"I just want to be able to eat like a normal person".
I've heard people in my personal and professional life utter these words and it's always made me wonder ....
What does eating like a normal person even mean?
Typically people say this when they want to stop the constant cycle of dieting and then overeating. Or they want to be able to control their portion sizes and eat more nutritious meals.
But for some odd reason people express this desire in relation to what other people are doing. Instead of saying, "I want to consistently eat appropriate portions of nutritious food", they say, "Why can't I eat like a normal person?"
There are a few things wrong with that frame of thinking.
First, it's not your business what anyone else eats or drinks (perhaps with the exception of your children). You have to make decisions that make you feel good regardless of what your coworker, friend, or sister is doing.
Second, unless you are with these so-called "normal eaters" all day, every day you have no idea what their eating habits are. And there is no specific, measurable form of a "normal eater" anyway.
And finally, chances are that the "normal eater" you have in mind is not satisfied with their own diet choices either. Most of us can find at least one area of improvement in our diet.
So I want to deter people from using rhetoric like "normal" and from using other people's food choices as a guide to their own. Instead, think about exactly what you want to improve about your own food choices.
Do you want to feel less lethargic and more energixed by your food?
Do you want to feel less food-related guilt that prevents you from enjoying other parts of your life?
Do you want to improve your heart health by consuming more fruits and vegetables daily?
There are a million different ways to become your own ideal eater. Here are a few that I think are easy to implement and highly effective.
1. Don't Skip Meals
Has anyone ever told you that you shouldn't grocery shop hungry? Well, not skipping meals is the same idea. You are more likely to make healthier choices in portion size and in the type of food you eat if you are not absolutely famished.
Therefore, one of the best things you can do to avoid overeating is to make sure you never get too hungry. When your brain recognizes serious hunger it has a harder time telling when you are full. So you'll end up eating faster and consuming more before your brain registers you are full and should stop eating.
So, don't skip meals! Even breakfast!
2. Use the HALT Method
HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Using the HALT technique can help you avoid mindless eating which is a major culprit of weight gain.
Are you actually hungry and in need of sustenance? If so, great, feel free to prepare a snack or meal and feel good about your choice to provide nutrients to your body. If you just finished a meal 30 minutes ago, chances are you aren't actually hungry but looking for food for another reason. In this case, it's best to not walk to the fridge but continue asking yourself the rest of the -ALT questions.
Could you be eating because you're feeling angry at someone in your life or at yourself? Food can offer temporary comfort when we are feeling distressed. But eating when you're angry can also just make you even more frustrated at yourself. So instead of reaching for a snack, try a short meditation, journaling exercise, or some kind of physical activity instead.
Much like feeling angry, feeling lonely can cause us to seek comfort in food. People without strong social support often struggle with their health and their weight. Making a phone call to a friend or family member or leaning on a partner for support can alleviate loneliness and help you stick to eating routines centered around actual hunger.
This is a very common reason that people eat mindlessly. Most adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep, so it's natural to feel sleepy especially later in the day. While food does boost energy it doesn't mean that you should eat every time you feel fatigued. Try a full glass of water next time and see how it makes you feel.
3. Don't Fall Into Food Habit Traps
You'd be surprised how many of our eating behaviors are formed because we couple food with a specific actvitity.
For example, "when I watch TV I eat snacks" or "when I'm with my friends and they order dessert, I order dessert too."
And while these things are not inherently bad, when they are repeated over and over again, they have an impact. And it becomes more difficult to break the habits.
However, you can also use these food coupling habits for good!
For example, "I keep a water bottle at my desk at work so that I remember to stay hydrated throughout the day" or "When I visit my family I always bring a healthy dish to eat."
Think about the activities you couple with eating and drinking. Are these positive habit-couples? Or negative ones? How could you break or change the negative ones?
Give It A Try!
These are just 3 of many potential strategies you can use to improve your eating habits and get closer to your ideal relationship with food and eating.
Interested in additional ways to identify and improve your eating lifestyle? Contact me and we can work together to help you achieve consistent eating behaviors that make you feel good.