Big food giants
In a perfect world, food manufacturers would be actively collaborating with us to eat healthier and have our best interests at heart at all times. Claims on food packaging would be ‘swear on a stack of bibles’ honest & any processing of foods would be aimed solely at optimising our health & wellbeing.
Consider the claims on almost any processed food item you pick up.
Read ‘packed with energy?’ Think loaded with sugar.
‘Natural?’ Usually about as far from nature as you can get!
‘Fat free’ Often loaded with sugar instead.
Millions of dollars are spent adding fat, sugar, salt and chemicals to manipulate tastes and flavours and make unhealthy foods irresistible.
And it works. The pleasure centres in our brains light up brighter than Rudolf’s nose on Christmas Eve.
A good rule of thumb is not to believe ANYTHING written on the front of food packaging.
Instead, focus on healthy eating and fuelling your body with the beautiful nutrients it really needs. Simply adding in extra veggies and fruits puts you ahead of most of the population!
Your friends can be your greatest cheerleaders. They can lead by example and remind you of your ‘why’ when indulging in that ‘death by chocolate’ dessert seems like the best idea you’ve had all day.
Surrounding yourself with people who share your values, particularly around health and fitness is SO important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to ditch those friends whose idea of exercise is to submerge themselves in a bath, pull the plug and fight the current!
Occasionally your friends can even be your greatest saboteurs.
It can be deliberate or totally unconscious.
Maybe your bestie is often tempting you with high calorie treats or saying things such as ‘Come on, just one won’t hurt’.
It might be time to have a gentle word with your BFF and explain why your health is important and how to best support you.
If she’s a true friend, she’ll understand.
You never know, she might even become your greatest supporter!
I adore eating out.
Cooking a delicious meal is something I’m ALWAYS happy to delegate. Eating healthy meals is a priority for me, I just don’t love doing it myself.
It seems I’m not alone.
It’s been well documented that we’re eating out more and preparing fewer meals at home. Guilty Your Honour.
The problem is, not only are those restaurant meals super delicious, they tend to be much higher in calories. Not to mention the impossibly large serves, which we struggle valiantly to finish because, after all, think of all the starving people in the world.
There’s nothing worse than that ‘I’m so full I could burst’ feeling after a wonderful evening out to dinner.
You CAN eat out without being a killjoy with a couple of simple tweaks to your choices.
Restaurant meals are notorious for lashings of delicious calorie laden sauces, bread baskets, hardly any veggies or salad, huge servings of potato and decadent desserts.
I usually suggest to clients that they skip the breadbasket if possible, order sauces on the side so that they can control how much they have and order an extra serve of vegetables or salad.
And if you’re like me and struggle to resist dessert, consider sharing with a friend or having a smaller main meal to compensate.
Try to savour the food, eating slowly and mindfully, putting your knife and fork down between bites and noticing the textures and tastes.
MUCH more enjoyable and no more of those ‘Why did I eat so much’ conversations with yourself on the way home.
Totally disregarding calories
With health and weight loss, it is so much more than calories in and calories out. The research is fascinating, revealing factors affecting our weight as diverse as the nutrition habits of your Mother before your birth and the types of bacteria found in your gut.
Having said that, however, if we consistently eat more calories than we use, our bodies do what they’ve been so beautifully designed to do and store the excess as fat to use in leaner times.
The problem being that for most of us, there ARE no leaner times.
When clients ask me whether they should be counting calories, I usually steer them towards being more calorie AWARE, rather than obsessively counting every calorie. (Unless of course they love counting calories in which case they can go their hardest!)
The downside is our tendency to underestimate our calorie intake. In research conducted by Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, diners underestimated their caloric intake by up to a massive 34%!
That icy cold frappe and slice of cheesecake might seem like a fairly harmless treat until you realise that it’s the calorie equivalent of a whole day of healthy eating and the nutritional equivalent of a rolled up newspaper.
So does that mean such culinary delights are a thing of the past?
Not at all!
Simply be aware of how your body feels after eating. Do you feel light and full of energy or sluggish and needing a nap?
Ask yourself whether your choices are taking you closer to your health goals or further away.
Then allow your beautiful inner wisdom to guide your choices.
Rewarding yourself for being ‘good’
We humans are a judgemental lot. It’s our default to label and judge.
The problems with this type of thinking around our health are twofold.
We tend to want to beat ourselves up for ‘being bad’, which feels pretty ordinary, doesn’t work and drains our willpower.
We also like to reward ourselves for being ‘good’.
Psychologists call this moral licensing.
Kelly McGonigal in her book Maximum Willpower, sums it up like this – ‘Because we’re quick to view self indulgence as the best reward for virtue, we forget our real goals and give in to temptation’.
It seems that even making progress towards our goals can lead us to feel satisfied and indulge in sabotaging behaviour!
Incredibly, offering healthy choices in restaurants and on take away menus makes us even MORE likely to choose the unhealthier item!
Who’d have thought!
So how do we get around this dilemma?
It’s a tricky one because it seems that simply being aware of this tendency isn’t enough.
We often promise that we’ll do better tomorrow as a way of justifying our choices and then continue to make unhealthy choices!
I used to suggest that my clients reward themselves for taking actions towards their goals.
These days, however, I recommend that they remember their ‘why’ when making choices and build in regular treats instead of rewarding ‘good’ behaviour.
Indulging in comfort food
It’s our nature to want to avoid pain.
Whether we’re simply running low on energy, have had the day from hell at work or we’re recovering from a heartbreak, we often reach for our favourite comfort food in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.
It’s an unconscious response that doesn’t work and often we’re left feeling guilty and annoyed with ourselves on top of the original heartache or stress.
Jan Chozen Bays, author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, recommends asking ourselves questions such as:
Am I hungry?
Where do I feel hunger?
What part of me is hungry?
What do I really crave?
What am I tasting just now?
An example from my own life is that I’d instinctively reach for a Coke so I could power on with my to do list despite being tired. The irony that I might have been writing an article about healthy eating at the time wasn’t lost on me and I’d feel guilty and frustrated with myself each time it happened.
These days I’m so much better at recognising the signs that I’m feeling tired and taking a nap or having an early night instead.
Similarly with emotions, trying to soothe them with food NEVER works.
Checking in to how we’re really feeling with a lovely sense of self compassion makes it more likely we can take an action that IS going to make us feel better instead.
Quick fix thinking
We’ve all been there. The clothes are a little too snug and maybe those sexy jeans are languishing in the back of the wardrobe.
It’s decision time.
Things must change.
In a society where we have instant everything, is it any wonder that we want instant results with our weight, too?
We somehow forget that those extra pounds didn’t accumulate overnight.
This sends us straight into quick fixes and short term solutions.
Even if we do manage to lose the weight, reaching our goal often means we then slip back to old patterns and unhealthy ways of eating. Because we are simply unable to sustain the deprivation and restrictions for the longer term.
And we’re back where we started.
While an initial weight loss can be motivating, focussing on BEHAVIOURS and HEALTH, rather than weight loss means that you’re more likely to meet your goal and sustain it over the long term.
I know from experience just how tempting it can be to want those instant results.
And focussing on health seems so, well, boring.
It just happens to work.
Don’t let yourself get sucked in to the latest fad.
Remember your why.
You can thank me later.
Not getting the help you need
As Ms Independence, I’ve not always been great at accepting or asking for help.
These days I’m much wiser. I’ve learnt that I don’t need to be superwoman.
There aren’t any medals for making things harder than they need to be.
You don’t have to go it alone.
These days I value the support of my osteopath and exercise physiologist to help me stay physically active.
My husband helps me free up a bit more time by assisting with meal preparation, as does the grocery delivery service.
Your support team might look completely different.
Perhaps a yoga teacher might be helping you stay flexible and supple or a masseur regularly works out the kinks.
If you struggle with food addiction, a specialised program such as Overeaters Anonymous can be a lifesaver.
And for a mix of mindset and strategy, a health coach like myself can be invaluable for ongoing support and that gentle nudge in the right direction.
Think about where you could use some extra support or where you might be stuck and who you can enlist to support you.
So there you have it, 8 things that might be sabotaging your best efforts to get healthy.
There’s a lot to take in, so have a think about which ones might be impacting your life and pick one or two to start with.
And if you need a bit of help, head on over to my coaching page to book a session. I’d love to be part of your team!