When you find the time to eat, what thoughts course through your head? How about when selecting foods at the grocery store, the market, or even a convenient store? What are you telling yourself when you scan the menu of food choices at a restaurant?
It may be that you give food little thought. Or the opposite, that you salivate in anticipation of a beloved dish. There is also a surprisingly large group of us who (often in silence) feel anxious at the thought of food. The anxiety stems from different personal beliefs about one’s relationship with food. The result of thinking of food with such anxiety can have the a nasty side effect, no matter how healthy one chooses to eat.
I understand, because I have been that person and sometimes feel myself slipping back when in a higher state of stress. So, I’m here to tell you to stop eating from a place of fear.
Fear of how that sweet dessert everyone at the table is sharing but you will affect your waistline can have just as harmful effects as taking an actual bite of the dessert if it continues to weigh on your mind. Even worse is taking a bite, but with a feeling of guilt instead of pleasure.
In The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss, Marc David puts it:
“So imagine yourself worrying about your weight, following a forced and flaccid diet, and convinced of your unworthiness to exist if you can’t shrink your body down to some perfect size. These self-perpetuated messages will literally put you in a state of chronic low-level stress. Though you’re consuming less calories by dieting, you’re producing more cortisol and insulin, which is signaling your body to gain weight. In medical terms, chronic stress decreases thermic efficiency—your ability to burn calories and metabolize stored fat.”
In other words, your stress over food can still cause your body to put on fat and retain that fat as long as you continue to feed your food anxieties.
I’m not saying that you need to eat every dessert at every craving you feel. That wouldn’t be healthy either. Instead allow yourself to be open to good whole foods, not getting too caught up in the “right” whole foods or diet dogma. Try different fruits and vegetables, check out local meat, egg and fish options, feel free to experiment with different sources of carbs instead of fearing all carbs (even grains), and please eat some fat! Think local, think seasonal, think variety, and remember your body changes just as the seasons change and to look at eating as a constant and enjoyable experiment. When you start to find a way of eating healthy whole foods that works for you, you leave room for trying that dessert. You might find you are less inclined to binge or lose control on the sweets. It keeps it off your mind, only occasionally in your belly, and when enjoyed, it is done with pleasure and appreciation. And then, move on.
Keep it real, eat really good food.