Listen, we’ve all been there. We’ve overindulged and lived to regret it. One too many glasses of wine and you feel like absolute garbage the next day. A sliver of chocolate cake that turns into 3 slices—bring on the guilt and remorse. Tacos at 2 a.m.? Sure, why not. And then of course, we wash it all down the next morning with Bloody Marys, our go-to hair of the dog.
In the past, I treated social gatherings as an excuse for an all-out binge sesh that left me feeling bloated, ashamed, and hungover the next morning. I then spent the next few days restricting my diet and punishing myself with exercise just to get the bloating down.
I feel you. And I also know how frustrating it can be to feel like you aren’t in control of your cravings or how much you indulge. I know what it feels like to finally get on track with your nutrition, and then feel like a failure when it all goes to pieces in the blink of an eye. I work regularly with clients looking for moderation and balance–who want to put an end to the yo-yo cycle of binge, berate, restrict, repeat.
But we still want to have our favorite things, don’t we? We want to sip and taste and never feel deprived. Because honestly, deprivation is the pits. It almost always leads to backsliding and rebounding, because willpower is finite, and we can only restrict ourselves for so long. We want to indulge without the requisite guilt that comes along with it. After all, if food is meant to be pleasurable, why should we feel so bad about it?
I want you to eat whatever you want and never feel shameful again. Shame over food (or really anything for that matter) is a wholly unproductive emotion. We can learn how to eat for our palate and our physique, living a life of nutritional freedom, and never again utter the phrase, “I can’t eat that.” We can put an end to dieting by realizing that there’s no trendy diet or brand new nutrition plan that’s going to completely transform us.
What will cause us to change is our mindset. Mindset can seem like a nebulous or intangible term but it’s actually pretty simple: Your mindset is your perspective, the way you view your environment, and how you choose to perceive your world. Your mindset guides how you think about food and fitness, and your mindset ultimately determines lasting success.
To help cultivate a positive mindset, especially as it pertains to food and indulgence, I have a handful of effective strategies that I use myself and share with my clients to develop sustainable habits for a fit, healthy life. Today I want to share two of the most powerful ones with you.
These two simple strategies, when practiced regularly, will help you put a stop to overindulgence and food anxiety once and for all.
Step 1: Eat Foods That Make You Feel Good
This phrase sounds like a cliché, but I really mean finding food that makes you feel good when you're eating it and in the hours afterward. Indulgences can totally fit the bill here. Healthy food that nourishes your body can (and should) be palatable, and food that doesn’t nourish your body can still be neutral—meaning it won’t send you into a gut-inflamed, joint-aching frenzy. There are a few questions you can ask yourself before consuming (or imbibing) to determine if a food meets this criteria:
- Does this food support my intentions for my body? (If so, go for it!)
- If not, will I feel guilty about it later? (If your answer is no, go for it!)
- Even though this food doesn't support my intentions, will it add to my experience in some significant way? (If not, don’t eat it!)
You get the idea. The point is to check in with yourself and hit the pause button before you go too far down the binge-eating rabbit hole. Using this strategy will allow you to indulge intelligently and make mindful decisions—as opposed to mindlessly consuming whatever is in front of you.
Step 2: Use the First Bite Rule
That first sip of sauvignon blanc on a sunny, summer patio that makes you go “Ahh!” That first bite of a warm brownie sundae that makes you go “Mmm.” It’s such a pleasurable experience. It’s food and it’s love and it’s heaven. Food is meant to be enjoyed, but shouldn’t we enjoy every bite as much as the first? In order to do this, you have to stop and check in with yourself after every bite (or sip, in my case!).
Is it still amazing? Am I still really tasting this, or just eating it because it’s there? This requires mindfulness, which is the ultimate goal when it comes to nutritional freedom.
By stopping to make sure you’re still enjoying the experience, you’ll ensure that you never eat more than you truly want, and you’ll slowly start to realize that you don’t have to clean your plate, drink the entire bottle, or scarf down the whole slice of pie. It’s the most natural and effective way that I’ve found to avoid overeating and post-consumption remorse.
None of this is rocket science, but it does require constant practice and awareness. Ultimately, the goal is to live an empowered, vibrant life, in which overindulgence, binging, and berating yourself about your choices are all a thing of the past. Here’s to eating mindfully and indulging intelligently!
This post originally appeared on Eat, Lift, and Be Happy, a blog written by fitness and lifestyle coach Neghar Fonooni. Her mission is to help women worldwide recognize their worth, own their power, prioritize self-care, and live their bliss. As a lifelong writer and fitness professional from the past 15 years, Neghar uses movement as a gateway to encourage women to get in touch with their bodies and mindset practice as a means to get in touch with their hearts.