How to: Build a positive, healthy relationship with food

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National Eating Disorder Week

Many of our weight loss customers who have undergone a gastric band, bypass, or sleeve surgery have struggled with their relationship with food for a long time, often from early childhood. Together with their specialist dietitian, they need to completely rebuild the way that they think about food and how it makes them feel.

Our weight loss support team, made up of bariatric nurses and specialist dietitians, are keen to dispel the myth that undergoing weight loss surgery means that you can’t still be a ‘foodie’! You absolutely should still be able to enjoy food even if you are hoping to achieve a lower BMI following gastric surgery.

Here at The Hospital Group, we believe that one of the most important steps on your weight loss journey is understanding how to enjoy a balanced, healthy relationship with food that helps you make the food choices that work for you and your lifestyle.

Whether you are currently on a weight loss journey or not, here are 10 ways that we can all adopt in order to build a positive and healthy attitude when it comes to our thoughts and feelings about food:

1. Separate food from emotion

Of course, we’re talking about comfort eating. Whether it’s Mum’s homemade lasagne or childhood cheese on toast, we can’t deny how powerful the taste and smell of food can be to evoke memories, both good and bad.

Food can also be a crutch for many of us who tend to reach for that tub of Ben & Jerry’s or a pizza following bad news or a difficult day. Whilst these types of foods can be hugely comforting, emotional eating can be damaging when it becomes habitual or if you start to become dependent on it as a coping strategy.

In the same respect, it’s important not to give yourself too many restrictions and feel guilty about having a treat. Having a positive relationship with food is all about harmony and creating healthy balance and sustainable eating habits that work for you and your lifestyle.

2. Eat when you are hungry

It might sound like a complete no-brainer, but we often don’t eat when we are truly hungry. The humdrum of daily routine means that often it can feel like it’s automatically time to eat when it gets to set meal times. Whilst this can really work for some people, if you’re not hungry when ‘tea time’ arrives, then postpone eating until you are.

Try to make more conscious decisions about when, what and why you are eating. A lot of the time, when we turn to food we are simply bored, and the urge to snack rolls in. If you’re in a 9-5 office job, sat at your desk facing a computer screen for 8 hours plus, mindlessly snacking without really thinking about what you are consuming can become far too easy.

3. Stop when you’re satisfied

We should also take the time to really listen to our body to avoid over-eating. If you’ve had a gastric band, this will become much easier as you will get used to feeling satisfied (rather than completely full to the brim) on smaller portions than you did before having weight loss surgery.

4. Understand the difference between a snack and a treat

Part of building a positive relationship with food means going back to basics, including making healthier choices when it comes to snacking rather than always reaching for that packet of crisps or bar of chocolate. For instance, as a rule of thumb gastric band experts Sue & Nic from the UK slimming club BandBoozled suggest keeping all snacks under 100-calories

5. Mindfulness over calorie-counting

Whilst keeping a food diary might be really effective for some people on a weight loss journey, it’s definitely not right for everyone and can sometimes lead to obsessive behaviour that can be detrimental to the way we think about food. It’s more important to be conscious and mindful about your food choices rather than intensely tracking your calorie intake using apps.

6. Take your time when eating

Think about where and how you eat as this has an impact on how we feel about food and the choices we make. For instance, do you eat on the go during a hectic day and then collapse with a TV dinner in the evening?

It’s a proven fact that sitting in front of the TV (or Netflix), will cause you to eat more than you ordinarily would when sat at the table, as your concentration is diverted and you aren’t truly thinking about the taste of the food, how much you are eating and how satisfied you feel.

Take the time to sit down, eat slowly and chew each mouthful thoroughly, which will be especially important if you’ve had a gastric band. This way, you can also really enjoy your food and savour the different tastes and textures.

7. Prepare well in advance

Meal prep and protein isn’t just for gym-goers and bodybuilders. Not only will preparing your meals, especially at lunchtimes, make you feel positive and pro-active by being prepped and ready for the week ahead, it also makes it easier to resist that higher-calorie option including your daily meal deal or another quick convenience option come midday.

8. Eat well and feel fantastic

Fast foods like McDonald’s and the weekly takeaway is often packed with MSG, artificial flavours, colourings and other substances which make us feel drowsy, stodgy and bloated.

Say goodbye to the regular takeaway and rediscover your love for fruit and seasonal vegetables. Support your independent greengrocer or sign up for a subscription box full of meal ideas and gorgeous, fresh produce.

9. Don’t put a blanket ban on main food groups

It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with food if you are going to restrict yourself from everything you enjoy. Placing a blanket ban on certain food groups is an unsustainable crash solution to losing weight. For instance, if you decide to completely cut out sugar and salt, you are more likely to crave them and could start to binge eat, which is a negative and damaging cycle to start.

Often wrongly labelled as a ‘problem’ food group which many popular diets tell you to cut out, carbs (like bread and pastas) are actually a great slow-releasing energy source. This means that you are less likely to feel the urge to snack, as they keep you feeling satisfied for longer as well as sustaining your blood sugar levels.

10. Be realistic about dieting and your weight loss goals

If there’s something you are really struggling to cut out of your diet then don’t! You don’t have to give up all your favourite foods in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You need to enjoy your diet in order to achieve long-term results, sustain a healthy BMI and feel positive about your food choices.

Here at The Hospital Group, we understand that bariatric surgery is only one part of your weight loss journey. Our weight loss team supports patients throughout their entire journey, so you can rebuild a positive, healthy relationship with food and maintain results for the long term.

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