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How You Can Change - Part 2

Author: Project Fit Life Coach Merry C. Lin

*adapted from Craving Change by Shah and Cannon

Hopefully, you've started to try at least one of the techniques I introduced last week.  Remember that these techniques may feel awkward at first, but over time, they will become a habitual way of responding to your eating.  And remember, this isn't about perfection but about progress.

Over the next month, I am introducing you to a number of different techniques so that you learn a some useful strategies to manage your eating behaviour.

Just as a reminder, here is the Change Menu again:

1.    Nurture Yourself

2.    Follow the 80/20 Rule

3.    Stop Unwanted Thoughts

4.    Distract Yourself

5.    Manage Your Stress

6.    Journal

7.    Put your Cravings on Hold

8.    Ambush Your Triggers

9.    Assert Yourself

10.  Solve Your Problems Effectively

Last week, we introduced the 80/20 Rule and the Stop Unwanted Thoughts menu items.  This week, I'll be introducing you to three more techniques for you to practice.  Remember to give this time, because it will take practice before you feel comfortable with any of these strategies, so don't give up prematurely.

Menu Choice #4 - Distract Yourself

Take your mind off food.

I, for one, know how easily distracted I can be, and how easily my thoughts jump from one idea to another. I can easily be working on my computer and before you know it, I'm opening up a box of chocolates. How did that happen??

To overpower our thoughts about food, it's helpful to concentrate on other thoughts.  You could play a complex word game on your phone, or do mental math (I know, that one wouldn't work for me and would probably send me screaming to my fridge!).

Or you could distract yourself from eating by doing some other activity that shifts your interest away from food, such as going out for a walk or checking Facebook. It can be helpful to keep your hands busy as this makes it harder to eat at the same time.

Here's what you do:

1.    Make a list of distraction. Have ideas that suit your life and interests. 
For example:

·         Visualize your dream vacation destination.

·         Recite a poem or Bible verse.

·         Say the alphabet backwards.

·         Pray.

·         Water your plants or garden.

·         Go to the bathroom and rinse your face with cool water.

·         Lie down for a few minutes.

·         Read one chapter of a book (unless reading is a trigger for you to eat)

·         Play with a Rubik's cube.

·         Do a few sit-ups and push-ups.

·         Massage your feet with scented oil or lotion.

2.    Keep the list posted in places where you often eat when not physically hungry like your couch or in front of the TV.

3.    Try different distraction ideas, and see what works best for you.

Menu Choice #5 - Manage Your Stress

Learn to relax.

Stress is a HUGE factor in problematic eating and weight management. In fact, it's the most common trigger for uncontrolled eating behaviour. Therefore, it's critical that you manage your stress as part of learning how to control your eating.

These days, most of us experience a lot of stress and pressure.  Our lives are too busy and we have many stressors in our lives.  Understanding stress and learning how to manage it is beyond the scope of this blog, but there are some key strategies that you can learn now (for more information on how to manage stress, check out and type in the word "stress" in the search bar).

The most important thing to do right now is to recognize when you're getting stressed and to make a decision that you will begin lifestyle choices to decrease your stress level. You may want to take a course or see a therapist to help you with this if you recognize that your stress is out of control. Don't do this just for your weight but for your overall health, happiness, and even your lifespan. Stress is the number one killer in North America today, affecting even our kids.

Here's some things you can start to do:

1.    Check out some of the following relaxing techniques:

a.     Prayer meditation

b.    Deep breathing

c.     Yoga (do your research and find a place that offers yoga without the eastern religious philosophy)

d.    Progressive muscle relaxation

2.    Do your research and ask others about techniques they have found helpful. Check with your doctor before tackling a new physical activity.

3.    Go to your local library or bookstore and research books or CDs/DVDs on relaxation techniques.

4.    Find out if your community offers any programs on stress management or relaxation.

Consider whether you can make some concrete changes to your life to reduce or remove the situations that cause you great stress. For example, this may mean letting go of some tasks in your life, or even stepping back from a toxic relationship.

One of my favourite ways to relax is to combine deep breathing with what I call "breath prayers":

1.    Find yourself a quiet place where you can sit or lie down without being disturbed.

2.    Set aside 5 minutes of your time, and gradually increase it to 10 minutes if you can.

3.    Set a timer for 5 minutes so that you're not distracted watching your time.

4.    Start by inviting God into your quiet time of relaxation.

5.    Take a deep breath in, and say to yourself in your head, "Mar - A - Na - Tha" (it means "Our Lord has come" or "come, Jesus").  By saying this, you are taking four beats to breathe in.  You can also change it up to say whatever breath prayer works for you, as long as you count 4 or 5 beats for each breath, for example, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come" or "I need you, Jesus")

6.    Then hold your breath for a beat.

7.    Then breath out, while saying, "Mar - A - Na - Tha". This allows you to take 4 beats to breathe out.

8.    Do this repeatedly until the timer goes off.

Menu Choice #6 - Keep a Food Journal

Increase your awareness and accountability.

By keeping a journal or record of your every bite, you will become more aware of what you are eating and capture all those nibbles that usually don't count. It also allows you to be accountable to yourself for what you eat.

Journaling can be tough because it might be the first time you're truly honest with yourself about what you're eating. It can be very hard to face the facts of what you're eating. However, research shows that simply keeping track of everything that you eat or drink can result in a decrease in your consumption.

Here's what you do:

1.    Keep a pad of paper and pen handy in places where you would normally eat, or track your eating on your phone.

2.    Write down what and how much you eat or drink, either right before or right after you eat, before you forget.

3.    Record everything you eat and drink for the whole day. If this is too hard, then focus on your high risk times for problematic eating.

4.    Look over your food journal once a week. See if you notice any patterns with your eating.

Journaling your thoughts and feelings can also help you overcome problematic eating if you're an emotional eater. Think of your journal as someone to talk to, so write how you're feeling, what's going on in your life, or what you're worried about. You can even make it a prayer journal and share all of this with God. You will find that writing down your feelings and thoughts can really help you clarify what's really going on and sort out some solutions to your problems, even if the solution is to lay your problems at God's feet as there's nothing you can do.

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