I know the title sounds a bit like something you’d see on the cover of Woman’s World, but trust me. Over the last 8 months I’ve been doing some major self-reflection about body image and weight, and have made some big changes to the way that I eat and move. Over the course of this journey I’ve learned an insane amount about my body - not just how to appreciate it more, but what makes it tick.
The idea for this post came to me other day when someone asked me, as someone who has lost 100lbs (twice), what advice I would give someone who is looking to lose weight. My biggest piece of advice – that I DID NOT follow in my weight loss journey but wish I had – is:
Pay attention to how things make you and your body FEEL.
I know this sounds obvious, but when I was in the throes of my restrict-binge cycle for the last couple years (while marathon training, no less) I didn’t care how food made me feel. During the week I would eat far too little, and then on the weekend I would eat until I felt physically ill. I didn’t even know what acid reflux felt like until last summer when I ate so much – multiple times – that I woke up choking. I know that’s nasty, but I’m being honest with you here.
Once I started eating more and scaling back my workouts a bit, I noticed some major mental shifts happening that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Once I gave it some thought, I realized that the changes in my thoughts, feelings and behaviours around food could be summarized into a 3-step questioning process. These questions are:
1) How Do I Feel?
If the answer here is positive, move on to question 2. If the answer is negative or neutral (tired, bored, angry) and not accompanied by “hungry” then I wouldn’t suggest moving on to Question 2.
2) How do I want to feel after eating _____ [whatever the food is]
Some examples would be proud, lean, happy, confident, satisfied, etc.
3) How much of _____ [food from Question 2] can I eat and still feel ______ [whatever your answer to question 2 was)
Stupid simple right? It takes practice to implement and actually listen to your answers to these questions, but I promise if you incorporate them into your day you will notice a shift.
Now that I’m actively trying to lose weight again, I use these questions often to help me cut some calories without restricting myself (I’m hyperaware of this now). Here’s how I would use these questions in a weight loss context:
1) How Do I Feel?
I feel lean, tired, and like I want a snack.
2) How do I want to feel after eating these gummy bears?
I want to feel lean and satisfied.
3) How many gummy bears can I eat and still feel lean and satisfied?
Well, I’ll start with 5 and check in with myself and see how I’m feeling. If I still feel ok, maybe I’ll have a couple more, or maybe I’ll move onto a more satiating food so that I’m not hungry again in 20 minutes.
You can tweak these questions as relevant to your situation, but the basic premise is to set some intentions for yourself before you eat and to check in along the way. You can even do this now without making any changes, asking yourself how the current amount you’re eating makes you feel as compared to how you want to feel. This will give you a baseline!
You deserve to feel great after you eat – no matter the food! I know it’s tough, but thankfully you can train your brain to be on your team, and that’s more than half the battle. I know for some of you, it’s easier to just avoid foods that you tend to overeat altogether, and if that’s working for you then feel free to apply this ‘framework’ to your favourite non-triggering foods and see what you come up with.
I am practicing this daily and invite you all to join me! Like any permanent mindset shift, this takes time and practice, so go easy on yourself if you give this a shot. I suggest committing to trying it out for at least three weeks :)