How to Stop Letting Our Food Hang-ups Win: Common Scenarios

So now we know what are the common food hang-ups and rituals that people tend to have. We also know that when we stay stubbornly stuck in these behaviors, we’re less likely to reach our weight loss and fitness goals. Or, if we do reach them, we’re more likely to put the weight back on that we lost.

What goes in the typical adult’s life that can trip up your health and fitness quest? How can we actively decide on a course of action, so we aren’t as likely to fall into the trap of our food hang-ups when the goal is to lose weight and get healthy? What about our kids? How do we stop the food hang-up patterns from repeating?

Let’s get into some scenarios.

Scenario 1: Trying to stick to a healthy eating plan after starting a new job.

Starting a new job means you’re likely to feel hungrier than normal, as well as experiencing cravings due to the change in work environment and all of the adjustments and new things to learn that go along with it.

What can happen if you're not careful? A long busy day at a new job can leave you feeling pretty hangry when all is said and done. Probably you have a strong urge to hit the drive-thru and load up on whatever your favorite fast food is. Or maybe you want to make a beeline to the local bakery while it's still open and lose yourself filling sweets.

Make the healthier choice. There are definitely ways to reduce cravings when you're facing a life transition like starting a new job. First, don't deny the hunger. Even if you're trying to lose weight, your body is signaling that it needs something to combat the stress… so give it what it needs.

Add protein and healthy fiber.

There are lots of great snacks that don’t need to be full of fat and sugar to relieve that hungry feeling when it happens as a result of stress or mental overload.

Pack a healthy snack.

Get in the habit of packing a snack that combines fruit or crunchy veggies with a filling protein. Think hard-boiled eggs, cheese in small amounts, a handful of nuts, or something like lean turkey bacon. Mix up with a few whole grain crackers, carrot sticks or some other healthy produce to curb your hunger and stop you from cruising to the drive-thru after work.

Scenario 2: Let’s celebrate your personal victory with a great, big meal or fattening treat!

Most people’s food hang-ups involve always celebrating accomplishments, both for ourselves and our kids, with an unhealthy food choice. We buy cakes for every occasion, make small personal victories into a pizza night, reward our kids for straight A’s with a night out at a restaurant, and eat pie after we do our taxes. But when you’re really trying to make a permanent lifestyle change that leads to weight loss, falling back on the same old food hang-ups can trip us up big-time.  So how can we change the pattern?

Make the healthier choice.

Nonfood based reward.

When you want to reward yourself or your kids for a job well done, you do have other options other than treats and snacks. For kids, you might decide to offer an experience type of reward such as a trip to a trampoline park, amusement park, night of bowling or something else that the family would enjoy doing together. If it’s for yourself, how about a spa day, trip to a museum, or something that you would enjoy as a reward for a job well done?

Don’t double down on ice cream.

Another creative option is to use the treat as a meal. Maybe on a night where there's no school the next day, you can treat the kids to an ice cream dinner. Normally people would do dinner and follow it with ice cream. But if you treat ice cream as the main meal for the evening, you can supplement with a light snack like veggies and yogurt dip later on.

Scenario 3: Emotional upheaval has you reaching for fattening desserts using the biggest spoon you can find.

Your boyfriend broke up with you. Or your rent went up and you’re freaking out about money. Your boss came down on you at work today. Or your sister is having health problems. You’ve been trying to be so good with making healthy food choices. But the emotional stress is putting a crimp in your plans. Carrot cake sounds so much better than carrot sticks right now. How can you avoid using food as an emotional band-aid when everything seems so crappy in your life?

Make the healthier choice.

Fattening and addictive foods always seem to be within easy reach. But try to remember that once you start, it’s hard to stop, especially when you’re feeling emotionally worn down and your nerves are in a fragile state.

The best thing to do for yourself when your emotions are getting the best of you is give your body and brain what’s needed most: protein, and whole grains. It’s hard to believe that when you want pie you should go for brown rice and lean chicken. But if you plan ahead and keep your fridge and pantry stocked with the right foods that will make a difference for your health, you’ll be less likely to cave to cravings when emotions run high.

Run it off, stretch away the stress.

You might not feel like it at first, but at those times when you’re experiencing emotional pain are exactly the times when you should exercise. Getting started can be tough if you’re feeling down, it’s true. But this is where having a motivating support group on your side can help you over the hurdle of not being emotionally up for caring for yourself.

Work through the emotions.

Instead of using food as an emotional band-aid, try actual emotional support.

A better idea when someone we care about is upset or struggling with something emotional is to provide a healthy balanced meal and a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Fattening foods might send a message of love because that’s what mom always did. But you can break the cycle and offer a hug and a big dose of sympathy instead. Then, when it’s your turn to grapple with emotions, you’ll have established a good way for others to offer you what you’ve been giving.

We’re here talking about how a mental shift is needed if we want to make permanent lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss, a fitter, stronger body and better health overall. So, let’s talk about the food psychology that’s standing in the way of our weight loss success. Did your family do any of the following (See next post)? If so, it may be time to get a new way of thinking about old eating habits.

Common Food Hang-ups and How they Halt our Weight Loss Progress

Food Hang-ups…Why Diets Don't Work – Homeschooling Dietitian Mom

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Why is it So Hard to Lose Weight?

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