For the past few months as I’ve been losing my pregnancy weight (actually more than just the pregnancy weight – I’m currently 16 lbs. less than pre-pregnancy weight! Woohoo!), I’ve been paying a lot of attention to what I eat, how I eat, and why I eat. Through all my failed attempts to keep the weight off in the past, I’ve learned that weight loss has to do more about food than it does anything else. Exercise, sleep, staying hydrated, overall health, genetics, and keeping stress-free also play a role, but they are minor. Food – the what, the why, and the how – of what you put into your mouth every single day honestly has the biggest impact.
So even though I’m paying more attention to all those other aspects of being healthy and losing weight, my food has taken front row center for my attention and efforts. This is a new thing for me. Previously, I put exercise above all else. And it worked – for a time. But with two kids and everything else in my life now, the time commitment just isn’t sustainable. Plus the intensity at which I needed to work out in order to achieve my weight loss goal ended up causing me injuries.
So let’s look at food for a minute. I want you to ask yourself these three questions. And be honest in your answers – no one is going to see these but you, so there’s no use in lying to yourself if you really want to make a change in your life!
Question #1: What are you eating each day?
- Is it take out from your favorite restaurant?
- Leftovers from last night’s home cooked meal?
- A mixture of what you found at the salad bar of your local grocery store?
- Or something you quickly microwaved from the freezer section?
Now you might be surprised to hear me say that all of these options are ok – to an extent. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve gotten many takeout lunches from my local sushi place (just ask the waitress who knows me now by name!). 80-90% of the time I eat leftovers that we had at home from a previous meal. Occasionally I’ll pop into the local grocery store and grab a quick meal from the salad bar. Rarely I’ll eat a microwaved frozen meal, maybe 2-3 times per month – but it does happen. There can be healthy options wherever you look. But you have to look, and you have to be smart about your choices and the amount that you eat.
Question #2: Why are you eating? And why are you eating what you are eating?
This question really digs into the emotions of eating. And we all eat for emotional reasons, whether we think we do or not. Sometimes those reasons are happy and in celebration (who hasn’t gone to a birthday party and indulged in a slice of cake, even when you weren’t hungry or didn’t really like the type of cake that was being offered?). Sometimes those reasons are to mask sadness, anger or hurt (such as the bottle of wine, pint of ice cream, or bag of cookies you polished off after a break up or fight with a loved one). Sometimes we eat merely out of boredom or habit. We might even eat simply because of the weather or a location we find ourselves in! (I personally love a hot dish of homemade mac and cheese followed by a mug of hot chocolate on a cold wintery day; and I always find myself reaching for a mid-day glass of wine when I’m up at camp, even though I never do that at home.).
In a perfect world, we would only eat when we are hungry. And we would always choose the most nutritious foods regardless of taste since we simply need to eat to fuel our bodies.
But the world isn’t perfect, and neither are we.
Emotions do and will play a role in what you eat – regardless of how much willpower you think you possess. So make peace with that. The key is to recognize ahead of time when you might be tempted to eat for emotional reasons and decide ahead of time if you think it’s worth it. If it is (such as a great piece of pie at your annual holiday celebration), go ahead and allow yourself to feel happiness and not guilt when you eat it. Just make your decision intentionally, be mindful of how much you eat, compensate elsewhere if necessary, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
But over time, if you truly want to be successful with weight loss and be able to keep it off long term, you have to learn to limit your emotional indulgences. It’s impossible to get rid of them completely, but you can learn to limit them and work them into your healthy eating plan.
Question #3: How are you eating? And by how, I mean…
- Are you waiting until you are starving, and then eating everything in sight to compensate for your hunger? Or are your meals planned out ahead of time so that you know when your next meal is, what it will be, and know that it will satisfy you?
- Are you eating on the run, always distracted by something else (be it your kids, the TV, your commute, or your never-ending to-do list)? Or are you mindful about what you are putting into your mouth, and allowing yourself to fully enjoy the experience of your food and your meal?
We have to eat to survive. There is no way around that fact. And for most people, we do this at least three times per day. But yet, most people spend more time planning their 2 weeks of vacation each year than they do planning what they eat every single day. So take time to plan these meals and make them the best they can be. By planning your meals ahead of time, you’ll ensure that when hunger does strike, all your good intentions aren’t left at the wayside as you devour whatever is in sight, promising yourself that you’ll try to do better the next time. Instead, it’s simple to eat what you’ve already planned – with no decisions to make in the heat of the moment. It’s so much easier to stay with your good choices this way!
And take time to slow down with your meal. Life is crazy, and sometimes your meals will have to be on the run and you’ll have to stray from your best laid plans. But try your best to limit these times. As I stated above, eating and emotions are tied together (more tightly than we care to admit!). If you rush through and just eat without thinking, there’s a good chance that you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied – if not physically, then emotionally. And if you aren’t emotionally full, you’ll keep searching for something to eat to fill that void, often mistaking it for physical hunger. Sometimes, simply slowing down to fully enjoy the flavors, aromas and visual appeal of your meal is enough to increase your emotional enjoyment, stopping you when you are truly full.
If you can make improvements on the what, the why, and the how of the food you eat every day, I guarantee that you will see amazing things happen to your body.
As I’ve become more conscious of these aspects of eating and started to master my relationship with food, the weight has literally melted off.
I’ve honestly never had weight loss been this easy or this satisfying. And I can’t even describe how good it feels to be in a body that makes life more fun!
All the best,
P.S. I’ll be sharing more about what I’m eating and how I’m planning things ahead of time in upcoming posts. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of the updates, enter your email address in the blue box below and everything will be sent right to your inbox! Plus you’ll get a free PDF guide just for signing up!
P.P.S. You can read my health disclaimer if you have questions.