If you feel your eating has gone somewhat astray because of the pandemic, Christmas or just life, use the strategies below to take back control of your eating. Controlling your eating is very much about understanding why you eat, and why some situations may be more likely to trigger you to overeat when you have a more balanced plan in mind.
1. Use a food diary
The single most effective tool in helping you to understand and mange your eating habits better is to keep a food diary. A food diary will most definitely, help you to take back control of your eating. Whether you use an app on a phone, or a small notebook in your kitchen doesn’t matter. The important thing is to capture what you eat, when you eat it. No discussion. If you don’t capture the eating immediately studies show you will forget, and you impact your ability to influence change.
Food diaries will help you discover patterns of eating. Most people have situations, times and activities that stimulate eating. These events become paired with eating, so the event makes you feel hungry. For example, you may eat biscuits while watching TV. So watching TV makes you feel like eating biscuits. By separating eating from other activities we remove the ability of those activities to stimulate eating, freeing you to respond to actual physiological hunger.
2. Do nothing else while eating
Carrying out other activities e.g. reading, writing, working, watching TV brings 2 distinct disadvantages when it comes to eating. Firstly, as mentioned above, the activity becomes paired with eating, so eating is stimulated during the activity. Secondly, the activity distracts you from eating, so you get all the calories but only part of the pleasure. In this scenario, we mindlessly over-consume. We are half way through the packet of biscuits before we realise.
Calories should be tasted not wasted : ) Eating should be a pure experience and if you love food, like me, try not to contaminate it with other activities. Sounds heavy I know, but if you find it difficult to just concentrate on eating by itself, this technique offers you an opportunity to help you change your relationship with food, to one which offers more joy.
3. Follow an eating schedule
Using a food diary will help you uncover times when you are more likely to over or under consume. By keeping to a schedule of eating you will always know when you are next due to eat. This helps us to hang on for a little longer, or perhaps even supports eating sooner than you might normally, but the overall achievement is feeling in control. Use your home or work pattern to figure out when you most like or need to have meals and breaks, and schedule accordingly. This will help you to not only take back control of your eating but also optimise the use of the optimise the use of the different macronutrients you are consuming.
This following an eating schedule helps you to move you from constant or regular snacking, to a routine that supports your body physically, physiologically and psychologically.
4. Eat in one place
Some people can eat anywhere. Standing up, laying on the sofa, driving the car, walking, generally on the go. Eating is possible everywhere. I have a friend who eats mangoes in the bath – you know who you are KC. Try and select one place in the home, or work situation where you will eat. Do your eating there, but nothing else. For those of us working from home at the moment who may have to multi-purpose a kitchen table, then use different seats for eating and working. This way sitting in the one seat carries the eating association, but when you move to the other seat, well that’s where you work, do home schooling, or perhaps general home administration.
5. Leave something behind on your plate
Another helpful strategy to learn control over what you consume is learning to leave something behind on your plate. It doesn’t matter how much – 2 lettuce leaves, 6 peas, a mouthful of curry. If we can learn to exert control in this way it helps to emphasise our abilities to not always respond to the sights and smells of food. We do not have to follow the ‘clean your plate’ mantra, which we may have learned as children. Instead we can learn to cherish our bodies, cherish the food we put on our plates, and cherish a more sustainable way of cooking, eating and living.
And if you are finding it tricky to implement these strategies, just get in touch and let’s work together to change that.