Have ever been a yo-yo dieter or repeatedly tried to lose weight? If so, then chances are you’ve also experienced some MAJOR food cravings along the way. And when food cravings become constant....they can lead to a full-blown food obsession.
Below are the most important steps I recommend you to follow to overcome food obsessions:
1. Stop counting calories – I am NOT in favor of counting calories (in truth, I'd rather have you counting chemicals and decreasing the amount of GMOs you’re ingesting instead). Plus, if your only focus is on eating low-calorie meals…..this means that you're likely missing out on the satisfaction of ingesting AMAZING fats that also provide you with tons of energy and brain fuel (i.e., avocados, almonds, etc.)
2. View food as fuel and sustenance, not just as some reward – A lot of people, whether they have an eating disorder or not, view food as a "reward" or a "treat." Early on in life, you likely noticed that food could provide you with a sense of pleasure. And at some point, you may have decided that you needed that pleasure in your life....and food was THE solution. Food then became a means to distract yourself from what you *actually* feel.
Instead, begin to view food in terms of how it fuels you throughout your day. For example, if I'm going to do a tough workout, then you better believe I'm going to eat some protein and carbs in order to fuel my body! Or, if I'm needing a little mid-afternoon pick-me-up in-between clients....then I'll make sure to grab a handful of nuts.
3. Eat the real thing – While everything in moderation is fine, work on ditching "fat-free" anything, diet sodas, or anything else that’s loaded with tons of artificial sugar. Again, the goal is not to just get by on as little fuel as possible to survive. The goal is to thrive by giving your body the nutrients and minerals that it craves. I SO wish I had learned this lesson earlier…..because it's contributed to the stabilization of my moods and boosted my energy (I have more energy now than I did when I was in my teens or 20s)! If you ask me, eating organic fruits and veggies = the greatest prescription for happiness!
4. Try to avoid labeling your food or having rigid rules—Try to avoid labeling your food as being "good" or "bad." I know that I just mentioned how I'm a big fan of fruits and veggies, however, this doesn't mean that I don't allow myself to enjoy tasty treats from time-to-time! The minute you start labeling your food as being "good" or "bad" is when you create rigid rules. As with any kind of restriction, when you forbid yourself from it, your desire for it will only grow stronger. So, stop victimizing your food and work on embracing and enjoying it instead.
5. Do NOT strive for perfection – A lot of clients (especially in the beginning phase of therapy) try to push their eating and/or weight-loss goals off (I’ll wait "until Monday," they say). And no wonder why they feel like pushing things off…..because they talk about eating "perfectly" or "clean" for a few days, but then the minute they indulge in a treat, it’s like—‘game over!’ Again, the secret is in allowing yourself to enjoy tasty indulgences here and there.
Enjoy every single mouthful…..while also remembering you can (and will) return back to your regular foods for your next meal or snack. The "I’ll start fresh on Monday" approach just causes you to obsess over food even more because it means that there's all of this pressure to eat indulgent foods before Monday strikes! It means that you're hoping that you'll *finally* be satisfied by the time Monday rolls around because, by then, you'll need to go back to your rigid and structured food routine—where there's zero room to mess up. Do you see how backward this kind of thinking can be? Life is about progress, not perfection……so why not just allow yourself those little treats along the way? You will be better off practicing this in the long-run.
6. Listen to your body – Your body always knows best. If you work on tuning in and listening to your body’s signals, you can learn so much from it. It takes time to learn how to pause and to really question what the intentions are behind your desires. The next time you experience a craving, choose to listen to your body and notice whether you could be tired, hungry, angry, lonely, or bored, for example. The more you can do this, the less food will control your decisions.
7. Eat the whole thing – This might seem like a silly one, but if you're one to only eat half a cookie in hopes of exercising some self-control when it comes to food, I say…..just eat the whole damn thing! It's a psychological mind game to only grant yourself half of the cookie, which inevitably will lead to guilt or shame when you go back for that other half. This alone creates a bigger obsession with food because, chances are, you’re going to spend the next several hours obsessing over how you ate it all. Instead, give yourself permission to eat the entire thing and try to enjoy….Every. Single. Bite!
8. Commit to NEVER dieting again – I sort of talked about this already, but I just want to reiterate the fact that diets don't work. They only make you more obsessed with food, numbers, and your perceived flaws….causing you to feel like a total failure. Your relationship with food suddenly comes from a negative place, causing you to feel deprived, which naturally will make you lose control in the end. So, instead, work on building balanced habits that you can uphold for the long-haul.
If you are seriously struggling with food and body image issues right now, I can guarantee you that falling in love with nourishing your body and learning how to savor your food will be what helps you to heal and to stop negatively obsessing over food once and for all.