You have valiantly made New Year's resolutions through the years to lose weight, eat healthy, and not give in to binge snacking. Somehow, though, they've never stuck or improved your relationship with food. Each time, way in advance of Valentine's Day, you've abandoned hope of putting your obsessive eating habits behind you.
This year, give yourself a break and end your food frustrations -- really! You can follow a new path to a healthy lifestyle just through small adjustments that will lead to major change. And, it won't involve lots of deprivation, starvation, label reading, or calorie counting. This year, drop all the guilt and the stress, and tune into what will really nourish your body and soul.
Follow these tips to challenge your old thought patterns and let the pieces of your healthy life puzzle come together:
1. Look into your life. When you slow down and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, you find clues about your eating habits. You may think that obsessing about food is your problem, and not recognize what's really at the heart of the matter. Many food issues are the result of stress -- like work issues, sick parents, money troubles, or rushing to get through never-ending to do lists. Ask yourself: Are you having enough fun in your life? Do you have meaningful relationships? Do you have creative outlets? Once you can identify what life issues are affecting your eating, you can change behavior patterns and get new results. Look for ways to add more joy to your calendar -- the more you have to look forward to, the less you crave food as a substitute.
2. Don't believe everything you think. Take a bird's eye view of the inner dialogue you have with yourself. Are you hyper-critical ("I just have no willpower")? Do you play games with yourself ("I can have a glass of wine if I work out")? Are you defeatist ("I'll never be happy")? Thinking negative thoughts keeps your body in stress mode, setting you up for more weight gain and pain. It's time to challenge those limiting or self-critical thoughts. If they're not serving you well, abolish them! Play the reframe game, giving yourself kudos for the amazing person you are and all you have to offer. Learning to observe and release demeaning thoughts without letting them mean anything is a huge game changer in your life.
3. Eliminate, investigate, alleviate. Oftentimes, obsessive eating patterns have to do with certain foods that trigger binge eating. Do you take one bite of fresh baked bread and end up eating the whole loaf? Or maybe for you it's chocolate or red wine that you can't say "no" to. Take time off from the foods that can be most problematic to recalibrate your system and investigate how your body responds when you introduce them again. For just one week, eliminate: sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, alcohol, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. Keep or add in: dark, leafy greens and other organic vegetables; organic fruits in moderation; healthy proteins like grass-fed beer, wild fish, and organic poultry; healthy fats like avocado and olive oil; beans, nuts, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. If you crave sweets, eat a baked sweet potato or drink a cup of herbal tea. After seven days, reintroduce the foods you eliminated one at a time over a three-day period. Give your body a day or so to recover, and then try the next food group. Take your time reintroducing sugar and alcohol, as the cravings can return instantly. If you notice any sensitivity, think of it as a "less often" instead of a "more often" food.
4. Practice the pause. As you begin to understand other reasons besides hunger that you eat, pause before eating and ask yourself: "What am I really hungry for?" and "How will eating this food make me feel?" Sometimes, you reach for food if you're bored, in need of a break, or could just use a hug. When you pause to listen to your body, you can hear what it really wants.
5. Fight off food perfectionism. When it comes to eating healthy, it's not about perfection -- it's about loving yourself enough to know that you deserve to feel great. The problem with perfection is that it's not sustainable and it sets you up for failure. We all get off track sometimes. The important thing is that you get back on track -- and then get back on track again.
6. Ditch your inner-critic bitch. When you hear a voice in your head saying: "You're such a loser for eating that," or "Look at that roll of fat around your waist," tell that inner-critic bitch to take a hike! Identify her -- you can even name her -- and challenge what she's saying. Shutting off her voice is necessary. Replace her with your new Healthy Babe who's compassionate, forgiving, and empowering. Start by looking in the mirror and trying to really see yourself through loving eyes. Stop focusing on the bulging belly or the wrinkles. Look at yourself the way others actually see you -- someone who's lovely and fascinating and kind, and not the disappointment portrayed by your "Cruel Cruella."
7. Move and groove with nothing to prove. Finding the right exercises that feel good for your body is just as important as finding the right foods to fuel it. Exercise will improve your sleep, build your muscle tone, and brighten your outlook. Don't let that inner-critic bitch ruin the fun of a bike ride or a workout class just because you aren't the fastest or most coordinated. Ditch the data and dispose of the comparisons. Enjoy movement simply because it feels good and releases tension in your body.