The psychology of nutrition: quick tips to staying committed
In today’s article we’re going to quickly address the four subtopics involved in the psychology of nutrition: behaviour, cognition, treatments for weight management and healthier eating.
Many people use food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, boredom, anxiety or to prolong feelings of joy. If you continue to stress about weight loss, and know that you are an emotional eater, what do you foresee happening? You’re going to eat more, right? How about when you’re bored? Do you automatically get a bag of chips just because?
2. Cognition (thinking)
In psychology this form of therapy focuses on identifying self-defeating thinking patterns. Applicable here are those that contribute to weight management problems: this is too hard, I can't do it; if I don't make it to my target weight, I've failed; now that I've lost weight, I can go back to eating any way I want.
Do you find yourself dealing with these thoughts? Putting that kind of pressure on yourself is not healthy nor is it any indication of failure. We all think we are failing when in fact we are right on target and simply need to stop stressing. Instead, think positive, affirm your belief in yourself, understand that some days may be hard but recognise that fitness and wellness is a journey.
Cognitive therapy also teaches distraction as a coping skill. Replace eating with healthier alternatives such as going outside and soaking in the fresh air, writing in a journal or working out.
3. Treatments for weight management
In order to fully dive into weight management there are a few factors that need addressing.
a) Determining the person's "readiness for change":
You have to be fully ready for change, accepting that change requires sacrifice, both mentally and physically.
b) Learning how to self-monitor:
Recognising when you are feeling bored and not hungry. When you need to drink water or workout and when you need to rest.
c) Breaking linkages
Stop equating boredom or stress to food. Break that connection and create healthier alternatives.
4. Tips for healthy eating
Below are some quick tips to help you become an expert on your nutrition and better your fitness and wellness lifestyle:
● Don't skip meals. Your body thrives best off of routine.
● Do plan meals and snacks ahead of time.
● Do keep track of your eating habits.
● Do limit night eating.
● Do drink plenty of water.
● Do delay/distract yourself when experiencing cravings.
● Do exercise instead of eating when you are bored.
● Do be attentive when you eat. Don’t eat while watching TV, working, driving or standing.
● Do only eat in certain settings (ie at the kitchen table).
● Do watch your portion sizes.
● Do allow yourself to eat a range of foods without forbidding yourself a particular food.
● Do give yourself encouragement.
● Do look for a support person to help you stay motivated and accountable.
● Do be gentle with yourself! Try not to beat yourself up when you lapse.
● Do think of eating healthfully as a lifestyle change.
● Do use the scale mindfully. Weigh yourself no more than once a week.
● Do make healthy food choices.
I know that was a rather quick debrief behind the psychology of nutrition but all in all, it summarises how you can take some time, reflect on your nutritional journey and plan out how you can improve. We aim for progress, not perfection but the more you become an expert on yourself, thoughts and feelings the better equipped you’ll be in tackling your nutrition.
As the year continues, return to your notes about the psychology of nutrition, see what has improved, note how your thinking has changed and its relationship with your nutrition. Continue to be honest with your efforts and true to your journey, remaining unapologetic about how you choose to live your fitness and wellness lifestyle. Happy Wednesday fitfam!
Dre Hinds is a retired track and field athlete who is now a personal trainer, aerobic and yoga instructor and fitness “addict”. Contact her on: firstname.lastname@example.org, 599-0412 or @Absbydre on Facebook and Instagram