Food is more than just a fuel. It’s comfort, relief, distraction, and for many of us it’s a reward. Ever heard of ‘hedonism’, or the pursuit of pleasure? Basically it suggests that if we feel like we miss out on pleasure in one area of our lives, we look to compensate elsewhere; especially with food. Hence the thoughts of ‘I’ve had a long week, I deserve that wine/cheese/cookie/ice cream/chocolate.’
Three research studies conducted in 2014 showed how exercise alone could in fact cause weight gain – not because of the type of exercise but because of people’s mindset. In these studies they found that people who perceived a physical activity as ‘fun’ in comparison to a hard workout:
- Chose to eat less junk food during meal times.
- Ate less lollies/chocolate when given the choice form a self-serve container.
- Chose healthy snacks more often than unhealthy snacks.
The bottom line: People who didn’t have fun exercising tried to find fun from food. To read about the studies in more detail then click here.
This idea doesn’t just apply to exercise, it applies to all aspects of your life. The Activity Engagement Theory explains that if an activity is intrinsically rewarding (makes you happy on the inside) then you won’t feel the need to compensate, because the activity is reward enough. However when an activity is extrinsically rewarding then you are doing it for an external reward, like recognition from your boss or to fit into that dress, then you will compensate for your efforts.
The theory goes that if we consistently do things that are only externally rewarding then we will continue to want compensation for all our behaviours. This is where food comes into the picture, because it is often the most common reward. We become so focused on what we can’t have and concentrate all or efforts on resisting our favourite foods but instead of spending that energy on the positive aspects of food. This is a big part of reason why weight loss via diets or exercise alone fails.
To turn your nutrition around first turn around your mindset.
Challenge one is to pin point which activities in your life you are doing for someone or something else and when you use food to compensate. Eg. Cocktail hour with wine, cheese and biscuits on Friday afternoon.
Challenge two is to think about what part of that reward is truly satisfying, the company, the wine, the crunch of the biscuits or simply the time to just relax? Then pick ONE.
If food was the truly rewarding part then some smart nutrition choices can help eg. If the saltiness of the cheese was your reward, then serve yourself a small (30g) amount with a couple of wholegrain crackers. Don’t fall into the trap of standing at the kitchen bench chomping mindlessly away at a wheel of brie and half a packet of rice crackers.
By having this mentality there is no restriction, no guilt and ultimate reward. Isn’t that what we are all after deep down? If your relationship with food is something you’d like to work on or if you need some smart food swaps or tips then contact us here at Body Fusion. We’d love to help you realise the rewarding world of food.