This is a guest post by Leanne Cooper author of Change the way you eat
Leanne is a friend of the family, she has just released her new book ‘change the way you eat’. I thrilled to have Leanne share todays post as it’s this time of year we often create new goals and look at our food intake. I love her tips because they are so easy and can make a difference. Over the years I learnt I used to eat because the food tasted good, not because I was hungry or needed more. Which is what I love about tip #2 below.
The top diet changes to make are all in the area of food psychology
It’s that time of year: New Year’s resolution time!
If you are anything like me and usually don’t see out any of your resolutions past January, you may be considering just giving it all a miss this year. After all, why should this year be any different?
But if you’ve struggled with your weight for a while and tried all the diets, then maybe I’m about to give you a New Year’s resolution or two that you can stick with! So, read on if you’ve ever shovelled one overloaded fork of food into your mouth after another, barely taking a breath until the plate is clean. Or if you’ve ever wondered how you could consume so much without even being hungry. Or if you’ve ever been angry with yourself for eating so much you feel sick. The story I’m about to tell you might just give you hope …
Charlie is a close family member; her story is real. Charlie had been struggling to lose those extra kilos she gained after the birth of her two children. She was frustrated at failing one diet after another, guilt-ridden each time she opened the fridge and saw those chocolate bars begging to be eaten, and utterly despondent that her body had morphed into something so unfamiliar. Christmas and holidays were her great fears when it came to eating.
‘Eat less, cut back, skip meals, avoid eating out’ became her mantra. Even then, she still couldn’t stop finishing up the kids’ meals (‘waste not, want not’), or devouring every last morsel on her plate and then thinking ‘Yum, I’ll have a bit more of that’ (especially if it was pavlova or trifle, or devouring the whole pack of French cheese with a few crackers, or … the list goes on. You know how she felt about herself afterwards, of course.
I know that, initially, she was aware that she was eating to the point of discomfort. I recall her Christmas lunch comments of ‘OMG! I’ve eaten so much I feel sick!’ But as the months and years went on, it became the new norm, rarely mentioned, but occurring ever more often. Until …
I passed my book, Change the Way You Eat, to Charlie, beautifully signed. I hoped she might be encouraged to read it just because it was in part dedicated to her. I understand it can be confronting to read a book that appears to place responsibility for your eating on you, but I felt that if she just read a few pages she would soon see it was more like a letting-go of old habits that make you feel bad about yourself. I was hoping the book would bust all those myths she held onto, those myths that ‘going without’, punishing yourself for your lack of willpower, and calorie counting are the only answers. The reality is that they are the problem!
Well, Charlie has indeed read my book. In fact, she is living it! The notes sections are covered in her thoughts and goals and there is highlighter pen all over the pages. And the best thing of all is that one day about a month ago Charlie casually told me, ‘I’ve lost three kilos.’
‘What?’ I said, ‘How did you do that?’ (I knew she wasn’t on a diet)
‘All I have changed is my plate,’ she replied, ‘and to be honest I didn’t even do it for that reason. I just wanted to see how I would feel eating smaller portions. I’m pumped! I had no idea how much I actually ate. I thought I ate normal portions.’
I should explain here that it’s important for you to realise that most diets keep your calorie intake so low that not only does it deplete your brain of fuel — and therefore your ability to resist naughty foods — but the resulting hunger means you are more vulnerable to making poor food choices. The mere feeling of deprivation works against you, as you will actually tend to eat more, or at least make up for it, sometime down the track. Dieting fails you, you don’t fail diets!
Charlie has since added in hunger/satiety (fullness) awareness to her healthy eating strategies. Before she eats, and before she goes in for a second helping, she checks in with how hungry or full she is.
So, what is happening is that Charlie is now eating in such a way that her body is using stored fuels. I check in each week or so to see how things are going, though the emphasis is on how Charlie is feeling in herself. She has already noticed a lighter step and she feels more energised as she’s not carrying those extra kilos her body wasn’t designed to hold. She feels good about herself and her eating.
‘I get it now, why I have to think about how hungry and full I am. My eating had absolutely no connection to my body. I ate because I wanted that food.’ Charlie also comments that ‘I’m way less tempted by foods. The thought that I have to eat everything put in front of me just doesn’t enter my head anymore. I eat until I’m comfortable. I don’t remember having ever eaten like that or what it feels like to eat what I need rather than what I want. I feel GREAT!’
It’s time we reconnect with food in a positive way. It strikes me as sadly ironic that the very thing that sustains us, gives us life and keeps us healthy is viewed in such negative ways. We have dissembled food into numbers of this and that. I liken it to standing millimetres away from a painting: we lose sight of the complete picture.
So let’s start with two super simple tips for the New Year (it’s far more motivating to do something that is achievable and not stressful!). First, look at your plate size and choose a smaller one. Studies show that above all else this single change can deliver the greatest changes.
Once you have done that, then secondly, I would like you to allow 20 minutes between helpings. This gives your body enough time to tell your brain that you’ve had enough.
That’s it for now; just do those two things. Stick with them for at least a month each — you can do one for a month then add in the other, or start with both.
When you are ready, grab your copy of Change the Way You Eat and make some more changes. Your next step will be to re-learn to eat according to hunger and fullness. For some of us the disconnect between hunger and satiety is so great that we have all but forgotten what it feels like to eat because of hunger instead of desire. Just checking in on your hunger and satiety can go a long way to enabling you to reconnect with food in a positive way.
Don’t diet. You know it doesn’t work for more than a few short-lived months. Escape the cycle of restriction, punishment and failure. Instead, do something positive. Food is positive — we just need to have a better relationship with it!
This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper Director of Cadence Health and Food Coaching Courses, one of Australasia’s top health and food coaching colleges. Leanne initially studied psychology but through her own health challenges moved into nutrition and is a registered nutritionist. As a mother of two active boys Leanne finds her work and home life blend nicely, creating a beautiful balance. And of course, Leanne is the author of the book that has changed Charlie’s life, Change the Way You Eat; The psychology of food (Exisle Publishing 2014).