Author: Project Fit Life Coach Merry C. Lin
*adapted from Craving Change by Shah and Cannon
Thanks for joining us this week! I hope that you've been learning a lot, are feeling encouraged, and recognizing that the strategies you're learning through this journey will help you with many aspects of your life, beyond just your eating. By now, you've learned to identify your triggers and understand some of the underlying issues that may be fueling your unhealthy eating patterns.
Hopefully, you've begun to implement some of the strategies to change that eating behaviour. I'd love to hear from you - your successes, challenges and any questions you may have. And I'd love to encourage you and remind you that you are a beautiful child of God, and although becoming healthy and fit is a good goal, this journey is more about breaking free from the ties that hold you back from being all that God intends you to be, physically or emotionally.
If you've been feeling at all discouraged by your lack of progress, please know that feeling this way is very NORMAL. Often when we're focused on making changes to our lives, we start off strong and with enthusiasm, but then plateau out, especially if we don't see immediate results or quick progress. Please be patient with yourself, and remember that this is about changing your LIFE and not just a quick fix for the moment.
It's much better to make very slow but steady progress than it is to make fast change that we know is not sustainable. Doing this over the long-haul allows you to see how these changes work in "real life" - with all the challenges, stresses and temptations that real life includes. Even if you aren't close to meeting your ideal weight but you've learned a thing or two, you're already farther ahead than you were.
Before you move on to learning a few more strategies, I want you to spend some time reviewing your progress to date. Take the time to celebrate each baby step. Think about all that you've learned about yourself and your eating. Think about your much greater level of self-awareness. And CELEBRATE (without food!). Tell your trusted friends or family how far you come. Sometimes saying it out loud helps make it real. And let them encourage and share with you what they've noticed about your progress.
Then begin to think about the "bigger" personal issues that God has been revealing to you that he wants you to deal with. For example, maybe you realize that you haven't dealt with some broken relationships and the pain of that is holding you back from feeling good about yourself. Or maybe you realize that your lifestyle is far too stressful and unsustainable because you've had poor boundaries and problems saying no. Whatever it is, prayerfully and with courage, begin to move forward to addressing these core issues, whether it's with a counsellor or pastor, or whether you set aside some quiet time alone with God to sort it through. And begin to make plans to pursue the healthy changes that God is asking you to do.
Now, let's review two more strategies that can help change your unhealthy eating behaviours.
Menu Choice #7 - Put Your Craving on Hold
Give it a minute.
Food cravings can feel very intense and hard to ignore. It can feel like you have no control over them. But if you DELAY eating when you have a food craving, you will gradually increase your sense of control over eating. You will also feel less like a failure if you eat what you've been craving, and you might find discover the length of time you need to overcome a food craving.
Here's what you do:
1. Give yourself permission to eat what you're craving, but only after you wait a specified period of time.
2. At first wait, 15 to 30 seconds. It's helpful to start with short delays, gradually building up the amount of time you put your cravings on hold.
3. Eventually increase the delay time to 15 minutes. The strength of a food craving usually weakens after 5 to 15 minutes.
4. Try using a distraction technique during the delay time. Have your list of quick distractions handy. You can even try sitting on your hands and repeat a breath prayer, or close your eyes and visualize someplace pleasurable.
The "on hold" strategy can be useful if you're a fast eater and tend to eat too much at a meal. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for a signal to travel from your stomach to your brain to let you know you're full.
Here's what you do:
1. Dish out what you feel would be a healthy portion of food on your plate.
2. Just before you start to eat, start a timer for 20 minutes.
3. Eat the plateful of food.
4. Tell yourself that you can have more to eat, but only after you give your stomach a chance to tell your brain if you're full or still hungry; in other words, after waiting 20 minutes.
5. Train yourself to eat more slowly so that it takes 20 minutes to finish your meal.
Menu Choice #8 - Ambush Your Triggers
Plan an activity.
Many people eat simply for something to do, maybe because they're bored or they're looking for something "enjoyable" to do. Let's call this "recreational eating". Eating fills in time or distracts us from doing something else; it gives us an "excuse" to put of a task or procrastinate. And when life is less scheduled, such as on weekends or on vacations, our eating can be even more out of control.
It's helpful to identify high risk times for problematic eating - whether it's certain days of the week or particular times of the day. Or it could be when you're interacting with certain people or you're in specific situations. Once you know your high risk times or situations, plan an ambush! In other words, plan an activity at this time, or change the situation, to make it harder to eat.
For some people, food is a "friend" and keeps them company to ward off feelings of loneliness. If you recognize that you're feeling lonely or at loose ends, look into doing an activity that gets you out of the house with other people. This could include volunteering, joining a club or organization, taking a course, or joining a Bible study or mid-week church activity.
Here's what you do:
1. Identify your high risk periods. Refer to your self-awareness worksheets from Sessions 1 and 2. These are the times or situations where you want to ambush your learned eating response.
2. Think of an activity you can plan for these times. Check out a variety of different options and feel free to think outside of the box,
3. Consider this as an experiment. Give something a try and see what you think. You may need to try a few different activities to find one that really interests you.