Have your cake, eat it too: Five ways to make peace with food

woman stressed about cake
Making certain foods "off-limits" is the problem, writes nutrition coach Michelle Yandle. Photo credit: Getty

Do you avoid certain foods because you fear you won't be able to stop? Do you feel out of control around your favourite treats? Do you find yourself constantly craving things that are 'off limits"? Do you often find yourself overeating?

Maybe you just want to be that person who can have a bite and be satisfied? The one who turns down chocolate because they are full or just don't 'feel like it'?

If you've said yes to any of these, don't worry!

You're not alone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.  Not only that, but it is possible to make peace with food so you can feel great AND have cake!

Firstly, these out of control feelings around food are not your fault. Perhaps all your life you've struggled to lose weight and you've been on and off of restrictive diets.

Maybe you are turning to food as a source of comfort when you're lonely or stressed. 

Maybe you've always been taught to 'finish your plate' or that there was no dessert if you didn't finish your meal.

Regardless of why, these five steps will help you to begin to change your thinking about food so that you can begin to find joy with and feel in charge of your eating again.

1. Ditch the weight talk.

If you're like me, you've tried diet after diet, only to have the weight come back on - sometimes even more so. The bottom line: there is no evidence that any weight-centric approach to diet change works long term. This isn't your fault; it's the diet's fault. So let's imagine for a second that our weight wasn't an issue for us.

Why would we eat? Would it be to feel good? And if so, what would happen if we changed our approach from weight loss to feeling amazing?

Well, in most cases, health improves and sustainable changes happen.  Try to ditch the scale and turn your successes from that external dial to an internal feeling.  We deserve to feel good.

2. Stop labelling food

Good or bad, naughty or nice, whatever you tend to call it! Have you noticed that when we're binging, craving treats, and comfort eating it's generally not Brussels sprouts we're after.  What we do tend to crave are foods that have been placed on the 'naughty list'.

We crave until we cave and then feel awful and repeat the cycle all over again. This is often referred to as last supper mentality. Imagine I told you that starting tomorrow you could never have your favourite food again, what would happen? You'd go straight to the supermarket and buy it in bulk! This is what happens when diets create rules and restrictions. We just want it more than ever.

Instead, let's look at it in context. Sure, if all we ate was chocolate we'd probably feel awful eventually. But, chocolate in the presence of a relatively healthy diet and lifestyle is nothing more than an added bonus.

3. Press pause

Next time you catch yourself grabbing something to eat, see if you can simply stop and tune in. Press pause and ask yourself "am I hungry"?

This is not to give you permission to eat, but simply to be able to check in and see WHY you want to eat. Are you genuinely hungry or is there something else making you turn to food? Be curious, objective and see what turns up for you.

4. Eat mindfully

No, you don't need to chew 35 times but I do encourage you sit down at a table or bench and simply be present with your snack or meal.  Eating food in this way makes it SO much more satisfying, trust me! Try putting your fork down in between bites and noticing how the food tastes.

Eat with gratitude, make it a full sensory experience and not does it taste better but we're less likely to overdo it.

5. Feed the need

If you're not hungry, then what is it that you are actually craving? Taking time to tune into the WHY behind our food choices can be a powerful step in helping your relationship with food. Meanwhile, do more of what fills you up! The more joy we get out of life, the less we need food to comfort us and while there is nothing wrong with eating chocolate because we're sad, it's an empowering thing to be able to make that decision for ourselves first.


Michelle Yandle is a nutrition coach, international speaker and author of A Diet for 7 Generations and The Empowered Eating Handbook. She is also the National Brand Ambassador for Bin Inn New Zealand and sees clients both online and in person through her practice in Taranaki. 

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