I struggled with over eating and food binges for years. I repeatedly revived myself with a new diet plan or “lifestyle change” only to end up feeling defeated when I couldn’t stick with it. I was so desperate to eat a perfect diet, lose weight, and be more fit. I was miserable and pretty much beat myself up for it. If you can relate to this cycle I am here to tell you there is hope. I’m currently living free from food rules, diets, and counting (calories, carbs, etc) and am happier with my body than I have ever been. I don’t fret over how much I’ll over eat when I go to a party or that I won’t be able to stop eating when I’m home alone and bored, stressed or depressed. If you are feeling controlled by food then I’m sure you can imagine how liberated I feel to be free from the control food once had over me. Whether you suffer from binge eating, over eating, or simply too many food rules I want nothing more than for you to reach food freedom as well. Below are 5 of the most important changes that happened within me to make my transformation possible.
5 Important Changes I Made to End the Food Obsession
- I stopped focusing on my weight. Much of what drove my obsession with food was the desire to be thinner and to look more fit. Looking back I realize how crazy this was because I was in shape and if I could have stopped obsessing over food back then I probably would have avoided ever gaining weight and developing prediabetes. Since I decided I was no longer going to focus on my weight but rather on my health I got rid of both my scale and my full length mirror for a while. That meant no weighing myself to determine my progress, because my value as a person has no connection to a number on the scale. Along with this, I stopped looking at myself critically in the mirror. No pinching fat, obsessing over whether my tummy looked skinny or fat that day, or wishing I had a different shape. Getting rid of the scale was easier than the mirror thing but with time and new thought patterns it became easier.
- I stopped feeling guilty. This one definitely took some time and self awareness but it was truly liberating. I spent so many years feeling guilty for eating certain foods that I perceived as being bad and/or for the sheer quantity of food I would eat. We generally eat food we perceive as bad because it tastes good and/or to put off feeling certain emotions. Guilt is not going to help either of these situations. If you eat something because you like the way it tastes then turn around and feel guilty for eating it then the guilt destroys any of the pleasure of having eaten the food. Instead we should be doing the opposite. We should make a conscious effort to enjoy our food by slowing down and paying attention to our senses when we eat. While at the same time not feeling guilty for eating it. Now if you ate out of boredom, sadness, stress/anxiety, etc, then feeling guilty isn’t going to get to the root of the emotional problem. In addition to food guilt I had fitness guilt. I had an all or nothing exercise mentality. If I couldn’t go to the gym for a kick ass workout of cardio, weights and stretching then I wouldn’t go at all. Then I would feel guilty for doing nothing and I would feel run down because I wasn’t moving my body. Now I push my self to move consistently throughout the day because I recognize that it makes me feel good. Whether it’s getting up from my computer and stretching every hour or taking a walk at lunch or after dinner I make sure to move every day. I do however enjoy exercise so I still go to the gym when I can but I’m okay if I only have 20-30 minutes to exercise. That approach has made my exercise habits more consistent which makes me feel better overall. Living free of food and fitness guilt is truly freeing and in the long run makes it easier to choose mostly healthy foods while not feeling obsessed about or deprived of foods you really like.
- I separated diet and exercise. I can’t even tell you how many times I exercised as a means to justify either what I had already eaten or what I anticipated eating later that day or week. I felt good based on how many calories the cardio machine at the gym told me I had burned. The truth is this system of trying to use exercise to balance your diet just doesn’t work because it doesn’t foster a healthy relationship with food or exercise. Now I eat healthy and exercise because it’s healthy and I feel better but I don’t beat myself up when I fall off the path for a period of time.
- I started listening to my body. After spending years allowing a meal plan, calorie level or food rules to dictate what I could eat it took quite some time before I could even hear let alone trust my body’s intuition. To begin the process start by feeding your body adequate meals consistently throughout the day. As your body gets used to being fed a balanced consistent diet throughout the day it will begin to show you appropriate signs of hunger and satiety. If you want more information on this part download my 3 Simple Steps to Creating Healthy Meals which includes some super simple guidelines for balancing your meals and a hunger scale to help you determine your hunger and satiety levels. Recognize that you are important and you deserve to stop what you are doing and eat if you are hungry. Make feeding yourself when you are hungry a priority. For most, waiting until you are famished to eat will only lead to over eating and diminished willpower. On the flip side of that it is also important to listen to your body when it says you’ve had enough. For me, this one was harder to master but with practice, self awareness and confidence in yourself it gets easier. Listening to your body also means listening to what your body wants to eat. Are you desiring food for emotional reasons or do you really want the cookie. If you really want to cookie then eat the cookie mindfully. If you are eating for emotional reasons then address the emotion. I’m not going to get into that here as I have other blog posts that address this issue.
- I started eating slower. I really saved the best for last here. Slowing down when you eat is beyond important. In fact, if you could master eating slowly and mindfully then over half of your food worries would probably be solved. It’s not an easy feat though. In fact, I still struggle with this one but I make a consistent effort to improve it. Studies have shown that eating slower not only allows your body to fill up on less food but that you also stay satisfied longer. I don’t know about you but feeling satisfied is a must if you don’t want to obsess about food all the time. If you want some tip to slowing down check out my post Mindful Eating Tips to Slow Down, Eat Less and Enjoy More.
I know how painful it was to be controlled by food, therefore I want nothing more than to end the pain that food causes so many people. If you are ready to start the New Year off by eating right and exercising because you love your body and not because you hate the way it looks then I invite you to participate in my MEEE (Mindful Eating, Exercise and Energy) Challenge by joining my free online community: Eat-Play-Love Yourself Healthy