When you’re a habitual over-eater who’s trying to lose weight like I’d been for over 15 years, every day can feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
Take the wrong step and you’ll end up spiralling out of control with your food and feeling not only angry at yourself, but helpless and confused about what’s happening.
Having gone from being unable to stop eating even when I was no longer hungry at every single meal to finally feeling in control of my food, and in the process, losing over 22 pounds, I can tell you this: Developing the ability to eat healthily and losing weight have nothing to do with fad diets or the latest fitness trends, and plenty to do with your emotional health.
To make sure that I’m mentally set up to eat as healthily and mindfully throughout the day, I have, over the years, created a simple three-step morning routine to help me do just that:
STEP 1: I wake up gently…and with gratitude.
The old me would wake up in a bad mood with thoughts of everything that went wrong the day before, running through my head.
After years of doing this, I realised that this toxic habit of mine was setting me up for more negativity throughout the day, and left me more likely to binge on the fries and ice-cream.
So I decided to change things: Rather than wake up to a loud, jarring alarm in the morning, I now use a clock that wakes me up gently with light that simulates the sunrise. And the first thing I think of when I open my eyes? Three things (or people) that I’m grateful for.
These two simple changes may seem tiny, but they’ve literally turned my mornings (and life) around, which is why they’ve stuck with me ever since.
STEP 2: I set an intention for the day.
My CrossFit coach gave me this piece of advice when he spotted me struggling through a particularly tough workout: “Set an intention and your body will follow.”
His words resonated with me so deeply that since then, I’ve been using them to make my mornings…and days healthier.
How? By setting an intention for who I want to be (rather than just what I want to accomplish) each day, and that intention is usually this: To be better than I was yesterday.
And the amazing thing is that my body usually does follow.
STEP 3: I minimise my food-related decision fatigue.
The old me would “do my best” to start the day with a healthy breakfast, but head into the rest of my day with no idea of what or when to eat.
The result? I almost always reached for the easiest choices: Anything that gave me instant gratification and felt good in my mouth, which usually meant take-out from the nearest fast-food joint or fried, sugary pastries from a convenience store.
And, the more stressed or tired I got as the day wore on, the worse my food choices would become (as would my propensity to eat mindlessly).
Later, I’d realise that by not being prepared meal-wise, I was relying solely on my willpower to make healthy food choices. The problem with this ‘strategy’ was that the more decisions I had to make throughout my day, the more heavily decision fatigue — a mental state in which your mental stamina or ability to make good decisions wears thin — would set in.
This is why these days, I do as much as I can to minimise my food-related decision fatigue by spending 15–30 minutes on most mornings preparing my breakfast, lunch and snacks for the day ahead. These are usually bags of nuts, granola or cut fruit that I can easily reach for when I start to feel hungry in-between meals.
Often, to save more time, I’d set aside an hour on Sundays to do the prep work so that when my weekday mornings roll around, all I have to do is grab my packed meals and go.
If you’re a chronic overeater who’s struggling to tame your food cravings and appetite, my best piece of advice to you is this: Start with changing your mornings instead of going on a restrictive diet, or looking for some external solution to fix things.
Spend this time nurturing more calm, intention and mental resilience in your life, and you’ll soon find yourself not just eating more healthily, but getting into the shape you’ve always wanted.
Need a little help getting started on your own journey or mindful eating and weight loss? I’ll show you how when you join me in my free, Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet email course.
Originally published at medium.com