Understand your bodies triggers and manage these to be the best version of yourself each day
The next step and one that really helped me to begin to develop my healthy relationship with food is recognising when we crave foods and what triggers us to binge. In my previous post I touched on different scenarios where you may crave certain foods or may find yourself eating more than usual. Recognising these times when they occur or preempting them is beneficial to understand your food cravings and also remove guilt around wanting these foods. I feel recognising these times can help to flag to you wether you actually want to eat this food or you are just eating it because of the situation you are in or emotions you are feeling. These situations, times in your life or emotions that trigger cravings or certain food habits are different for different people, but there are some common ones that I will touch on and provide you strategies to help overcome these times.
- Bored eating; This would have to be one of the biggest triggers that friends, family and clients have reported to me as being a trigger for poor eating habits. Bored eating usually occurs when we have nothing to keep ourselves busy or in comparison as a way to procrastinate. I find most people bored eat in the time after dinner before they go to bed. They are in front of the telly or doing work on their computer and find themselves craving something sweet. We have all been there. The easiest way to combat this is to take a mindfulness approach. Think about the food you are craving; do you really want it? If you do then serve yourself a small portion, savour and enjoy your moment and move on. If you don’t really feel like it try replacing that food with something else to keep you busy. This could be walking the dog, colouring, playing with the kids/partner or having something like a fruit based or herbal tea. Replace the habit with something healthier rather than eating a cupboards worth of food. Be conscious of the food choices you are making and be aware that this time of day can trigger off those cravings for you.
- Poor food environment; To add to the above point you may be bored but when your home is full of foods that will increase your cravings then you have easy access to these foods with little thinking required or greater awareness of these foods that you might not usually crave. On the other hand if these foods aren’t in the house you generally won’t mindlessly eat, and likely will realise you don’t want it so badly to leave the house to get it. If you have wholesome options readily prepared and in plain sight you are more likely to snack on these or choose not to snack at all.
- Emotional eating; Sadness and celebration are two strong emotions which are surrounded with mindless eating and possible bingeing. Sadness and celebration are both strong emotions which bring about cravings but also scenarios in which food plays a big part. It is easy in these times to get taken away with the moment and eat everything in sight! This is particularly apparent as you may be in environments where unhealthy foods are simple sitting in front of you or are encouraged to be eaten (i.e. a tub of ice cream and a rom com to heal a broken heart). In these times finding support in friends and family, an outlet through exercise or meditation and acknowledging the emotions are an important way to manage the emotional roller coaster and deal with the true problem at hand. It is also important that these supports provide you with a positive environment to either share in your successes or help you deal with your losses so a cycle of bingeing does not develop.
- Imbalance of hormones; lack or sleep, change in lifestyle, increase work load etc can all impact our mental and physical health and cause an imbalance in hormones. Having an increase in stress, workload or sleep (all impact each other) can cause an increase in hormones such as cortisol (stimulates the break down of stored carbohydrates, protein and fat to make energy), ghrelin (hunger increased) and decreases leptin (decreases appetite). All these hormones can lead to increased or decreased appetite and increased occurrence of fatigue. This is a tough scenario as eating well and being active will help reduce fatigue and manage a heavy workload but this becomes challenging when your hormones are directing you to do the opposite. Again awareness and management of these times is crucial. Opting for the more nutritious food option first before what other foods you may be craving will at least ensure you are reaching micronutrient targets. If you still feel like the other foods, consume them after. Try and focus your energy onto providing you foods that will fuel these tough times rather than avoiding others that won’t. A positive mindset will help to redirect your thoughts to improving each day alone rather than tackling your demons all in one go.
Ultimately we are humans, we all make choices that aren’t the best, we all have our vices and food is a massive part of every component of our lives. Shifting your focus from avoidance to inclusion will help keep food thoughts positive and reduce the thinking required when surrounded by food. My last post on improving your food relationship will touch on the importance of changing your focus to improve overall health rather than a focus on aesthetics. Continue to be the best version of yourself you can be each day despite what life throws at you. If that means on that certain day you can only manage one healthy meal, then that is better than nothing. Enjoy the little wins and be kind on this never ending journey.
Peace, Love and Food xx