Food obsession is a real thing. It can manifest in so many ways, ranging from not so healthy foods to obsessions over EVERYTHING being healthy. Often we get to a point where we are so sick of the cycles of “i’ll do better tomorrow” OR “just this one thing” then it turns into an week long food bender OR thoughts of “why cant i just stick to the plan, i’m useless, i have such awful willpower”.
Here, i am sharing with you 9 strategies to help break the food obsession. I highly recommend you do not attempt all of these, all at once! But choose 1 or 2 you resonate with and practice it for at least 4 weeks before adding more change.
- Realise a physique is not made or broken in a day, a week, or even a month. The urgency and alarm perpetuated by the dieting industry makes us feel like every single food decision or missed workout will send us straight back to square one. That’s nonsense. Our efforts are cumulative. Your 2 workouts from last week still matter even if you missed exercising most of this week. If you make a single poor food choice, fine, make a better one at the next meal.
- Freely share your food more. This is hard, especially if you are starving all the time, or if you are in food FOMO mode. I actually remember on multiple occasions getting really cranky at Matt for taking a few pieces of my chocolate. This is a problem. So offering it (even if you secretly hope the person declines!) is a great way to start feeling like food isn’t always so scarce and you don’t have to always eat it all right now.
- Remind yourself; any food is available to me at any time. Access dissipates urgency, so try to avoid putting some foods on a “forbidden foods” list, because it produces even more scarcity and urgency to eat it all right now. We will often overeat when we’re anticipating that these foods will soon be ones that we wont be able to eat in the future (think about every Sunday when you polish everything off in anticipation of “starting fresh Monday”) You want something? You can literally go and buy it at any time. You don’t have to horde.
- Stop obsessively packing food into Tupperware/containers when you travel. Sure have a few healthy items for the road: nuts, veggies, cheese, maybe protein bars. But bringing every single meal in a huge cooler bag is only keeping you from trusting yourself around food – which is the goal of breaking food obsession. Learn how to make healthy choices in ANY environment and I promise you, you wont gain the 10kg you’re scared of and you’ll be more empowered for the experience.
- Relax about catabolism or metabolic slowdown. You’re not losing tons of muscle if you aren’t consuming 30g of protein every 3 hours, and your metabolism wont grind to a halt either. Sure, make sure you are taking in sufficient protein but unless you are aiming to be a body building the *actual* physique difference between eating 100g day with ease versus forcing yourself to eat 150g and obsessively counting everything, is negligible. And major catabolism doesn’t happen over days or even weeks. So train with weights, eat protein, and avoid the temptation to split hairs on a few grams. You’ll be just fine!
- Don’t force yourself because “it’s time” dieting makes us stupider. It takes away our natural ability to *feel* biofeedback cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction, and instead puts us on some random train with arbitrary rules. If you wake up and you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat because its “breakfast time”. Skip it and then stay mindful of how you feel during the morning. Make a healthy food choice as you start to get hungrier. Lunch? See how you feel. Maybe you’re not hungry at noon, but around 1pm you start getting there. Honor that. 3 hrs, 4 hrs, 5 hrs in between meals – everyone is different.
- Stop being scared of getting hungry. Instead expose yourself to a little hunger and stay mindful, trusting that you can handle it. Often we are scared to get hungry because if we do then, WATCH OUT, we wont be able to control ourselves. But what if hunger was a practice in mindfulness and navigating it (whether we do overeat or not) is a practice of trusting ourselves? Having the experience of hunger allows us to start *feeling* the shades of hunger/fullness again: 70% 80% 100% full (stuffed). This is mindfulness practice.
- Pick your 1-3 “Daily Nutritional Commitments” (DNC) and just do those. Not every nutrition decision has the same weight in terms of outcomes. Wasting huge mental resources over how much sodium is in natural PB is a waste of time. And stressful as f*ck. It’s a tiny dial mover, outcome negligible. Choose 3 big dial moving nutrition behaviours that when you do them consistently, you stay at least 80-90 % on track. And just focus your mental energy on these. Do your best with the rest.
- Give yourself permission to not have to kill it every single day at the gym. The all or nothing mentality has us thinking that if we cant go all the way and do things perfectly, then we might as well not even try. That is the fastest way to giving up or becoming obsessive. Instead go shorter, go lighter, talk a walk. Consistency will beat perfection every time. As soon as I made this mental switch, I started enjoying my workouts again, rather than feeling like a slave to them.