Confession: I’ve eaten a whole family pizza (minus the family) in one go, chased down with a non-small tub of ice cream, followed by pathetic bouts of groaning and waddling and wishing I hadn’t. More than once. But I’ve learnt some really effective and simple ways to avoid the pizza binge, and/or not feel in any way ashamed, regretful or bothered by it if I should weaken.
I’m a foodie, and like everyone else have struggled at times to keep a lid on my ravenous inner food demon. I used to suffer the common guilt trip and would make solemn vows to make big changes. Tomorrow. Or maybe next New Year’s Day.
I’ve used excuses like “I may as well eat that whole packet of biscuits and at least then they’re out of the house”, or “I can’t waste good food”, or “Better to eat everything in one go because my metabolism will work better”. Bollocks.
Now…although I don’t struggle massively with weight gain, I still have to watch it or I’ll turn VERY pear shaped and not in a good way. The fact is, I just have these occasional magnificent binges – what has changed is that I no longer beat myself up about it (or try to resist them very hard when they come upon me). But it makes me continue to appreciate how difficult it can be for many of us to resist food and get our diets under control. So I started to apply coaching strategies to food and found some simple things work really well.
Here are three easy ones you can get stuck into:
1. Is it really a problem?
We sometimes make things a problem when if we REALLY look at them, they just aren’t. So what if I eat a whole pizza now and then? So what if I eat bananas and potatoes all day sometimes?
I had a client visit me once completely stressed out over the fact that her house was always messy and she was worried about what people might think. “How is it really a problem?” I asked her. “Well, people might judge me” she said. So…fear of judgement is the real problem, not the messy house. We got to work on that instead, and let her house be messy. Her house, her rules. I don’t like being in a too-neat house, it makes me think nothing can be touched and if I drop something I’m off the Christmas Card list forever.
So if we get a bit tight in the waist area now and then, how is it really a problem? If we gobble an entire cheesecake once every 6 months because we’re super stressed out, will anyone die?
Be aware of what society is telling you is a problem and instead start to make up your own mind. Tune in to how you feel and use that as your guide, and cut yourself some slack on the slip ups. If it’s not affecting your daily functionality, and you’re not feeling unhealthy, then the odd splurge is in no way a problem.
2. Do a deal with yourself
Being told ‘No’ just creates resistance, and where there is resistance there is pain. I used to say in my head “You can’t have it, that’s just that. Don’t think about it”. Has that EVER worked in the history of mankind and everything in the universe? Hardly. As soon as I told myself I couldn’t have something…I wanted it. BAD. And then resisting food became painful and difficult and a chore. Intro: bad relationship with food resistance.
If you tell a 3 year old they can’t have something, watch the tantrum unfold. But if you tell them they can have what they want just after we do X, Y or Z, there’s usually a degree of compliance. Use that psychology.
So don’t deny yourself anything, but do a deal with yourself instead. If you start thinking about that chocolate just say “I can have it, but only after I’ve gone for a walk” or “only after I drink 3 glasses of water” or “only after I eat this salad”. You can also use a negative consequence as part of the deal: “I can have it, but I don’t get to watch The Bachelor tonight” or whatever your jam is.
Nine times out of ten, I do the ‘requirement’ task and then can’t be bothered eating the bad stuff. Or I can’t be bothered even doing the requirement task so I don’t – but strangely I then feel able to resist the bad food because “I didn’t meet my part of the deal”. Sometimes the task itself makes me feel energised and committed to my health goal, so automatically I don’t want to indulge afterwards (like a walk).
Remove the resistance but add in conditions – the fight (and therefore the pain) then disappears but you have a better chance of changing the outcome due to the time lapse and engaging in another task.
3. Change the reward system
In many situations we use food as a reward. When we we eat because we are stressed - the comfort we gain from eating is the reward. What most people do is try to completely stop the whole process of eating for comfort (or whatever reason they are doing it for), which frequently fails and just causes despondence and feeling unsuccessful.
What’s really going on here if we take a good look at it is a 3 step process: Trigger, Behaviour, Reward.
For example: I’m feeling uncomfortable in a new social situation (trigger), so I smoke (behaviour), then I feel comfortable (reward).
Or: I’ve had a stressful day (trigger), so I eat (behaviour), then I feel comforted and safe (reward).
A better solution than trying to put a full stop to the whole process is just swapping the Behaviour component with something more desirable. So we have the same trigger, a new behaviour, then the same reward.
For example: you love music and you’ve downloaded a new song. Keep that song in reserve for this Behaviour-Reward process, don’t let yourself listen to it at any other time. Ie. I’ve had a stressful day (trigger), I get to listen to my new song and dance around (behaviour), I feel good (reward).
You can use almost anything - TV shows, music, pampering, reading, phoning someone, having a cup of tea, giving the cat a cuddle; as long as it’s something you enjoy and is a positive/healthy alternative which gives you the same sense of reward. In a short time this becomes a new habit and the comfort-eating habit will become a thing of the past. In a way it’s swapping a crutch for a crutch, but it’s good as a quick solution.
Once you understand your own internal processes, you can begin to work with them instead of against them. Most people have a black or white approach to discipline (especially around food), which usually fails and ends up in yo-yo results. Find a ‘work-with’ system that fits with you and you’ll find it much easier and less confronting to make positive changes in your life.
ABOUT STEPHANIE CHAN – LIFE COACH
Steph is passionate about helping people find those hidden depths of courage to discover and do what they really want in life. Having gone through her own struggle for more years than she cares to count, she now helps and guides people to create the life they want, gets them taking action, and changing the way they feel about, and reconnected with, who they are.