Well-being coach Luke Coutinho's top tips to avoid food addiction

Here are some ways to overcome overeating habits

By Luke Coutinho

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Published: Fri 15 Apr 2022, 2:05 PM

Human beings are the only species that eat despite not feeling hungry. Today, food and nutrition do not carry the same meaning as they did before. Food is meant to nourish and fuel us. With the explosion of content and new fad diets hitting the market every year, there is so much hullabaloo about food and nutrition. Eating healthy has become so complicated and over-hyped. People are obsessed with food, and their entire day revolves around it.

Eat but why must you overeat?

Greed and gluttony are the main reason most people are sick today. When people overeat, they are quick in blaming food, not their habit. Rice is fattening! Bananas make you put on weight! Ghee is bad for your heart! Whereas, there are people who eat all of this and more and yet have ripped bodies and clean blood reports. What changed? The person eating them and their lifestyle. If you eat heaps of rice, down several bananas because of a pure glutton, and overeat ghee, it is bound to impact your health. But then, who is to be blamed? Food or you? Some of the healthiest people on this planet eat everything, but in balance and moderation, and with pure happiness.

Our bodies are just not designed to digest excess food. There is a certain requirement for our body based on the amount of energy we spend physically, emotionally and mentally. If your body is fed anything over and above that, it will be a challenge for your body to break it down in the right manner.

How to overcome food addiction:

If you find yourself eating like there is no tomorrow, try these simple lifestyle changes.

Fad and restrictive dieting

Does the food make you feel psychologically deprived? Does it make you feel restrictive? Does it leave you feeling happy? Food is supposed to leave you feeling happy and blissful. If it makes you feel sad and deprived then it’s probably not a sustainable nutrition plan and you are bound to crave and desire foods that make you feel good. In the long run, these restrictions can create food addictions. This is precisely why it is necessary to strive for balanced eating. Eat what you want but in moderation. Of course, if you are dealing with a specific lifestyle disease, there will be certain limitations, but even then, there is always a scope to add foods you truly enjoy without letting them impact your health. Ever read stories about people who have overcome food addiction? What worked for them? What do they now eat? Balanced diets.

Relationship with food

A bad relationship serves no one, whether it’s with a person or food. What kind of relationship do you have with certain foods? Are you labelling certain foods as fattening or bad? Our relationship with food can unknowingly be the biggest obstacle to managing food addictions. Consider a piece of chocolate cake. We’ve all enjoyed it while growing up. Now when you label a chocolate cake or an ice cream as something bad or fattening, then subconsciously every time you eat that piece of chocolate cake or ice cream, it’s going to behave exactly the way you have visualised it, i.e. fattening. We need to change our mindset, belief system, attitude and the way we think and the way we relate to food. The Swiss eat on an average 6-8 pieces of chocolate every single day. They’ve grown up with that and their body adapts to it completely. They have a good relationship with chocolate so it doesn’t impact them. Chill, calm down and make peace with food. Food is to nourish you, not to stress you out.

Another bad relationship with food is to relate to food as a coping mechanism for being sad, busy, bored, happy and stressed. That is the wrong kind of relationship to be in. Such relationships don’t work out. If you are emotionally low, do something that feeds your soul, not your body. Similarly, if you are bored, fill your time with an activity that involves your body and mind. One needs to think outside of the culinary section.

Eating environment

Our ancestors harped upon the importance of eating in a quiet and peaceful environment. Why is that? Because your external environment impacts how much you eat, and how much of what you eat gets absorbed and assimilated into your system. A study showed that people who eat food in a distracting environment not only eat more but also absorb lesser nutrients. Eat in a calm environment. Eating is a sacred art. Connect with your food. Offer a little gratitude prayer. Engage all your senses. There is a reason why in Indian tradition people eat with their hands. It allows us to slow down and eat mindfully.

Eat slow

This is perhaps the most important step to avoiding food addictions. It takes about 20 minutes approximately for your brain’s satiety centre to get activated and understand that your body is well-fed. Now imagine when you inhale copious amounts of food in less than 10 minutes. You are bound to eat more because your brain still hasn’t received the signal of satiety. This is why it’s important to eat your meal slowly and chew every bite. You might be rushing through your meal because of back-to-back meetings, but your body doesn’t care. Honour its needs and give yourself at least a 30-minute meal break to eat.

Embrace hunger

Too many of us eat just out of habit or convenience, not out of hunger. We are so used to eating all the time, constantly grazing, that even before your body completes digesting the last meal, it’s fed the next meal. Do we need to eat that much? There is power in embracing hunger. This is different from starvation. This is how you practise it. Whenever you feel an urge to eat your next meal, wait for 10 minutes or so, and then wait for another 10 minutes, and then finally eat your meal. Experiencing hunger is beautiful because you then realise the difference between true physical hunger and emotional hunger or habitual hunger. Hunger is also known to turn on certain genes that have a therapeutic effect on the body. This is also why smart fasting is revered as one of the ways to break food addictions (not eating disorders as that needs a different approach). Fasting makes one mindful of their hunger cues.

Having said that, every individual has their reasons and struggles around food addiction. If none of the above-shared methods work for you, then it is recommended that you speak to a professional and discuss your concerns with them.


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