Make friends with food again.
Often when we think about managing the food we eat, we think in terms of counting calories, tallying points or measuring our waistline. But why, if we know what's good for us, do we find ourselves repeatedly falling over at the same -diet' hurdles?
The fact is that the real reason we fail to manage our weight is often much more about our emotional relationship with food than it is about calorie counting.
Just like in our relationships many of us fall in love with foods that are not good for us and breaking up these toxic trysts can be tricky!
Tactics such as rewarding ourselves with -treat foods' can lead to a self-sabotaging attitude that takes away the enjoyment of eating and instead reconceptualises healthful food as some kind of joyless straitjacket that we need to contort ourselves into.
When we think about food, it is often in terms of -cheating', finding ways to snuggle up with a little more seductive sugar or flirtatious fat. And that's when we are thinking. As much as we are what we eat, we also are what we think " or don't think. Often the way we eat is governed by mindless habit.
When we eat and food shop mindlessly we lose control of our shopping trolleys and our waistlines!
By examining the psychological factors that encourage us to eat more than we know we should, as well as the tricks used by marketers to influence what and how much we eat, Change the Way You Eat provides the tools for readers to take ownership of their eating choices, empowering people to be reflective, to enjoy food and not fear it, and to listen to their body cues again.
our stage of life, gender, financial resources and values all influence our food choices
branding, packaging and labeling combine to manipulate our shopping habits
our inbuilt taste preferences can determine the food we're drawn to, and how to reprogram them
our environment " from the type of music playing while we eat to the number of people we eat with " can all affect our eating habits
our personality and emotions can determine our food choices and habits, and
we can implement our newfound knowledge to take back control of our plate, become conscious eaters and gain real enjoyment from nourishing ourselves in a way that promotes long-term health and happiness.
Change the Way You Eat will help you rewire your brain to enjoy certain foods, establish new behaviours and free you from the shackles of yo-yo dieting, so you can make friends with food again.
'It's time to stop beating yourself up about food, because that might be just the very thing making it hard to eat healthy!" - Leanne Cooper.
Leanne Cooper is an author, educator, nutrition consultant and advisor. A registered nutritionist, she is the founder and director of Cadence Health, a global organisation (Australia, NZ, UK) dedicated to the improvement of community health through the provision of training, resources, books and information. Leanne is also the expert nutritionist for Huggies, with her fact sheets used in seven countries around the world. Leanne initially trained for a career as a childhood psychologist but gradually shifted her focus to health. Change the Way You Eat combines both areas of expertise " psychology and nutrition " as Leanne delivers her message that by understanding the psychology of food we can take back control of our health.
Change the Way You Eat
Author: Leanne Cooper
Question: What inspired you to write Change the Way You Eat?
Leanne Cooper: My first degree being psychology, I have always really seen working in nutrition through psychology-tinted glasses. Part of what we do at Cadence Health and Nutrition Courses is to educate people in nutrition and I have found repeatedly over the 20 years of doing this that people know a lot about healthy eating, but fault at the 'doing' side. It's the behavioural side that is not being addressed.
When someone wants to change their body weight simply telling them to cut back on what they eat is not sufficient. There are two problems with this approach. Firstly, it relates food to body shape instead of health, secondly we know that this often isn't healthy and rarely works.
Studies show that 95% of dieters are unsuccessful over the long term, yet 75% of are on some diet or another at sometime.
Hearing the repeated frustrations of women about their bodies and their sense of failure from unsuccessful dieting always bothered me. Clearly dieting doesn't work, yet diet we do!
I couldn't believe my luck when I went back to University recently to do some post grad studies and found a Nutrition Psychology unit. I loved it!!! Of course we launched a course at Cadence Health in this area for the public and health and fitness professionals. The next step was the book, Change The Way You Eat. I knew early on that I had to get this information out of the lecture theatres of universities and into the general domain.
Change The Way You Eat is not just about changing how you eat, its about changing the way you relate to food and how it makes you feel.
Question: What is the main message you hope readers take from Change the Way You Eat?
Leanne Cooper: Be kind to yourself. It's far more enjoyable and rewarding than punishing yourself. I want people to understand that dieting has failed them, not the other way around!
Stop dieting. Why keep doing the same thing when it shows no indication of working for you? Reconnect with healthy food so your eating is about your health and not just about how you look. Have an appreciation for the diversity of human form, enjoy the act of nourishing yourself and healthy eating suddenly seems less of a chore.
Think about it. How hard is it to do something when your inner voice is yelling at you not to? Yet when you do something you enjoy it seems so much easier, and you are more likely to achieve what you wanted.
Question: What is the issue with 'diets'?
Leanne Cooper: They work against our natural systems. Psychologically, depriving ourselves of things we enjoy tends to make us feel we are missing out. In some sense we are punishing ourselves, and we all know that this can end in us wanting that thing even more. The whole -cant have/want it more' is a natural tendency, yet many diets are based on restriction and -throw us under the bus' by setting us up to crave the stuff we are giving up.
Also, we know that the very act of having to restrain ourselves depletes us of our cognitive staying power. We literally use up our brain energy resisting foods which leaves us so depleted we can't keep it up for long.
I know, you are wondering why then do we keep dieting? The allure of a quick 6-week diet so you can look like Jennifer Hawkins or Cindy Crawford is too much to resist, even just to get back into those old jeans is appealing. Plus everyone else is onto it so I had better be just in case they drop a few kilos and I don't. Ever heard of 'it it sounds too good to be true it probably is'? Yes this applies to diets too.
Don't get me wrong, some people are successful at dieting. These are what we call successful restrained eaters. Only 5% of us fit into this group. Of course being on a diet can encourage you to try new foods, include new recipes and cut out the bad stuff. That's the upside. But, when it comes to cutting your intake down, often to levels that are so low they barely cover your basal metabolic needs (what your body needs when you are at rest) or your nutritional needs for your lifestyle and body, it's probably not going to end in a happy place.
You've heard it before, diets that are boring, repetitive, unrealistic, unsatisfying, too complex and so on. Sometimes dieting can make healthy food less appealing. It's the same with children, when you tell them they can have ice-cream after they have eaten their broccoli. Aren't you really saying -I know the broccoli is disgusting so grin and bare it and you'll get something better as a reward'?
Aren't we saying with dieting that if you go without for long enough and persevere with the healthy food you'll be rewarded with a gorgeous new body? Hasn't really worked for many of us has it?
Question: Why doesn't calorie counting work?
Leanne Cooper: Calorie counting ignores the basic reason why we eat, to be healthy.
Calorie counting is what I term the -reductionist view to eating'. When we reduce what we eat and why down to numbers we are no longer looking at the whole picture. It's like looking at a painting from 5 mms away from the canvas, you can't possibly see what it's about. Just looking at your plate and checking the variety, for example the colours and food groups, can provide you with far greater long-term change.
It also ignores the whole energy balance idea. Obviously energy in is the plus side of the equation, that is this is where we add to our bank of energy, so improving our eating will stop the bank growing. Energy out is where we withdraw the savings. It simply isn't logical to put all your attention on one side, particularly if you are trying to drop kilos. You need to address the stores of body fat by moving more and improving your diet so you don't add to the bank while doing so.
Question: What are the five food items we should cut from our diet, today?
Leanne Cooper: So, we really want to move away from the idea of restricting to amending or focusing on areas we can improve. There are few foods you should never eat for example, but clearly a number of foods we should reduce and reduce our exposure to.
Ideally, a good diet would focus on being flexible and expansive, making changes for your health. If we are consuming an overall healthful diet then we can afford to let an odd bit of less healthful -stuff' in. It's a bit like building a house, if the foundations are solid you can get away with some decorations that don't quite go with the over all theme.
If you had to pick some foods to take care with it would be processed foods. These are notoriously high in unhealthy saturated fats (keeping that not all saturated fats are bad for us),they are high in salt and commonly come with unwanted compounds. Also soft drinks and energy drinks are best avoided. I would possibly add in pastries, so often laden with sugar and unhealthy fats. If you consider a supermarket you will find most often these foods are in the middle, so just avoiding these isles and spending more time in the outer areas can help.
Remember avoid deprivation and swap those foods for better options.
Question: Why do we need to move on from the concept of 'cheat food' and 'treat food'?
Leanne Cooper: These concepts undermine our perception of food. Food should be enjoyed and not used as a punisher or feared. This just sets us up for failure and negative emotions. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we believe we are failures then we are more likely to act in accordance with this.
Question: Can you talk us through the tools we need to take ownership of our eating?
Leanne Cooper: Of course we are the ones who put the food to our mouths, but it's important to be aware of the subtle influences on our eating. Knowing these can reduce our vulnerability as well as giving us strategies to stick with the plan and create permanent change.
So if we break these down, broadly they are:
Being aware of our personal factors that cause us to eat unhealthily and too much and,
Understand the influence of your environment you live and work in.
So what can be done?
We need to stop being unkind to ourselves, stop the restrictive diets that leave us feeling worthless at times and do something that actually works.
Avoid that feeling of going without. Being deprived often works against us and being hungry leaves us vulnerable to poor choices. Eat small regular meals and swap all or part of the unhealthy stuff for better choices.
Consider what major area of our eating habits lets you down then review what small changes you can make to amend this. Don't take on too much, it's a recipe for failure.
Change your environment to set yourself for success. Walk a different way to avoid the tea room biscuits, drive a different way so you don't go past the bakery, change your table scape so you don't have massive dinner plates or serving platers and utensils. Studies show that just changing your plate size can have a massive impact on portion control. Sometimes it's the simplest things we overlook that can give the greatest results. It helps to simply script out where you find it toughest in your environment, maybe around dinner time, and to be mindful of what you do and why. Each step can show you where you can tweak things to avoid the triggers that encourage you to eat more than you should.
Push the unhealthy stuff to the back of the cupboard and fridge, make it harder to get at them. Bring the good stuff to an easy to access place.
Studies on behaviour change show us that self-monitoring is a critical part of reshaping our behaviours. Track how you are going, plan your strategies, and reassess as you need. Don't just jump in the deep end, have a bit of a plan. That's where Change the Way You Eat can help. You can pick out strategies that appeal to you, track them and keep notes as you go.
Interview by Brooke Hunter