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Control negative eating habits


We’ve all had success on a diet for a couple of weeks before the pounds begin to pile on again. Don’t be disheartened says DESPINA NICOLA but grab the tools that can help you

The journey towards managing my bad eating habits has been quite challenging. I have been struggling to keep weight down consistently since the lockdown, despite brief successes in maintaining a relatively healthy diet for around two weeks at a time. In premature celebration and with impatience I revert back to overindulgence. I just can’t seem to get it right.

After keeping track of eating habits in a diary, I was able to recognise triggers and why I resorted to relapses. At the core of this was unrealistic expectations and self-discipline. It was then clear that I needed to eat healthily and more consistently to lose weight.

I have held on to the false belief that my weight can quickly and magically fall off without much effort simply because of my intention for it to do so. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. The reality is that the limitations of my willpower is holding me back from sustaining a healthy diet. My power weakens when I feel lonely, tired, hungry or angry. Another concern is that in the first two weeks the kilos come off relatively easily, I feel on a high and believe I have nailed it. However, after the two weeks are over, my metabolism starts to slow down, weight starts to rise and demoralisation sets in. Not only does the elation fade, but a dampening mood incapacitates me.

The hard work involved in keeping to a fixed diet makes me feel vulnerable which drives me to default, which means the comfort of the refrigerator’s contents. I devour everything I see. I also observed from reviewing the diary that even when I binged, there was also a feeling of complacency which accompanied it. What followed was a vicious cycle of binge-eating and feeling guilty, and then reverting back to a brief period of dieting. Eventually, I became disillusioned with this downward spiral. I then committed to not allowing the consumption of food to run and ruin my life. I quickly realised that by managing loneliness, tiredness, hunger or anger, contentment then sets in and I have no need for comfort eating.

Since I understood this cycle, I started to manage it. The first step was to seek support, which I did in the book Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. This book provided me with valuable tools like the Reversal of Desire, which I adapted to manage my negative eating habits.

I still use the tool and have developed a degree of patience while doing so. I celebrate progress, no matter how small. I use the tool in the following ways:

l I face the cloud which has the temptation of food in it. I boldly say “BRING IT ON!’ I walk into the cloud. This heightens my desire for food and in resisting it. I simply remain in the cloud.

l I embrace the pain and say “I LOVE THE PAIN!”

l The cloud eventually throws me out and closes behind me and with conviction, I declare: “PAIN SETS ME FREE!”

l I move into the light.

I have found comfort in the analogy of the cloud being under the sun, the higher power, which I refer to as God. By moving into the light in step four, I sense a connection to a higher force.

To avoid falling into the same negative patterns, I have replaced an unhealthy habit with a new, healthy one. Over time, this new habit will become my default. By setting realistic expectations and maintaining discipline, I have successfully lost weight. Nevertheless, this is not taken for granted. Consistent use of these tools is essential, to avoid slipping back into old patterns and experiencing undesired weight gain.

Confronting the temptation head on and challenging the pain reduces its intensity. I have a more powerful force than me to help me. I choose not to run from the temptation because if I do so, it persists. Strict diets end up with binging a couple of weeks later, accompanied by a negative self-image and not being able to fit into my clothes.

Another activity which can be used from the book is to imagine losing your future, without reaching your full potential. Fast forward to a fateful day by which time it would be too late to enjoy life or to make any significant changes. It creates a sense of urgency and triggers unswerving willpower. By then reconnecting to the here and now and to see how much is at stake you begin to sense the need to make an impact in life before it’s too late. You see yourself not over-consuming food but respecting the body which is the home for your spiritual wellbeing. You can be in a position to overcome temptation and make better decisions to eat healthily.

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