Navigating less than healthy foods

By Shari Wright | West Virginia National Guard dietitian | Oct. 16, 2020


The holiday season is approaching and this year seems to be an endless loop of Monday's so why not eat your feelings. Because, you’re better than that! Step away from the Halloween candy! I’m kidding, that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.

How do we actually change the behavior of eating the food that shows up at the office, the ubiquitous candy jars, Holiday eating situations, or the fast food stops that inevitably happen because we’re too hungry to function?

We don’t white knuckle our way through it like many suggest. We don’t just walk away and pretend those doughnuts aren’t there. The answer is to really think about what we want - boring I know but facts none-the-less. We have to pay attention to how much we want the candy, chips, doughnuts, Halloween candy (insert your favorite high sugar processed food here). Ask yourself how you’re really going to feel afterward - regretful, sad, excellent? Then question why you’re eating, do we even like the food or are we just eating because we’re tired, bored, stressed, or a person? To recap think about why you want to eat and how you’ll feel afterwards.

The main take away is to realize that you’re a person (I think I said that once), we crave highly palatable food - like the stuff listed above. To change the see food, eat food behavior, we have to be compassionate with ourselves and pay attention. Beating yourself up isn’t doing you any favors. It’s an endless cycle of see food, eat food, feel bad, tell ourselves we’ll never do that again, only to do that, again. It’s not working, do something else . . . like practice compassion and think! Use your prefrontal cortex (the portion of the brain responsible for planning complex cognitive behavior, and decision making) rather than your cave man brain - yes that’s a thing.

I’ll give you an example of what I do - as I’m the writer it’s pretty easy to use myself as an example, lazy I know. Anyway, when I see candy, doughnuts, or chips at my office, I don’t eat them (gasp, the dietitian doesn’t eat that). I’ve learned that I’m not a candy person, or a doughnut person, and chips are fine sometimes. I know that I won’t get a large reward from eating them. Additionally, I won’t feel good, the gross fat used in doughnuts makes me feel sick, and chips are so salty I’ll need a gallon of water to feel like a normal person again. I’ve learned this because I pay attention to how these foods make me feel, there’s no reward, therefore I don’t just blindly eat them. I made a conscious choice. If chocolate shows up though, I’m eating it and I’ll feel good about it! Eating well isn’t all or nothing! Good luck friends! As always, feel free to shoot me a message if you need assistance.