In last week’s blog I talked about how emotion and thought can lead us to behave in a predetermined way, hence why we eat a large slice of cake when we are not at all hungry, or we dig into a huge tub of ice-cream when we know it’s going to make us feel sick. When emotions are particularly high, and food is involved it’s easy to forget all common sense and what’s good for us.
The festive season can be a time of huge temptation, so I have a few simple tools for you to make it an enjoyable time. If you prepare yourself and visualise how you want to celebrate this festive season in terms of eating and drinking, and how you want to look and feel, this will go a long way to keeping you sane and happy during this time of excess.
Know your desire:
It’s important to know exactly what it is you want to achieve and to focus on what you want – not what you don’t want. If you want to indulge more than usual. that’s fine as long as you know the consequences, if you want to avoid all foods you know will make you feel unhappy, fat, and make you crave more sugary foods, then keep that strongly in your mind. Remember ‘willpower’ is not a real thing – if you believe that you need willpower, all you have to do to go off track, is tell yourself you have lost it and hey presto – cakes, sweets, fatty snacks etc. are back on the menu! Mind-set, attitude and desire are what you need to keep you on track.
Imagine you were addicted to eating a box of chocolates every Christmas day. That you processed it and labelled these chocolates as a ‘once a year Christmas indulgence’. Ahead of Christmas day, your brain is in anticipation, and begins to release dopamine in readiness of the chocolates long before you eat them. By the time Christmas day comes there’s no way you are not going to celebrate it with a whole box of chocolates. Now, imagine as a result of doing this you have the worst nausea and stomach pain, that you spend most of the day with a migraine and vomiting. You know with absolute certainty it was the chocolates that made you so graphically ill and that your body felt poisoned.
If someone offered you a chocolate the next day your body would have learned to change the association and you would probably repel the thought.
It’s critical to change your neurology so that any old behaviour genuinely loses its appeal. To the point that when you think of it you almost feel repulsed at the thought of doing it.
Use this ‘Craving Crusher’ technique ahead of Christmas to change how you think and feel about a specific food.
If you are struggling and you feel an internal dilemma about whether to eat or drink something, the chances are you will think something you have thought before. In terms of making choices that affect your health, if you love mince pies and think how good they taste and how they are so much a part of Christmas, and you ate them all the time as a kid at Christmas, then when you stop and think about it before you decide, the thought you are most likely to have, is how delicious they are! That’s clearly not going to help. Instead of stopping to think… just stop! If you feel the thought coming into your mind literally say “Stop” to yourself before you put something in your mouth that makes you fat or lethargic, and either make a different food or drink choice, or if you’re eating or drinking when you’re neither hungry or thirsty, do something else instead. It’s that pause that allows the change. Just Stop.
Here are some other tips that will change the direction of your thoughts and actions:
- Change your posture: there are more signals travelling from your body to your brain telling you how to feel, than the other way around. Literally just changing your posture and adopting a more dynamic positive stance, changes your brain chemistry.
- Focus on a colour. It might sound a little crazy, but research has shown that the brain responds strongly to colour, and that being exposed to certain colours can literally change how we think and feel; and the colours that affect us are personal to us. Think about how you would like to feel, e.g. in control, comfortable, strong etc. and ask yourself, if that feeling has a colour, what colour might that be? You may not necessarily see a colour, but go with whatever word or image pops into your mind. When you need to feel in a position of strength imagine you are surrounded by a cloud made up of tiny particles of that colour and each particle contains a little of that feeling. Adjust your posture based on how that colour feels.
The 10-minute rule:
Studies have shown that people who chew their food more, and who put their cutlery down in between each mouthful, eat less overall (estimates show this can be up to 200 calories less per meal!).
Before you start your Christmas meal take a good look at the amount of food on your plate. Your stomach can comfortably distend to twice the size of your fist, so make a fist and put it next to your plate to give you a reference. Bear in mind once inside your stomach it will have been chewed up. When over half way through a meal, close your eyes, go inside and connect with your stomach, visualise it and practice paying attention to how full it is. In between each mouthful put your knife and fork down until you have chewed and swallowed. Every 10 mouthfuls close your eyes and go inside and notice how your stomach feels. Stop as soon as you notice a sense of comfortable satisfaction. Wait ten minutes and then go inside and notice if you feel even more satisfied (you almost certainly will as it can take several minutes to distend the stomach after each mouthful).
These are simple techniques that work – why not try which one appeals and see if it works for you!