Research out of Cornell University indicates we make, on average, more than 250 food decisions on any given day.
During the holidays, this number skyrockets – from sugar cookies brought in by clients to pecan pie made by a neighbor. The number of choices you have to make can be exhausting! It’s no surprise that people tend to get overloaded and give up (read: give in to cravings and poor food choices) quickly.
A lot of my work is focused on helping people bridge the gap between intention to change, and action. Many of my clients come to me saying, “I know a lot about nutrition and I want to change, but I can’t seem to make this happen. I don’t choose the healthy options – even when they are available.”
If this sounds familiar, you’re definitely not alone. The good news is, there are simple shifts you can make to get past the habits and patterns that are sabotaging your health.
Here are three tips to help you have a better relationship with food this holiday season…
1. Embrace The Motto, “Change Feelings First, Then Food.”
When your efforts to change your eating habits fall flat, it can be so frustrating. What I’ve found is that in the gap between intention to change and action, there’s often an emotion – stress, anxiety, fear, anger, and so on. Even happy feelings can derail your efforts. For many, celebration equals food.
A recent study found that 26 percent of overeating unhealthy snacks is due to emotions – feeling bored, stressed and anxious. Just imagine what would happen if you ended emotionally-driven eating. For many of my clients, this leads to significant improvements in the quality of their food choices and a reduction of weight – without dieting or eating a single carrot stick.
2. Keep Food Decisions Simple And Straightforward
This is especially helpful during the holidays. Stick to no more than four foods on your plate, for example. Also, remember that you make the best decisions in the morning. Try to map out a strategy early in the day, or lay out your plans for dinner at breakfast.
I also recommend having a “healthy default” meal option in place. This is something that you “fall back on” when you’re too overloaded to make just one more decision. Keep all the supplies in the refrigerator or make this your “go to” option at parties.
3. Remember That Change Is A Process
A lot of people take an “all or nothing” approach to healthy eating. This is perpetuated by cultural standards of food-as-reward and yo-yo dieting. One of the most powerful shifts you can make to heal your relationship with food is simply to remember that change is NOT a one-time phenomenon. It’s a process.
Sometimes positive choices will come easily – sometimes they won’t. When you get off track or help yourself to one too many slices of pie, don’t self-criticize and decide that your whole week is blown (so you might as well over-indulge until Monday, when you can “start over”). Instead, practice forgiveness and enjoying the moment. And remember, every food choice is an opportunity for a fresh start.
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In my latest book, Eat Q, I guide you through the most common emotional barriers to healthy and mindful eating, and offer 25 tools and techniques you can use to conquer emotional eating, slim down, eat healthfully and mindfully, and keep the pounds off for good.
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Susan Albers PsyD is a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. She graduated from the University of Denver and did her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Albers completed her post-doctoral work at Stanford University.
She has written six books on the topic of mindful eating including Eat.Q., Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink & Be Mindful,Mindful Eating 101, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, and But I Deserve This Chocolate. Dr. Albers was awarded the University of Denver, Master Scholar Award. She conducts mindful eating workshops and lectures on 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Eat.Q. internationally. To learn more visit www.eatq.com