Many of us see our weight as something we need to control, especially if our goal is to achieve weight loss. Maintain strict control of your diet and exercise and you will lose weight, right? But, sometimes the “control” approach can backfire, the more we try to control, the more we want to rebel! If you have ever tried an elimination diet, where you try to stop eating an entire food group, let’s say carbohydrates, the only thing you can usually think about is carbohydrates. I remember once while I was trying to follow a low carb diet, I walked into a local coffee shop to order a coffee. I don’t care much for pastries and rarely order anything other than coffee. But, suddenly, because I couldn’t have the pastries on this particular diet, they were all I wanted! I needed to get my hands on one of those croissants or muffins! Once I started allowing myself carbs again, I went back to not really having any real interest in those pastries. Restriction and trying to “control” what we eat tends to have the opposite effect of what we intend.
Let Go of Controlling Weight Loss
Why not try a different approach, to let go of control instead? This may seem scary for some people because they are afraid they will suddenly dive head first into a bag of chips or pint of ice cream. But, this may not be true, if you let go of trying to control food correctly. Instead of focusing on what you can or can’t eat, focus on how you feel before and after meals. This practice is sometimes referred to as intuitive eating and can be extremely helpful in trying to lose weight.
Identify Why You are Eating
The first step is to figure out why you are eating. The only reason to eat is out of hunger. Many of us eat for a variety of other reasons such as boredom, sadness, happiness, or even for social reasons. In order to identify why you are eating, you must first begin to practice mindfulness when eating, instead of scarfing food down as quickly as possible. Ask yourself before your first bite “Am I hungry?” If the answer is yes, then eat! If the answer is “Not really”, then try to identify what is really going on instead and address the real feeling behind the desire to eat. If you are tired go to sleep. If you are bored, call a friend or go for a quick walk around the block. Learning to identify when you are actually hungry will help you learn to eat to fulfill a physical need instead of an emotional one.
Stop When You are Full
The second piece of this is to stop when you are full. Most of us were born with the natural ability to eat until satisfied and not stuffed, but many of us have lost touch with the ability to truly connect with and listen to our fullness signals. Chronic dieting may screw up these cues even further. If we believe that food might be scarce in the future, we tend to overeat today to make sure we don’t go hungry.
Intuitive eating takes practice and requires you to be mindful and present at all meals and snacks. The easiest way to do this is to avoid eating with distractions. Focus only on the food and what you are eating. Put your fork down between bites and assess if you are still hungry or if you are satisfied. Also, get rid of trying to control food and seeing food as “good” or “bad”. If you are truly mindful during your meals, your body will tell you what foods make you feel better than others and those will be healthiest for you. Although this type of approach may not result in rapid weight loss as promised by some diet programs, it will result in long-term weight management without guilt, control, or starvation.