Improve How You Think About Food

As we approach the holidays many of us are thinking about food. What we will cook, where we will be eating, how yummy will it be, and if we will be able to control how much we eat. Each of these thoughts are normal, but just because we have these thoughts doesn’t mean we have to let them stay. If we choose to feel guilty or bad because of the thoughts we have, this can actually reduce our ability to control our actions or future thoughts. When we have thoughts that lead to positive feelings, actions this can help us to have more control over our future results and thoughts.

We have learned there are two common problems when it comes to thoughts. First is trying to get rid of thoughts too quickly. If you try to ignore or avoid a certain thought, it tends to keep coming back or sits under the surface continuing to make you feel or act in ways you would prefer to avoid. The second problem is letting a thought stick around for too long, like a guilty pleasure.

When one of those thoughts wanders into our brain there are two possible approaches to take. The first option is you can acknowledge the thought and then simply tell yourself to go back to your previously scheduled thoughts. Acknowledging it is important. You need to give yourself time to admit the thought was there. The second option is for when a thought keeps coming back, you sometimes need to ponder it a little longer, understand where it is coming from, and then come up with an antidote thought. That antidote thought is there to counteract the original thought and you may even see the original thought wasn’t true. This approach allows us to reframe our mind in a way that will serve us, instead of harming us.

Now that we are close to the holidays we decided to go over some of our common food thoughts and the antidote thoughts we use to help us stay focused on our goals.

We hope some of these will seem familiar and that our antidote thoughts will be useful:

  • But I’m hungry! One important thing to learn when we are working on eating healthier is: “it’s okay to be hungry”. Our bodies are designed to function through temporary food shortages, that is the basic purpose of fat (10 lbs of fat is equivalent to about 60 meals). That doesn’t mean we should starve ourselves, or we should constantly be hungry, but getting comfortable with being a little hungry once in a while can help improve our relationship with food. So unless you have a medical condition that says otherwise, learn to be hungry until your next scheduled meal. Remember, it’s okay to be hungry.
  • This diet is only temporary. Our habits led us to our current weight and health. If we don’t want to end up back where we started those habits need to change - permanently. As you work on eating healthier you need to create new sustainable habits. Habits you can stick with for the rest of your life. Remember, you want this life.
  • This is a special occasion/I don’t get to eat this very often. It can be tempting to think special occasions or special foods are a time to “take a break” from our eating habits. Instead make these occasions about the people. Stay focused on the people and the occasion, not on the food. Remember, food is fuel and there are other things to enjoy in life.
  • It’s healthy so it’s okay to eat it. We can eat too much salad. Pour enough dressing and croutons on it and we can eat more calories than we need. When you want something healthy, plan for it, eat it with your meal, and be honest with how healthy it really is. Remember, you want this life.
  • That’s not enough food! When you only fill your plate half full it is easy to think: “that isn’t enough food!” We have learned a plate doesn’t need to be full. It takes time to get okay with this. Especially when our spouse dishes up less than we expected and those alarms start ringing again “that isn’t enough!” Learn to be okay with having less, sometimes a lot less, than you have been accustomed to. Remember, it’s okay to be hungry.
  • I earned it. Food isn’t a very good reward for a day at the gym or for taking a walk around the neighborhood. It is too easy to simply undo the improvements we are creating for our bodies and for our weight loss goals. Sometimes the best reward is simply knowing you have accomplished your goals. You are earning the right to have a healthy body. Remember, food is fuel and there are other things to enjoy in life.
  • It’s just one! That little piece of cheese, one cookie, the small amount of food left on a child’s plate, or even a carrot. These small bits can add up throughout the day and soon we have eaten an extra 2-300 calories we didn’t mean to. When we absentmindedly or purposely look for these little tidbits it tells us we are overly focused on food. Find some time to relax and remind yourself, you have enough food. Remember, it’s okay to be hungry.
  • It’s not fair. True, life isn’t fair. We can’t eat the same way we did when we were 18, our spouse may be able to eat more than us and not gain weight, and our children may be able to eat more dessert or snacks than us as well. We need to stop focusing on what other people can and can’t do. Focus on what works for us. Live your best life and stop worrying about who else has it easier than you do. Remember, you want this life.

Learning to control our thoughts, instead of letting our thoughts control us, is a huge part of creating a better life for ourselves. We need our thoughts to work for us, instead of against us.

One final thing we want to make sure we talk about is the importance of sleep. You may think, what does that have to do with controlling our thoughts? Sleep helps regulate our appetite, helps us make better food choices, and helps improve our self control. When we don’t get enough sleep it reduces the ability of our brain to work for us (instead of against us). Make sure you get a proper amount of sleep at night.

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Everything we do is controlled by a thought, and the more we can make our thoughts work for us the better our overall health will be. We hope you enjoy the food and treats this Christmas. Even more though, we hope you enjoy the people you are with and the healthy body you are creating for yourself.

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The purpose of “The Couple Project” is to learn more about what makes a strong marriage or relationship. We share what we are learning, which ideas we are trying, and which ideas helped improve our relationship. We realize not everything that works for us will work for you, but we still hope you will find our journey valuable.

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