Will Power: What drives us to make poor eating choices?

In my life, I have been lucky enough to be able to “not” eat something just because it is there.  I don’t look at a cookie and just have to have it.  I have had cookies before so I know what they taste like.  I also believe in “Everything in moderation, including moderation!”  There are times when I eat exactly what I would like and don’t worry about it.  I have had many clients that over the years have lost weight and then gained it back, only to lose it again.  Years ago, I would just think to myself, “Why can’t they just say no.”

Well, because that is just way too simple of an answer and it doesn’t work that way.  Many of my clients have complete control in many other facets of their lives, but eating is a tough one.  I don’t believe in diets because I truly think you need to change your eating patterns for the rest of your life.  Diets tend to have an end date, and they are so restrictive that once you begin to eat normally again, the weight comes back on.  Eating is very psychological – depression, boredom, sadness.

I certainly have almost no answers, but perhaps some of these tips will help along the way.  One way to look at eating is to try and find the real roots of your compulsive eating.

  1. Where is your urge to eat coming from?  Your stomach or your mind.  Check in with yourself before you reach for junk food or a snack.  Can you tell the difference whether or not you are truly hungry or just wanting to eat?  Ask yourself that every time you put something in your mouth.  Ask yourself whether or not having something healthy, like an apple, will satiate that “hunger”.  If not, then perhaps you listening to your mind.
  2. Are you eating because you have had a bad day, are stressed, or sad?  Starting checking patterns as to when you reach for snacks that aren’t good for you.  Do you reach for chips when you are stressed and candy when you are sad?  Perhaps a particular emotion drives your eating habits.  If you are having an emotional day, close the cabinets and go for a walk.  Try to work out what is driving you.
  3. Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of exactly what you are going to buy and STICK with it.  Don’t let good marketing suck you in.  Candy is at the checkout stand for a reason.  Peruse a magazine instead.
  4. When you go to restaurants with your friends, look at the menu in advance and ORDER first.  Many times, friends lead the way to bad habits.
  5. Pay attention to your portion size and when you are full.  Eat slowly.  Stop.  You don’t have to eat everything on your plate like your parents told you.  Portions when your parents were young are about 1/2 the size of a portion today.  Most restaurants give you a serving size for 2 meals. Take frequent breaks whilst you are eating and drink some water.  Don’t play with your food, and when you feel full, move the plate away from you so you don’t pick at it.
  6. Sleep. Lack of sleep affects your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.  In addition, when you are sleep deprived, your brain actually starts producing appetite stimulating hormones and you will feel hungrier and eat more through out the day. – S. Biali, MD

And, when all else fails, tomorrow is another fresh day to start over again.

No matter what DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.  Don’t self-deprecate.  Just try again!


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