Food has a lot of power over a lot of people. For some it can cause anxiety around mealtimes, others are consumed with food thoughts all day. For some it even has the power to change their moods! We all enjoy and desire food to a certain extent. But do you feel weak because you cannot resist certain food? Is it so bad that you don’t keep that food in the house?
One of the reasons why foods have power over us is because we judge, shame or limit ourselves around that food. We wish that we didn’t crave it, we worry that we will lose control over it, we think that eating it will make us gain weight. We label it as ‘bad’. And the guilt that we feel when eating it takes away all of the enjoyment of it.
So a strategy to regain your power over the food is to eat it more often — every day, even at every meal. Allow yourself to eat it with no limit. No shame, no guilt, no fear of losing control. Change the way you think and behave around that food. Knowing you can have it as often as you want makes it less appealing.
By not labelling a food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it stops having power over you. Food is just food. Try to view food in a more neutral way. Instead of thinking a food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, look at it for what it really is. Try to describe food in the most neutral, non-judgemental way possible. This means that you are taking your emotional connection to the food out of the equation. So it is no longer your ‘all-time favourite apple crumble’, it is simply slices of apples with an oat crumble that has been baked.
When you want to eat, also start thinking what it is that you would really like to eat. Take a step back from the immediate thought of ‘I want that chocolate’ and think about what food you actually want to nourish your body. Pay attention as to how your body feels when you eat a certain food. Are you tired? Does your stomach hurt? Your body is communicating with you all the time. Learn to listen to it. And remember that you can choose to eat any food that you want to, without any judgement. You are not being ‘bad’ and are not ‘off your diet’.
Take it a step further and when you eat, eat slowly, focusing solely on the food, tasting and enjoying each and every bite. This will help you identify what tastes you truly enjoy as well as how your body reacts to the food. When we are mindful we are less likely to overeat, as we can feel when our taste buds and our bodies are satisfied!
The hardest thing for people is to trust themselves. Many of my clients don’t believe that they have the power to stop eating a food. Give yourself permission to enjoy all foods (even if you just want to do it for a week before you put a strict structure in place again!) and don’t think about your weight or being off your diet. Just be neutral around any food, listen to what your body is saying, and enjoy the food that you choose to eat.
Do you Eat to Live or Live to Eat – The Power of Food Scale
This tool was developed to assess the psychological impact of today’s food-abundant environments. The higher you score on this survey, the more likely it is that you ‘Live to Eat’.
Using the following scale, indicate from 1-5 which of the following best describes you:
1 Don’t agree at all
2 Agree a little
3 Agree somewhat
5 Strongly agree
1. I find myself thinking about food even when I’m not physically hungry.
2. I get more pleasure from eating than I do from almost anything else.
3. If I see or smell a food I like, I get a powerful urge to have some.
4. When I’m around a fattening food I love, it’s hard to stop myself from at least tasting it.
5. It’s scary to think of the power that food has over me.
6. When I know a delicious food is available, I can’t help myself from thinking about having some.
7. I love the taste of certain foods so much that I can’t avoid eating them even if they’re bad for me.
8. Just before I taste a favourite food, I feel intense anticipation.
9. When I eat delicious food I focus a lot on how good it tastes.
10. Sometimes, when I’m doing everyday activities, I get an urge to eat “out of the blue” (for no apparent reason).
11. I think I enjoy eating a lot more than most other people.
12. Hearing someone describe a great meal makes me really want to have something to eat.
13. It seems like I have food on my mind a lot.
14. It’s very important to me that the foods I eat are as delicious as possible.
15. Before I eat a favourite food my mouth tends to flood with saliva.
Scoring: Add up your responses and divide the total by 15.
1.0 – 2.3 You are unlikely to be preoccupied with food or lose control over eating. You ‘Eat to Live’.
2.4 – 3.6 You are somewhat preoccupied with food but are unlikely to have a problem unless you’re significantly overweight.
3.7 – 5.0 You are frequently preoccupied with food and at risk of losing control over your eating. This is especially problematic if you are also significantly overweight. You ‘Live to Eat’
Kim Hofmann, Harfield Village