I’m sure we’re all guilty of thinking of desserts as ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’. Maybe you’ve even told someone how many calories are in that biscuit you’re both eyeing off. While meant in an innocent way, the way we think about food can actually cause problems that we may not realise.
A healthy attitude towards food is one of the most powerful tools you can have to help you follow a healthy lifestyle. Today I’m going to talk about some of the common thoughts about eating you need to kick to the kerb!
“I deserve this”
Treating yourself every now and then is absolutely fine, so long as you do it in moderation. That being said, telling yourself you ‘deserve’ a particular food because you had a bad day can cause bigger problems. Using food as a reward can be a slippery slope for some of us. In some cases, food can be used to numb feelings, which means you aren’t really addressing the issue that’s bothering you. Rather than feeling better, you may end up feeling guilty about snacking instead.
Find other ways to reward yourself instead of using food. Sink into a nice relaxing bath, or treat yourself to an at-home facial. It can be a much better pick-me-up than a huge bowl of ice cream each time you feel stressed or sad.
“It says 99.9% fat free, so I can definitely eat it.”
Whilst fat free foods may seem like the answer to your prayers, they aren’t as great as they may seem. To replace the flavour lost when removing the fat, these foods may contain higher levels of sugar. The other problem? Thinking the terms ‘all natural’, ‘low fat’ or ‘fat free’ means you can eat twice as much. Portion control is just as important as eating healthier options, so ditch the idea that these so-called ‘healthy’ foods are a free pass.
It’s always a good idea to review food labels and use them to determine if something is healthy, instead of relying on the marketing. Once you understand how food labelling works, it can really make a big difference to your shopping habits. Arming yourself with that knowledge is much better than choosing food based on what looks good on the shelf or TV.
“It’s all or nothing!”
It’s not always a smart idea to drastically change your diet overnight. While choosing to eat healthier is a fantastic move, you may find you’re the type of person who gets better results by making gradual changes. Scrapping your favourite foods in one hit can leave you feeling deprived, which may lead to a binge down the track. With a binge often comes guilt, which can cycle the whole process again.
A positive mindset goes a long way towards beating the binge guilt. Don’t punish yourself if you ate more than you intended to yesterday. Focus on how you can develop better habits today and tomorrow.
“I can’t eat that, it’s bad”
Labelling food as ‘bad’ can actually work against you. Telling yourself (and other people) that particular foods are off-limits builds fear and often makes you crave the food even more. If you give in and indulge the craving, you might even begin to associate that negative label with yourself. Does this sound familiar? Saying to your friends “I ate a huge bag of chips last night, I’m so bad.”
Instead of using ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food labels, consider how those foods made you feel when you ate them. Did that bag of chips make you feel like you had enough energy to get through the day? Probably not. You don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying food — aim for balance in your diet instead.
“It’s not my fault, I’m addicted to…”
It sounds like passing the buck, and it kind of is. When you make statements like “I’m addicted to sugar,” you may actually be convincing yourself that you’re powerless to resist the urge to indulge. Thinking in this way almost puts the food in control! It then becomes very easy to make excuses for choosing less-than-healthy options.
Remember that you can take control of your health and choose not to eat high fat or high sugar foods. Reminding yourself that your body deserves the best foods to do the things you love is a powerful mindset that might help overcome this negative thinking.
“I wouldn’t normally eat that, but it is a special occasion”
Don’t be your own worst enemy when dining out or celebrating. Thinking of how much exercise you need to work off that slice of chocolate cake is the easiest way to ruin it for yourself. Using food as a reward or seeing exercise as a punishment for enjoying food is not a good way to approach your diet. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you need to earn food by exercising first or skipping meals.
As I’ve said, you can treat yourself occasionally. Balance is incredibly important for all aspects of our lives – physically, emotionally and mentally. Your healthy lifestyle CAN work in conjunction with a social life, so long as you don’t overdo it every time you go out.
Our relationship with food can have a huge bearing on how we enjoy and process it, as well as our body image and confidence.
Rather than feeling guilty or depriving yourself, recognise that you may have good days and bad days. Be kind to yourself as well — having dessert once in awhile is not a bad thing!