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I Can’t Eat Healthy – I Love Food Too Much!

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Have you ever felt this way? It is one of the most common things I hear in my practice (and from strangers after I tell them I’m a nutritionist!).

Although they usually say it like it is a burden, I hear it as such potential!  First, because I also love food!  Second, because people who enjoy food have the most success with healthy eating. True story 😊

So, when I go through their food logs, I hope to see things like:

  • Dinner at my favorite restaurant
  • Homemade cake that my daughter made for the first time
  • Mom’s chicken soup
  • Thai food with the girls

Instead, it tends to read something like:

  • My kids leftover mac & cheese while I was washing the dishes
  • Chips because they were there
  • Jack-n-the-box because I was starving, and hangry
  • Year old Halloween candy I ate secretly when everyone was asleep

Can you tell the difference?  The first is pleasure and the second is desperation.  The ultimate goal of sustainable healthy eating is to cut down on the first and protect the second. In other words, less desperation, more pleasure.

When we have been focusing on our nutrition or dieting for a long time, we tend to lump these two together in a big pile called “I shouldn’t have eaten that.”  We treat them as if they are the same experience.  This simply isn’t true. 

The real problem is that they spend all their energy trying to cut out things that they really love, just to feel deprived and resentful. The good news is this isn’t necessary!

How to tell the difference between pleasure and desperation

If you dig a little deeper, you will find that these two categories feel quite different.  Eating for pleasure feels like:

  • Celebration
  • Connection
  • Experience
  • Joy

Eating out of desperation feels like:

  • Mindlessness
  • Sneakiness
  • Reactivity
  • Starvation and then overfull

If we are being honest, when we are eating out of desperation, we barely even taste what we are eating and sometimes don’t even remember it happened. We may classify it as lack of self-control or food addiction, because often there is a little rush, but it is actually a lack of planning and awareness.

This is why the second pillar of The Hunger Solution focuses on Healthy Behaviors.  This includes simple proactive meal planning strategies as well as techniques to connect you with how food really makes you feel. 

Again, the idea is not to cut out the great eating experiences – seriously life is too short!  It is to get rid of the ones that you barely notice and oftentimes don’t even enjoy.

What do you do with this information?

Keep a food and mood log for 3 days (you can download mine here.) Jot down how you felt before you ate and how you felt after.  Do your best not to judge yourself and write down how you think you should feel (yes, I know how your mind works!). Instead, write down how you honestly feel. 

Then review your log and see if you notice any patterns. Are you going too long in between meals and then ending up in the drive-thru?  Are you acting as your kid’s garbage disposal? Are you too exhausted to make any decisions by the end of the day so you are turning to what is easy?  Are you eating super healthy during the week and then inhaling everything in site on the weekends?

Now is there anything that you can do to break these patterns?  Can you pre-make your lunches so you don’t have to worry about it?  Can you put all the bites of your kid’s dinner in a bowl and then decide if you still want to eat it after you are done cleaning? Can you add in an afternoon snack to cut down on the chocolate cravings? Can you add a little more pleasure during the week so you aren’t chomping at the bits on the weekend?

Don’t try to change everything at once, instead tackle one behavior at a time.

Eating can often times feel out of control and like it is just happening to you.  However, when you take a step back you will find that there is always a solution.

You can learn more about The Hunger Solution by visiting this page and signing up for the waiting list!

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