Words by Dr Bunmi Aboaba, Food Addiction Coach
Puppies aren’t just for Christmas, and resolutions aren’t just for New Year. If you feel you need to make changes in your life, you don’t have to wait another eleven months to do something about it. But you do need to give yourself the best chance of success, and that means planning.
The top resolutions taken on each January (more exercise, weight loss, better diet) put food at the heart of most goals, and an important part of changing eating habits is identifying triggers. Do certain situations, feelings, moods or times of day prompt you to overeat? If so, it is likely you are being triggered. Triggers are habitual and operate unconsciously and will have you reaching for food, even when you’re not hungry, to satisfy an unmet need.
● What are your trigger foods?
● What foods can you never resist?
They’re likely to be highly refined carbohydrates as these are particularly addictive and satisfying due to having high concentrations of sugar, salt, and fat. These types of foods release feel-good hormones, which keep you wanting more!
Take some time to outline the specific foods you find hard to resist so that you can become more aware of your personal food triggers.
Additionally, try to understand what emotions and environments trigger you to self-sabotage.
● Do you crave certain foods when stressed, sad, or happy?
● Do you find it hard to resist foods when in certain situations or with particular people?
By acknowledging your triggers, you are taking the first step in gaining control of your eating habits.
After a challenging two years of lockdowns, illness, and uncertainty, I expect these results to be the same, if not more heightened, as we seek to improve our overall health and sense of wellbeing.
So, bearing in mind nearly 25% of us fail to keep our resolutions, what actions can we take to make them stick?
Set Your Intention
To progress and reach your goals, you must start with understanding where you’re at now. You can then set your intention of where you want to be.
Create a clear picture in your mind of where you are going and what you want to achieve. Intentions and beliefs are powerful – they will make all the difference to your journey.
It’s all to do with bringing your goals, hopes, and aspirations into conscious thought and connecting them to your whywhich will empower, motivate, and inspire you to keep going.
You must understand that you are not hopeless or the victim of uncontrollable urges and circumstances. Instead, remember that you hold the power to change direction and transform yourself into whatever you wish to be. This, however, requires time, honesty, and commitment.
When setting your intentions, answer the following:
● What are your goals?
● Where do you want to be at the end of your weight loss journey?
● What will you look like?
● What will you feel like?
● What will you be able to achieve?
Set SMART Goals
As a food addiction coach, I recommend that all my clients set themselves SMART goals. This acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific. An example of how this could be applied to a goal such as exercising more could look like this:
● Specific – Setting a particular goal such as achieving couch to 5k.
● Measurable – Logging progress each week.
● Attainable – Understanding personal limitations which could prevent this goal from being reached.
● Realistic – Altering the challenge accordingly and following through on a new basis rather than giving up.
● Time-specific – Setting a date that this will be achieved, such as six months.
Those who do not set themselves SMART goals are the ones who are unlikely to achieve their preferred outcome. They are more likely to become disheartened, frustrated, and impatient. As a result, they lose sight of their goal and the intention behind it.
Practice Mindful Eating
How you eat and where you eat is also crucial to your fulfilment. Consider the atmosphere in which you consume your meals. To maintain healthy eating habits, you must actively consider your mind-body connection.
How can you encourage a more mindful way of eating ?
● Remove as many distractions as possible – Turn off the TV and remove all smart/screen devices from your mealtimes.
● Eat in a positive space – Try to ensure it’s a clutter-free dining space, lay the table, use your favourite crockery, and perhaps light a candle. This will encourage you to be mindful and enjoy the moment.
● Practice gratitude – Mindfully express thanks before and during your meal. This could be saying a blessing over your food or expressing thanks to yourself or the person who has prepared the meal.
● Share your meals – Where possible, do not eat alone. Instead, share food with loved ones. Try and choose people with a positive attitude who will encourage and support you with your eating goals.
These practices will strengthen positive messages to your body to nurture your mind-body connection and you will begin to find fulfilment and satisfaction from the act of being present and aware at mealtimes.
Plan Your Meals
Meal planning involves thinking ahead and planning the foods you will consume. This helps ensure that you have healthy food choices to hand and are less likely to return to old habits and pick up unhealthy foods.
It is vital to focus on bringing joy and excitement into your meals rather than think about what you are missing out on. Changing what you eat requires dedication and forethought, so try and plan a week in advance.
Consider commitments, responsibilities, and who you will be eating with each day. Pay particular attention to those days when you might be tired or stressed and plan an easy option to avoid falling into detrimental stress eating habits.
Select foods that will nourish both mind and body. Think about colour, texture, flavour, and variety. This will help ensure that you do not get bored with your new eating routine.
Every meal you plan and eat should bring you health, emotional wellbeing, energy and pleasure.
Recognising your success and achievements is vital for your ongoing recovery and long-term health. Remember, achieving your new year goals is not a test of willpower. Instead, breaking habits is a journey. There will be times where you feel inclined to give up or where you make a detrimental choice. However, be kind to yourself, acknowledge how far you have come, and celebrate the path you are on!
To discover an alternative method to weight loss, healthy eating, and long-term food serenity, try my Craving Freedomcourse. A gentle approach to beating food cravings and developing a healthy relationship with food.