Our mental health and physical health largely go hand in hand. We tend to feel more depressed when we have a cold or get a stomachache when we feel anxious. During the past several months, we have all been under new stress and a lot of discomfort. Whether we are eating out of boredom, stress, or because there is nothing to do but bake another cake, many of us have added on a few lbs thanks to the quarantine. Although it is tempting to start the next diet to lose that weight or make all these big changes at once to our lifestyles, these diets rarely are a lasting answer. Instead of trying to limit what we eat, we can use our mental health skills to change how and when we eat and take care of our bodies. This leads to a longer-lasting impact and overall healthier relationship with food. Below are four ways to lose weight without restricting yourself.
1. Identify the difference between hunger and appetite
Hunger is necessary for our survival. We need food in order for our bodies to have enough energy. We can typically tell we are hungry from our body’s response, such as our stomach starting to growl. Appetite, however, is the psychological experience of desiring food due to feeling bored, stressed, or other reasons not related to our bodies needing calories. We want to work on identifying when we are hungry and when we have an appetite. This can help us make better choices about when to eat and how much. Keep in mind, we do not want to go to the other end of the spectrum of hunger either, where we are so hungry that we will eat anything in sight. Listen to your body.
2. Eat Mindfully
Have you ever finished a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream without realizing it? Most of us have been there at some point. Since eating is an activity we do daily, we tend to do so distractedly. As a result, we tend to not listen to our bodies for identifying when we are full. On top of this, we do not enjoy our food nearly as much. To eat mindfully, we want to pay full attention to what we are doing. One of my personal favorite skills is to practice mindful eating with a piece of chocolate. Using all five senses, we take our time looking at the chocolate first. Is it wrapped in foil? Does it have words on the foil? What color is it? Notice what it feels like and sounds like to unwrap the foil. Notice the smell of the chocolate. Pay attention to the taste, texture, and sound of chewing the chocolate. Is it salty or sweet? Is it melting in your mouth? How can you tell if it is milk chocolate or dark chocolate? By doing this, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment, enjoy our food more fully, and give our bodies time to listen to when we are satisfied.
3. Use Positive Self Talk
Eating too much or food that may not be the best for us can trigger feelings of shame. Pay attention to how you respond to that feeling. Many times, we will start talking to ourselves negatively. This ends up feeding the feelings of shame and discourage us from making progress. For those of us who are emotional eaters, this can lead us into a vicious cycle. Instead, try saying something to yourself that may be encouraging or validating. Mantras may be helpful such as, “Just keep doing your best” or “Tomorrow is a new day.”
4. Move with Intention
Exercise does not have to equal pain and discomfort. Start by intentionally going for a walk, doing yoga, or participating in any physical activity. It does not need to be a specific amount of time. By doing these activities with intention, we are making the choice and able to feel empowered. We also are not setting ourselves up for disappointment by not fulfilling the expectation of time, calories, etc. Remember Newton’s law of motion, “A body at rest will remain at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion.” By getting our body in motion, without feeling pressured or stressed by it, we are much more likely to successfully continue moving and staying physically active.
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