Over the last few years with The Fit Life I have received so many emails from women naming their mental and emotional struggles with food and exercise.
Jumping around from diet to diet, getting caught in the diet cycle as I like to call it.
Fearing eating off plan or not following food rules.
Either being all in with a diet or all out.
Spending time exercising just to burn calories.
Many struggling with time motivation and consistency.
I understand because I personally have been in each scenario at one point in my life. What I have learned over the years that I want to share with you today are tips tools and strategies to help you spend LESS energy stressing about food and more of that energy actually implementing what you know.
How do you quit wasting mental energy?
Just like putting high demand on your muscle, it fatigues. So does you willpower and your choices! The more and more I talk with people regarding food and eating, the more I realize that people spend a ton of mental energy on it, whether it come in terms of guilt, anxiety, stress, or even constant decision making.
We can make up to over 200 decisions a day regarding food, from what we should eat to breakfast, to what we should put in your coffee, to if you should eat now or later. It is no wonder that people claim night time eating as one of their biggest self sabotages when it comes to reaching their goals. By the end of the day our willpower is exhausted and when it fails (it will fail) you are left to rely on your habits alone, good or bad.
I know from first hand experience that can be extremely draining and leave you feeling like you do not have the mental energy for anything else. With the loads of information on how to eat, when to eat, and what to eat we are left in constant decision making mode and it can be overwhelming and exhausting.
So lets talk about 9 ways to streamline your thoughts and decisions and help you reduce the amount of mental energy you spend on food and eating.
Be realistic about your time.
If you are short on time, refrain any extensive meal planning with complicated recipes with lots of ingredients, especially if you are not a big fan of cooking.
If that is your jam then go for it, but meals and healthy eating can be simple. My go to meal is a veggie egg scramble with a side of avocado. It takes me less than 5 minutes and if I am starving or not motivated to cook it is perfect!
Only eat foods you truly enjoy.
If you do not enjoy a big salad of vegetables, don’t eat it. When you eat foods you do not enjoy, you satiety levels will be low, causing you to crave more. If you do not binge immediately, you will later on.
Food should satisfy you and make you feel your best. If you are not enjoying what you are eating, stop and eat something else. I have done this before mid bite.
I made a salad and tried a new zero calorie, bleh, dressing and it was disgusting. After a few bites I thought it tasted pretty bad and continued with a few bites only to throw it all away moments later.
Refrain from justifying your food choices.
As humans we like to justify and moralize our choices because it makes us feel better. We all do it. But I have learned to get real honest with myself with things like this. You did not eat that huge meal because you deserve it you ate it because you wanted to, and that is fine.
Justifying our food choices is a way of validating our own feelings and thoughts. It is a way to have an excuse as to why we do not reach our goals.
It also is a way to encourage a constant battle in your head of what is or is not ok to eat. I still do this from time to time. “Well I have not had dessert in a while so it is ok I am having this.” I check myself and reaffirm that I am having this because I want to. End of story.
Do less researching and take more action.
I use to spend so much time researching the latest plans, gathering information, and reading about all the potential options out there, without really actually doing it. There is a huge gap between knowing and actually doing. You will only get results when you bridge that gap and start implementing what you know. Reading and learning is all good, but does nothing if you do not apply it.
Focus on your automatic eating strategies.
What strategies do you know work for you? I eat a balance of carbs, protein and fat at most meals, with a couple snacks, include veggies often, carry a water bottle with me during the day, and have a piece of dark chocolate on most days. That is how I base my eating.
These guidelines are great because I can take them ANYWHERE, and they have become so automatic they almost feel effortless. What do you know works for you? If you are unsure, experiment. Do too many carbs make you feel sluggish? Do you do better when you eat a lighter dinner? Does breakfast set you up for success or failure. Take notes this week and see what you come up.
Stop worrying about the small stuff.
Condiments, organic, a beer, a small dessert. These things are not going to make or break your physique. In large quantities accumulated over time, yes. But not adding BBQ sauce, eating a non organic banana or having dessert or a drink weekly.
Again I have been there, thinking I could not indulge without throwing myself off track or eating BBQ chicken without the sauce being homemade. Focus on your automatic eating strategies, what your meals consist of, taking in foods high in nutrients, and drinking lots of water. And getting enough sleep and stressing less. These are your big rocks. These are the things that are going to make more of an impact.
Do not just eat food because it is available.
Many times we eat food because it is circumstantial. Your co worker brought in cookies, so you have one because they brought them in for you and 20 other people.
Costco is giving out samples so of course you take them. It is a holiday, so you must indulge. You have dinner at your moms so you must clean your plate. You are at the movies so you need popcorn.
The truth is, you do not need to do any of these things, unless you want them. Start to pay attention to when and why you eat, and if it is just because of the circumstance gently remind yourself that you do not have to. You can have the same foods tomorrow if you truly wish. Food will always be available to you.
Avoid blindly following a meal plan.
Meal plan are stressful. Not only is is difficult to follow a plan while you are at home, it is even more difficult when you try to add social gatherings in the mix. Meal plans are not created with YOU or your lifestyle in mind and cause us to feel guilty if we can’t stick to their extensive rules.
They also do not take in to account what you actually feel like eating that meal or day and cause us to become ignorant about what actually works for our body. If you are like me you have probably tried more than one type of eating or meal plan with rules and restrictions. But I encourage you to use that a learning experience and take this Bruce Lee quote, “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.”
Do not eat food that makes you feel guilty.
This is my favorite practice. Guilt and food do not belong together. If you are going to eat something make a conscious effort not to feel guilty about it. And if you know you are going to feel guilty about it, don’t eat it.
Positive psychology research actually shows when we have feelings of guilt and remorse around eating too much, it is actually less of a motivator to do better next time than when we give ourselves some compassion and love. The next time you overeat and find yourself wanting to lecture yourself in disapproval, simply admit to what you did and move on. You always have next time.