We’re two weeks into the New Year… how are you doin’?
On January 1st did you perform a kitchen purge gearing up to “eat clean”? Did you clear out ALL OF THE THINGS that you can’t keep in the house, because you don’t trust yourself around them? Do you feel that you wouldn't be able to stop eating if they’re around? And now, two weeks later do you find yourself obsessively thinking about chocolate, or experiencing overwhelming cravings?
Oh my goodness, you are NOT ALONE! This is such a common phenomenon and is probably the biggest risk factor for yo-yo dieting that I’ve ever seen. There is a cure, however, and it’s called The Habituation Effect. The concept behind habituation to food is that the more you eat the same food, the desire decreases. And so with repeated exposure to food it becomes less thrilling! The result of food habituation is feeling empowered around your favorite foods because you give yourself permission to enjoy a little bit today… knowing that you can always have some more tomorrow!
Habituation to food eliminates the yo-yo dieting. It puts an end to the “being good all week” then “falling off the wagon” cycle.
I know what you’re thinking… but if I give myself permission to eat my favorite treat foods whenever I want, then I’ll be binging every day and it will impact my health! I talk about this a lot, but I want to reiterate the importance of discovering which foods you actually enjoy eating because they satisfy you and make you feel good. If you do binge on ice cream and Doritos every day I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’re probably NOT going to like how you feel physically. At first, this idea may feel super exciting and yes, you may over eat. However, the exhilaration wears off over time.
Research demonstrates that the more unique, rare, or special we perceive a food to be, the more our brain fixates on it. This fixation develops into intense cravings and desire, and when we finally allow ourselves to have “just one bite” we feel unable to control ourselves and devour as much as we can (for fear of never allowing ourselves to eat this again. Studies show that increased habituation reduces binge eating, therefore decreases your average energy intake LONG-TERM. And I would say that the majority of clients who come to see me for the first time report their #1 goal being the desire to create healthy eating habits that are sustainable. #sustainability!
Making foods off limits is a common practice in the month of January. But this only increases the allure, making the forbidden fruit effect feel even stronger. The more we are exposed to a food and the more we allow ourselves to eat it, the less we obsess about it. Taking the pressure off of trying to live up to impossible standards prevents out of control behavior in the future (aka “falling off the wagon). You no longer battle between needing to “stay strong” and having a moment of “weakness”. You can balance your day with foods that support your health with a piece of chocolate without feelings of guilt or shame.
Perfection is not required to achieve optimal health. All food can fit. And a single meal, snack, or day doesn’t determine your overall health. What we do consistently matters most. If you put in the work to develop the skills, create the routines, and build the habits in order to make consistent choices that support your health, then there’s always wiggle room in a healthy diet for indulging in your favorite treats.
I would love to hear your experiences with this…