This article is written by psychologist Dr Jen Nash, who has Type 1 diabetes.
Feast fit for a king
Feasting describes those eating experiences that most of us are probably familiar with:
- “I can’t stop once I’ve started..."
- “I just can’t resist..."
- “The food just keeps calling..."
Please be reassured, these encounters are normal and very human! We’ve actually evolved to be this way, because it wasn’t that long ago in our evolutionary past that food was really scarce, and so we were wired to literally see food and eat it – because doing so kept us alive.
The problem is, fast forward to today and food is available everywhere, but our brains are lazy and haven’t yet updated to the food abundant environment we’re in.
Sometimes it can be fine to have a feast, but there can be a flip-side to it too, can’t there? Often, we’re left with what I like to call the ‘feasting hangover’.
The feasting hangover
It’s those ‘morning after the night before’ thoughts - why didn’t I stop at two, three or four chocolates? Why did I finish the whole box?
And those promises we make to ourselves: next time will be different, I’ll be able to resist, if only I had more willpower, motivation, self discipline etc.
We use these words a lot in relation to food, don’t we? We talk about them as if they are qualities we don’t actually have – when, in fact, we do – we often have them in abundance in other areas of our life.
Think about it:
- Most of us have the 'willpower' to resist robbing a bank when an unexpected bill comes in and we fancy getting hold of some more money to cover it.
- Most of us can summon up the ‘motivation’ to go out in the rain to pick up our kids from school, even though the sofa is nice and warm and staying in is inviting, or not to turn the alarm off and sleep in on a work day.
- And, most of us have the discipline, when we’re in a committed relationship, not to run off with the person flirting with us at the bar.
Applying this to feasting
So, why is it that we can we apply these skills of motivation, willpower and discipline in these other areas of our lives, and not when it comes to eating? Well, it’s often because we simply haven’t been shown how.
Many of us grew up in a generation where food wasn’t so abundantly available – we were taught to ‘finish our plates’, ‘don’t waste food’ and ‘think of the starving children’, and, of course, back then eating nice food really was a treat, rather than the daily occurrence it is now.
As a result, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to generalise our skills to the area of food. That’s where a mindset-based approach comes in...
It helps you to develop these missing skills which, for many people, are the missing pieces of their weight loss journey.
Most weight loss approaches are great at giving us head knowledge – telling us ‘what’ to eat and ‘how much’ to eat – but they rarely give us skills for dealing with food in the real world and, crucially, shifting our focus to think about ‘why’ we are eating in the first place.
Here is a different approach to those ‘feasting’ thoughts. As we’ve seen in the examples above, life is full of decisions where we choose to resist doing what we might really want to in the moment.
Getting yourself started
We have the skills to resist in other areas of our lives, so the invitation today is to consider whether it’s possible to develop this skill in the area of food as well?
The key is to 'commit' to the practice of declining more food on one occasion today – in just the same way as you have ‘committed’ to not miss work, be a good parent, not be unfaithful, or not to steal. It’s amusing to look at eating in the same way as these actions.
Make a commitment to not feasting in the same way you might commit to your partner, your work, or parenting responsibilities. Just play a game with it, see how it feels. And, if you’re inspired to, practise the skill of ‘resist’ or ‘delay’ when the feasting urge strikes.
Some pointers for resisting extra food:
- Put down your fork, count to 3 in your head, and then carry on eating.
- Say to yourself at 12.30pm, “I can wait until it’s 1pm to eat my lunch today”.
- When food is 'calling you', resist in the same way that you would anything else that you don't want, or shouldn't, do.
A last piece of motivation
And know that if it 'hurts', what you’re doing is simply exercising the new muscle of tolerating delay when it comes to eating.
Just like the pain of turning off the snooze button and getting out of bed passes, the pain of turning down food will pass with practice, too.
It’s a skill, and, just like driving, if you’re willing to sit in the driving seat and give it a go, you’ll get better in no time!