Weight loss: cut the moral dilemma

Food is emotionless. It cannot be “good” or “bad”. There will always be positives and negatives, but an item of food is just that – an item of food. Eating chocolate, for example, doesn’t make you a bad person… so why bother with the moral dilemma? After all, saying no won’t grant you a halo!

Your relationship with food
Chocolate, cupcakes, burgers, skipping breakfast, binge eating, guilt… most of us have our vices. But, quite simply, you decide. There will always be healthier options and there will always be temptations, but it is your mind and your habitual relationship with food that determines the outcome. Your current eating behaviours and your emotional relationship with food are both just habits, like brushing your teeth in the morning or boiling the kettle after lunch. And willpower is a muscle – it is strengthened with practice, just like how you get stronger in the gym.

Only you can decide to change. There is no need to hold on to the story that you’ve been telling yourself for all these years. You CAN open a packet of Tim Tams and just eat or one or two. You can eat one cupcake and not feel guilty. You can lose weight. You can change your current relationship with food. But only if you choose to.

Cue – habit – reward. The trick is to replace the feeling you get when you eat the item of food with how you will feel when you lose weight/run faster/buy a new bikini. Obsess about that feeling even – after all, it’s going to last a lot longer than the three minutes of satisfaction that the burger will give you. And without you even realising, you’re developing a new “habit loop” – the key to lasting behavioural change. For more information on this, I’m a big fan of Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”.

Where to start?
Your hormones. It is important to acknowledge that hormones control our weight. Not food. Chronically elevated cortisol (our stress hormone) levels will decelerate or bring your weight loss goals to a grinding halt. And worrying about food/the number on the scales/that cupcake will do exactly that.

1. Relax. One Tim Tam/burger/”bad” day (days are emotionless too by the way) will not lead to weight gain. But your emotional response can. If you want the burger, eat it and move on. Once it’s done, it’s done.

2. Sleep more. 8 hours minimum. The evidence is crystal clear.

3. Yoga/meditation. Learn to control your thoughts, so they no longer control you… or your weight.

4. Make friends with fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. The drop in insulin levels following sugar consumption results in the release of cortisol. So stabilising your blood sugar levels has the opposite effect and is the key to lasting weight loss. For a more scientific explanation, read “Saturation be Damned“. And for help with your sugar addiction, I highly recommend Sarah’s Wilson’s 8 week “I Quit Sugar” Program.

5. Supplement with omega-3. A powerful anti-inflammatory, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the activity of enzymes known to promote fat storage when excess calories are consumed. As our brains are approximately 30% omega-3, these fatty acids can be seen as the “building blocks” of the brain and are therefore essential for cognitive and behavioural functions, and in particular, mood. For one of the largest clinical trials on the link between omega-3 and depression, click here. Great sources of omega 3 include salmon, flaxseed, sardines and everyone’s favourite – fish oil. More on the benefits of omega-3 will be coming soon, but a great place for you to start is to aim to consume 2 pieces of oily fish (e.g. salmon) per week. I also love flaxseed oil as a fantastic sugar free salad dressing.

And lastly, why not choose a healthy relationship with food? Food for thought anyway… (pun intended).

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