If you think dysfunctional relationships only involve people, I have news for you. You may have a dysfunctional relationship with food, which is keeping you from being able to succeed at weight loss in a way that lasts.
The FIRST step to freeing yourself from a lifetime of dieting and beginning to experience lasting weight loss is to understand how healthy your relationship with food really is. Take a look at the following six types of eating styles and see if you identify with any of them. I’ve included easy and practical solutions for each to help end these dysfunctional eating styles and put you in “right relationship” with food, so that you can achieve the body and health you want… once and for all!
1. The Serial Dieter: For you, dieting is a lifestyle! You can’t imagine a life without watching your portions, counting calories and being consumed with your food choices. For so long, you’ve looked at food as the enemy. It can’t be trusted, it wreaks havoc on your body and your mind, it’s exhausting, frustrating and you go from diet to diet hoping to find the magic solution.
The Serial Solution: A great place for you to start is to get in touch with your hunger. Are you eating because you need to or because you want to? Think of this as Hunger vs. Appetite.
- With hunger, your body is telling you it needs to be fed.
- With appetite, a “need” for food is triggered by a thought, feeling or emotion, causing you to crave something specific. It’s more of a “want” than a “need.”
- With hunger, you may feel dizzy, lightheaded, your stomach will rumble and just about any food will do.
- With appetite, you may be eating according to the clock, the size of the plate, the smell of something delicious or the commercial you just saw on TV.
It’s important to know the difference. Eat when you’re hungry, but consider not reacting to appetite triggers. Instead, find alternative, healthy activities that nourish your body, mind and emotions – such as dancing to your favorite music, playing with the dog, polishing your nails or even reading something inspirational when you’re experiencing a food craving, and put an end to the “serial dieting” lifestyle.
2. The Grazer: While you may not regularly sit down for meals, you “pick” at food… a lot. Unfortunately, this strategy backfires because with this style, you’re eating constantly, with no sense of being satisfied or “finishing.” There’s no real beginning, or end, to your eating like there is with a meal. Even if your choices are healthy, you may eat way more than what your body actually needs. With this style, it’s difficult to know when to stop. It’s like there’s no period at the end of the sentence so it keeps going…
The Grazer Solution: For you, a non-negotiable rule like, “I will eat every morsel of food sitting down,” may help. This way, you can still have your meals and snacks (if you’re hungry for them), but you’ll be more mindful of what you’re eating. Individual or single portion sized snacks and desserts are also a great help to the Grazer. You’re more aware of how much you’re eating with single-sized portions. It’s also important to mention here that if you find you’re hungry every few hours, you’re probably not having enough healthy fat, fiber and protein.
3. The Carb Loader: You’re still hanging onto the idea that any type of fat is the enemy. As a result, you eat way too many calories in the form of carbohydrates, which leaves you constantly hungry – and may even encourage binge eating. This style creates anything from mood instability and the frustration of excess weight, along to many chronic illnesses and conditions.
The Carb Loader Solution: You’re not going to like what I’m going to say, but here goes. You need to ditch the foods that offer little in the way of any nutrient value and begin eating whole, real, nutrient dense foods that support and nourish you. This way, you’ll be much more satisfied and the feeling of being full will prevent your usual need for “carb hopping” (where you have some crackers, then some cookies, then some pretzels, then a little dry cereal… etc.)
4. The Extremist: For this type, it’s either ‘on’ or ‘off’, good or bad, or all or nothing at any given time. In turn, you have a “diet mentality” that says, “the only way to get to and maintain a healthy weight is by practicing extremes.” Unfortunately, this style can lead to binge eating. Because you deprive yourself, you reach a place where you just can’t take any more dry, grilled, plain chicken and broccoli. As a result, you go crazy and head right back to eating the stuff you were eating that caused your weight gain in the first place.
The Extremist Solution: You must find a middle ground. Starvation and bingeing are the extremes, but you’ve spent years (maybe decades) living this way and it has become a habit that is chipping away at your waistline as well as your health, confidence and self-esteem. It may be helpful to know that it’s not only possible, but crucial to eat in order to lose weight and create the body, energy and health you want. For you, the 80/20 rule may work best. With the 80/20 rule, you are eating healthfully 80% of the time leaving the other 20% for snacks, treats and indulgences.
Planning ahead to enjoy these treats helps to get you off the diet rollercoaster, because you’re no longer trying to get to some distant finish line…only to go completely crazy once you get there.
5. The Latest Craze Eater: You jump on the latest diet craze the minute you hear about it. You don’t waste any time with taking a second look – you just want to get it and start it. You figure that if it works for others, it will work for you.
In your dieting history, chances are very good that you have:
- Limited your choices to only a few foods during any given time
- Had to create some crazy (and possibly nasty) concoctions
- Dealt with some really unpleasant side effects
You’ve tried it all and at this point, you could unofficially be a “professional diet reviewer.”
The Latest Craze Solution: It’s time to get your power back! Giving your power away by assuming everyone else knows better than you do, only leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable the next time another latest craze comes along.
Knowing what’s best for you and what your body tolerates well is where lasting change happens. While it’s wise to get educated on what healthy eating involves, you have to tune in to what can work best for you while also tuning in to what makes your body thrive. Only you can decide to end the “craze-iness” and begin to practice sane weight loss solutions that work. Not to worry, weight loss can still happen quickly, but the foods you’ll want to include to help you create your best body will also create your best health and energy, too.
6. The Guilt Tripper: Every sweet, treat or food choice that this type of eater believes to be unhealthy, is served up and eaten with a side of guilt. For you, there’s no satisfaction when eating, only guilt and shame. You’re continuously frustrated and aggravated by doing what you see as ‘wrong and deserving of punishment’ when it comes to food. Thoughts like these are constantly playing in a never-ending negative loop in your head:
- “I’m so bad”
- “I can’t believe I just ate that”
- “No wonder I’m so fat”
The Guilt Tripper Solution: By giving yourself permission to indulge now and then, you will eliminate the need to feel guilty about it any longer. Preplanning your indulgences and making the commitment to enjoy them thoroughly will actually reduce the amount of indulgences you feel you need. Instead, you will be able to truly enjoy the food in the moment… and then move on. The change in your relationship with the food will, in turn, lessen your desire to repeat the activity, simply because it is no longer seen as ‘forbidden.’ Of course, my first choice for you would be to find healthier alternatives to certain foods that give you the satisfaction you’re looking for without the guilt. For me, it’s a small piece of rich, dark chocolate with 75% cacao or higher.
Creating a healthy relationship with food can make all the difference in how you look at and enjoy your meals. Identifying what hasn’t worked so you know and understand what must change is key. Food is supposed to be enjoyed, and healthy foods, along with healthy habits will be the answer to your success with weight loss.
Photo from here, with thanks.