Strategies to help change our attitude towards food

It’s all too easy to comfort eat or snack on unhealthy foods when we’re bored or even just out of habit. So how can we turn it around and learn to eat more healthily?

AXA PPP healthcare Physiologist, Thomas Rothwell outlines some strategies on how to help us regain control of our unhealthy eating habits.

Thomas explains: “We tend to overeat for many different reasons. Some of us eat to make ourselves feel better, some from boredom and some due to emotional stresses. We tend to use food to help satisfy our emotional needs and not because we are actually hungry. Others overindulge simply out of habit.”

But we can all learn to eat in a more healthy way.

Strategies to help change our attitude towards food

Log everything you eat – Keeping a diary of what you eat every day- snacks included – will help you see exactly what you’re eating. But be honest with yourself and don’t leave anything out.

“It is a great reality check to write down everything you eat,” Thomas says. “All too often people genuinely don’t realise what they are consuming.”

A diary is also great to review at the end of the week so enabling you to pick out something to improve on for the following week.

Be positive and be prepared – Remember to keep telling yourself that your body does not need that biscuit or that you want to be healthier.

“Have healthy alternative snacks already prepared so you won’t be tempted to eat something unhealthy. Some freshly cut carrot sticks with hummus or some yoghurt with mixed berries should do the trick!” advises Thomas.

Actively deal with stress – Writing down sources of stress and giving yourself 15 minutes a day to deal with them may help stop you reaching for the biscuit tin.

“When we’re stressed, we are more likely to comfort eat,” says Thomas, “so a worry diary can help us to regain control and calm a busy mind.”

Distract yourself – If snacking has become a habit then try distracting yourself. Drink a glass of water, go for a brisk walk, or just listen to some music – anything that will take you away from that moment.

“If you find yourself constantly thinking about food and when you’ll eat next, then try and turn those thoughts into something positive,” says Thomas. “Try planning a healthy meal where you can enjoy your food rather than feeling guilty of feeling that you are going without.”

Less is more – Focus on the taste of food, rather than the quantity, to help reduce portion size. If you’re still hungry or want to add more to your plate, add extra veg.

Thomas says: “Take your time to really appreciate what you are eating, savour your food and take note of the flavours, but most of all enjoy it!”

For more helpful tips on mindful eating take a look at our article on eating intuitively.

Set short term goals – Make short term goals and really appreciate them when you achieve them. That way you will be building up your self-esteem and giving yourself the boost to keep going.

“It’s a good idea to have a day of the week where you enjoy a slice of cake or order your favourite takeaway,” advises Thomas. “This will help you to see a treat as something to enjoy and not something to have on a regular basis.”

Nothing should be banned – If you ban a certain food then you may obsess about it and this is just not sustainable in the long term. Nothing is so bad that you shouldn’t allow yourself to have it once in a while. You can then move on and get back to eating healthily.

Be consistent and be patient – Try not to get de-motivated if you only see small changes at first – progress is still being made!

Thomas says: “It can be useful to make sure you review your goals, set a long term goal but also set short term goals to keep yourself motivated and on track.”

Don’t try and change too much at once – It all adds up in the long term so try making one or two changes to start with.  First try eating smaller portions – a smaller plate can help – and try finding some calorie saving swaps.

“Some easy swaps to try could be switching chocolate to fruit, having wholegrain instead of white bread or even, some evenings, swapping pasta or rice for extra fresh vegetables,” says Thomas. “These changes really mount up and can help towards boosting your energy levels and weight loss goals”.

Unfortunately, our eating habits are often deeply ingrained, but with a little work and persistence they can be changed, and it is really worth pursuing for a healthier and happier you!

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20th Jun 2020
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It was long and long ago that one of my teachers in my younger years told me "I eat to live and not live to eat" and I kept that line always in sight.
I cook only decent food and eat it well cooked, drink water, fruit juice and coffee, go to bed early and get up early the next morning.
Have my daily walk and chat with people, watch some television now and then, read the interesting bits in the paper.
Aoll this has brought me to the age I am now.

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