The guidelines on how to lose weight and/or feel better in your body are simple: exercise more & eat less.
But why is it so much harder to put into practice than it seems?
Over the past 10 years I've helped hundreds of clients break free from years of crash dieting and negative relationships with food and finally create a relationship that supports them in feeling their best.
And one of the things that may surprise you is this: we didn't get there with sheer willpower & discipline.
Willpower & discipline are great to get started. But it's when we rely on them in the long term that it becomes a problem. Willpower & discipline are both finite resources. We have them for a while and in these moments we think we'll have them forever, but sooner or later they fade.
This is why so many people manage to eat healthy for a limited time but fall back into their habits after a while. And repeat this cycle their whole life until they drop dead.
It's not a fun way to live your life because you're either in full diet mode, or on "I don't give a crap anymore" mood and it's also not great for your physical health.
Research has shown that people who don't have a stable relationship with food are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases than those who don't.
This is most likely due to the fact that those who have a stable relationship with food are the ones that eat healthy food.
If you're eating crap, you're more likely to diet (and fail) than if you mostly eat healthy and feel good in your body as a result.
So why is it that changing our relationship with food & eating less is so hard?
There are a multitude of reasons and depending on who you are and where you're at in your life, they will obviously differ!
But here are 5 of the most common reasons I've come across in my work as a Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach.
1. You're not hungry for calories but for nutrients
So far I haven't worked with a single client who has come to me saying that they don't know what healthy eating is. Most of us think we know what a healthy diet is but we find it hard to stick to. But what if the reason it's hard to stick to, is because what you believe to be "healthy" is not actually healthy? What if the reason you're always thinking about food and wanting a snack is because your meals aren't nourishing enough? And by nourishing I'm not talking about the amount of calories that are in your food but about the amount of nutrients!
Research has shown that we can eat above our calorie needs and still be hungry. Why? Because our hunger is not subject to a lack of calories but a lack of nutrients!
One of the first things I do with clients is redefine what healthy eating really stands for, debunking all the myths around calories, macros, gluten and carbs and giving them 3 simple guidelines to follow to create healthy meals that make them feel truly satiated.
This is the part where you will need discipline & willpower but a week or so into it, you'll realise that you're not doing it because "you have to" but because you "really want to". This is when you know that you're in an upward spiral that doesn't require discipline or willpower to keep going.
2. Certain food want you more than you want it
One of the most transformational concepts I learnt about when I studied Nutrition & Holistic Health at The Institute For Integrative Nutrition was the concept of toxic hunger.
Food today is not what it was 100 or even 50 years ago. And it's no coincidence that obesity has become such a huge problem since our food landscape has changed. What we see as "food" today is not something our great grandparents would recognise as food and the creators of food are more likely to be large corporations with big profits in mind rather than the local farmer.
Big Pharma & big Food may seem like they have your health in mind but actually, what truly matters to them is making money from their products. And the best way to make money from food products is by making you hooked on them.
Food is no longer created in farms but in labs. Big food conglomerations hire scientists in labs to create the perfect combination of salt, sugar & fat to make us hooked on food. This combination sets of a bio chemical reaction that makes us hooked.
How often do you open a bag of chips and have 1 serving (5 chips)?
When was the last time you had half a Mars bar?
What are you more likely to crave, a bowl of broccoli or a bag of crisps?
These food have all been engineered for you to crave them. It's like your body & brain get hi jacked and no amount of discipline & willpower will get you to simply reduce your portions of them. It would be like telling a heroin addict to reduce his uptake of drugs. It doesn't work.
3. It's not hunger, it's your blood sugar
Do you tend to crave something sweet mid afternoon? Or maybe a couple of hours after breakfast?
You may think it's normal to be hungry within 2 to 3 hours of eating but it is not. This is an indication that your blood sugar levels have dropped and you're not actually hungry for food, but a "pick me up" for your blood sugar.
You can fight with your body on this using willpower & discipline (which we know you will fail at when you run out of them), or you can learn how to regulate your blood sugar levels through changes to your diet & lifestyle.
4. You don't need food, you need some rest
Have you ever noticed that when we are tired, it becomes increasingly hard to eat healthy? This is because your blood sugar levels are more likely to drop, your hunger hormones (mainly ghrelin) rise and your satiety hormones (mainly leptin) drop. This is a biochemical reaction in your body and again, you can fight it, or you can learn how to improve your sleep and integrate more time for rest into your life. The latter is obviously going to the source of the problem and will bring better results!
5. You use food as a way to calm/distract/soothe/comfort yourself
This is a big one. So often we use food as a way to emotionally support ourselves even though we may not even be aware of it! Grabbing something crunchy when we are stressed or using something sweet to soothe ourselves becomes so part of our identity that it becomes hard to break. Again, discipline & willpower are not the answer but giving you better tools to cope in these situations are! It doesn't mean that eating something sweet when we feel down for example is bad. It just means that we don't want to rely on it as a coping mechanism in the long term.
On Sunday I'm hosting a FREE workshop where I will be covering these topics in more depth. It will be a great opportunity to ask questions and help you see more clear on the causes that make it hard for you to eat less and how to address them!
Places are limited as I want to keep it intimate :)
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