When it comes to eating for weight loss, one of the best ways to succeed is to strengthen your relationship with food. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you snuggle with your salmon or go to counseling with your cucumbers. That’s just plain weird.
Instead, I’m asking you to think about food differently. It’s not just about what you eat. It’s about why you should or shouldn’t eat. There are lots of reasons why you eat:
- You need breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- You feel hungry.
- You need fuel.
- You’re craving something.
- You need comfort.
- You’re frustrated.
- You’re bored.
- You’re totally stressed out.
- You feel lonely.
Do you see what happened there? The list started with solid, strong reasons to eat (cue healthy food relationships) and quickly moved into the scary realm of emotional eating (cue unhealthy food relationships).
The fact that we have specific foods that fall into the category of “comfort food” should make you think about the real purpose of food in your life. Should you really be turning to food for comfort, or companionship, or to bust boredom?
Simply put, the purpose of food is to fuel our bodies. It’s not to make us forget about the bad day at work, the pile of bills we need to pay, or the ex we’re still struggling to get over. Food is supposed to be a friend that makes our bodies feel better, not a friend with whom we have an unhealthy relationship.
When we eat for our body’s sake, food does its job. On the flip side, when we eat for our brain’s sake (emotional eating), our bodies and our brains gang up on us and make us feel even worse. I’m talking about that guilt you feel after eating something unhealthy.
So what can you do to change your relationship with food?
Skipping meals and starving yourself is not the answer, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. Instead, try to eat mindfully. Plan ahead and listen to your body’s hunger cues. For many of us, this means eating 5 small meals a day instead of three big ones!
Eating mindfully also means knowing when not to eat. There are certain times when it’s actually good to skip a meal. Here are five we want you to think about:
5 Times You Shouldn’t Eat
When You’re On the Run
If you think eating on the run means pounding down pizza while pounding the pavement, you’re dead wrong. Generally, eating on the run means eating when you’re super busy: in the car, train, or bus on the way to work, while you’re packing the kids out the door, or in the ten short minutes between meetings. And when you’re really on the go, you’re usually in your car.
There are only so many dining choices when you’re behind the wheel. (Did someone say fast food?) Eating on the go makes you more likely to grab unhealthy convenience foods, and it also means that you may eat more later.
So what can you do about it?
Think ahead. If you know you’re going to be running around all day, plan out your menu the night before. Try having a light, nutritious weight loss shake like IdealShake before you head out of the house for the day. The ingredient Slendesta in IdealShake will block your appetite and the delicious IdealShake flavors will satisfy your cravings give you the chance to focus on what you need to get done. Mix some fruit in your shake and make a delicious smoothie. Getting in a well-balanced meal has never been so convenient and tasty.
If you absolutely have to eat while you’re on the go, make sure to keep a box of IdealBars handy so that you have something to hold you over until you can sit down and enjoy a proper meal. IdealBars also contain the ground-breaking appetite-suppressing ingredient Slendesta, and come in a variety of delicious flavors.
When You’re Stressed
Any time you eat for emotional reasons, you’re putting yourself at risk. Stress is one of those huge risk factors. Maybe you’ve heard of “stress eating.” There’s really nothing good that comes from eating due to stress! When you’re feeling anxiety, you tend to eat more than usual and you often crave so-called “comfort foods,” which tend to be greasy, salty, sugary, or loaded with empty carbs.
Here’s even more bad news: women are more likely to turn to food when stressed than men. Argh!
So what do you do about it?
If you know that stress is a trigger for you to overeat or to eat unhealthy food, find other ways to manage your stress, like these:
- Join a support group.
- Call a friend.
If you’re truly frazzled, it might be best to skip a meal. You’re not going to be able to focus on making healthy food choices, so instead have a light snack (ideally something that boosts serotonin, the “Happiness Chemical” in the brain,) and wait to have your full meal when you’re more relaxed.
Late at Night
Midnight snacks? Fast food restaurants open until 2 am? Sounds like staples in a college student’s survival kit, but these situations are also traps that many of us succumb to well after our early twenties. And eating at night isn’t doing anyone any good.
Research has shown that individuals who eat late at night tend to weigh more than their peers who eat the majority of their food earlier in the day. Women’s Health suggests that it’s best to eat 90 percent of your total calories during the day, which should leave you just 150-200 calories saved up for late-night snacking.
Putting a calorie limit on your late night snacks allows you the freedom to have a little something after dinner without feeling any guilt.
Imagine you’re up late with a sick baby and you just need to eat something to break up the monotony. Chances are slim to none that you are going to make yourself a salad. Instead, you’re going to reach for what’s easy and convenient. Translation: high fat, high sugar, high-calorie convenience food. Food that makes you gain weight!
And late-night snacking presents another issue. If you’re up eating, it means you’re up… as in not sleeping. If you’re not sleeping, you’re sabotaging your weight loss.
The caffeine from that soda you drank an hour before bed could prevent you from falling asleep. Those extra cheesy nachos could cause heartburn and indigestion and keep you up.
So what do you do about it?
Try to give your body time to digest while you’re still on your feet. Our bodies are made to digest food from an upright position, so it’s best to quit adding calories 2 to 3 hours before you call it a night and get into bed. That way your body gets to work on turning those calories into muscle and energy before sleep. Also, plan ahead and add more protein to your dinner. Protein has been shown to help increase feelings of fullness.
This one is a little deceptive. You need to eat something before working out to fuel your body, but it’s important to choose the right something. Eating a heavy meal will probably drain your energy, and could cause you some serious stomach issues during your workout. When planning what to eat before working out, consider the following five elements of a good pre-workout snack:
- Combination of Carbs and Protein: whole grain toast with peanut butter, small bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder
- Low Fiber: Hard boiled egg, string cheese
- Plenty of Fluids: Water is great, but if you need some flavor, add IdealBoost
- Familiar Foods: This one’s up to you, so try several different options and see what works best
It’s extremely important to know which foods make the best fuel for your particular body. It may take some practice, but if you use a food journal to record what you eat and how you feel before you exercise, you’ll learn pretty quickly what works best for you.
When You’re Starving
Danger! If you let your hunger go until the point when you feel like you’re starving, you’re putting yourself at risk for overeating. Feeling super hungry almost guarantees that you’ll overcompensate when you finally do get your hands on some food. You’re also more likely to make unhealthy, calorie-dense food choices, and to rush through your meal. By the time your brain gets the message that you’re full, you’re way past full.
So what do you do about it?
Let’s Wrap It Up!
It’s simple. Schedule your meals. Have a plan. We suggest following the 12-week IdealPlan to get started with weight loss and to help you build a better relationship with food. Think of it as a couples retreat for you and your diet that will change your relationship with food forever.