I know a great deal about stuffing my face. I did it compulsively for years, even as a teen, when stuffing my face had far fewer drawbacks. Oh, high metabolism, thou art missed. Now, we all define stuffing our faces differently. For me, it meant eating unhealthy foods for most nights of the weeks, and for lunches as well. I did not always eat to excess, but I was not making the most of these eating sessions to treat myself to delicious, carefully prepared foods that would please my senses and support my body.
Long about the time I discovered I had a thyroid disorder and that part of my weight gain might be due to a lack of hormones, I also resolved to change how I ate. My thinking went something like this: “I can try dieting and see if I’m in a better place after one year, or I can do nothing and know for a certainty I’ll hate where I am.”
However, the combination of personality and low thyroid hormone led to intense cravings. I still get these intense cravings. It generally involves candy and doughnuts. Y’all, I love doughnuts so much. Trips to the grocery store became gauntlets for me: could I get what I need and not walk out with a doughnut mashed between my teeth? Could I eat healthfully all day and then avoid the temptation to splurge on a dessert? Could I maintain my diet while I worked from home, when no one was around to see me cheat?
The answer ended up being “yes,” but not without developing a few tactics first. Below, find the tips that brought me success.
It’s Okay to Eat
People at parties or events will often see me putting some potato chips on my plate or enjoying that lemon truffle. I discovered that forever denying myself the things I love is no way to create long-term success. I need to know that I will get to consume these delicious treats again in the future. To that end, I eat whatever I want at parties and events. I don’t always go overboard, surprisingly, but I also don’t attach much shame to myself when I do. Ultimately, I know that I will wake up the next morning and be right back into my healthful habits. This is so freeing. I often see people tormenting themselves at a Christmas party. The frustration will grow, they’ll splurge, feel so ashamed that they’ll never want to get back on the wagon. But healthy living is a long-term goal, not a short-term one.
Eat before Shopping: No, Really
This fact may be common knowledge, but for me, it is crucial. If I go to the store hungry, I’m setting myself up for disaster. The candy looks too good, the doughnuts too moist and delicious. I’ll grab an extra pound of cheese; my hands will itch to grab a carton of chocolate milk; the box of cheese crackers will become damn near impossible to resist. So before I go, I fill my belly. Suddenly, I have the mental space to consider getting pears instead of pez. I can pass the chip aisle with only a passing glance.
Practice Mental Practicality, Not Shame
I draw a thick line between a shame cycle and thinking realistically about what is going into my mouth. Shame has nothing to do with a healthy lifestyle and I left it at the side of the road long ago. What I do have is a cost-benefit analysis of my choices. So many of us try to hide reality from ourselves when we overeat; for me, it used to be habit. Whenever “Should I eat this?” rose in my brain, I would push it out of my mind and consume. Now, depending on the degree of my craving, the length of time between my last cheat, and my upcoming schedule, I will often assess that question and answer, “Yes, it is acceptable to cheat today.” Or, I may decide that the potential one pound weight gain just isn’t worth it, and I’ll decline. After nearly one year, I’m still at my goal weight because I’ve allowed myself the ability to enjoy food and life without the emotional badgering that leads to shame eating.
Think about Dinner in Advance
If you have plans made, you will be less likely to break them with something else. For this reason, I always try to think about dinner in advance. Sometimes I get distracted on Sunday nights and don’t plan a meal menu. Other times, I’m working so hard all day I don’t consider dinner until it’s upon me. When this happens, I notice that I’m far more inclined to splurge. Thinking is hard, especially at the end of the day. The best way is to plan ahead, either with a menu or as part of a morning routine. Planning also helps to prep the appetite for the meal and reinforce the healthy choice.
What tips do you have for maintaining a healthy relationship to food?
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