and the uncomfortable feelings that often accompany making healthier choices (usually just for the first few weeks). Instead of letting your brain instinctively see the discomfort as something bad to avoid, welcome it as evidence that you’re on exactly the right track.
Welcome the craving and the twinge of anxiety you feel at the idea of not giving in to it. See it, not as a sign of weakness, failure, or fear (what’s the point of living without potato chips!?!?!), but as a sign that true, deep transformation is already taking place.
It seems that everyone is trying to figure out how to have self control when eating or how to control eating habits for weight loss. The truth is that life is messy and we’re always going to make a few choices here and there that we’re not thrilled with. What matters isn’t the poor choice you made, but the actions you take to quickly get back on track!
If you want to learn more about how to control eating habits for weight loss, more energy, or better overall health, use this link to get FREE access to a three-part video series that will put you on the path to get there.
The videos are short (only a few minutes each), but they will give you some surprising tips and tricks to help you change those old unhealthy habits for good!