Maintaining a healthy body weight is harder today than ever before. An increase in processed food options, coupled with a busier lifestyle, reduces our access to healthy foods and promotes unhealthy eating. We live in a culture that often forces us to go out of our way to find healthy food options, like fresh fruits and vegetables, but puts unhealthy choices, like fast food chains, easily within reach. We live with heaps of societal pressures to do it all – build that career, be the perfect parent, watch every new TV series your friends are watching, take plenty of photos on that enviable vacation and don’t forget to tweet about it all!
A common way to cope with stress is by eating. It feels like a small reward for making it through the trials of day to day living. The trouble is if we reach for food every time we feel stressed, and our lives are full of stress, and the easily accessible food options are junk foods, we have created a really unhealthy cycle. If you find that you just can’t stop eating, instead of admonishing yourself, try these simple ways to focus on a better life, not a better weight.
1. Stop looking at the scale. That’s right. The number on a scale is but one indicator of many that inform us about our overall health. A physician may need to consider this number to advise you about aspects of your health, but you do not need to chart this number on your own. You live in your body and know how you feel. You know whether the way your clothes fit has changed. You also know when you feel a burst of energy and lightness. Our body weight can fluctuate as much as 5 pounds in a day. The danger of watching the scale is that you may let it dictate your behavior and how you feel about yourself in a negative way. For example, you may indulge in overeating as a “reward” when your weight is down or become disheartened when your weight is up. Tuck the scale away; you do not need it to tell you how you feel about your body.
2. Recognize the difference between “mouth-hunger” and “stomach-hunger”. If you are eating because your stomach is hungry, you are listening to your body. This is stomach-hunger. If you are eating because you are bored or plowing through all your favorite snacks because you had a bad day, you are consuming food to fill an emotional need. This is mouth-hunger. Trying to understand the difference is an important step to being in harmony with your body. This doesn’t mean you’ll always ignore “mouth-hunger”, but knowing why you are eating will help you consume less when you do give in to that emotional need.
3. Allow yourself the food you are craving. Feeding your cravings once in a while is actually a good thing, in moderation. The reason you should occasionally have what you crave is because we have a tendency to eat something else in an effort to ignore our cravings. Usually, choosing a healthier food option when we’re having a craving will help satiate our desire. However, you may also find that you eat something else, and then another something else, only to give in and have the thing you were craving all along. Now you’ve eaten three times as much as if you’d just allowed yourself the food you were craving in the first place. It’s still good practice to try replacing the craving with a healthier option, but from time to time, let yourself have the treat you want.
4. Move. Movement, not exercise, is what is important to focus on. We live busy lives, there’s no getting around it. Fitting in a gym routine or scheduling a weekend hike can seem impossible. Making an effort to move every day is not impossible though. Get up from your desk and stretch during the day. Walk around the building a time or two before getting in your car at the end of the day. Try speed cleaning your house for fun; it’s less effective, but it will get your heart racing and you’ll finish in half the time! A few extra steps throughout the day will not replace the need for exercise, but it will help set the perspective that your body longs for motion. The endorphins released in our brain when we move make us feel better.
These are just a few ways to start focusing on a better life and stop focusing on weight.
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