Shira Lenchewski — an expert for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop — tackles how to curb emotional eating in her new book ‘Food Therapist’ out Tuesday
Our relationship with food is complicated.
That’s the basis for the new wellness book “Food Therapist: Break Bad Habits, Eat with Intention, and Indulge Without Worry,” out Tuesday. In it, author Shira Lenchewski, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and frequent Goop contributor, offers a one-on-one food therapy session with readers to help reveal what causes emotional struggles with eating, and how we can overcome them.
“I always bring the analogy back to a romantic relationship. When things go wrong, we analyze it so much, sometimes to death, and we figure out what makes us tick, what we can do better? But when it comes to our relationship with food, we don’t really do the same,” Lenchewski tells Moneyish, adding: “We wind up assuming we don’t have willpower, but we’re not paying attention to our hang ups.”
In the book, Lenchewski quizzes readers on what kind of food-related obstacles shape their current eating habits based on four categories: trust issues, for example, going to a family-style restaurant or a buffet and losing restraint that leads to over-eating; the “pleaser trap,” or going out with friends or family and eating what they want to eat to satisfy everyone around you; fear of the mundane, as in, not wanting to miss out on delicious foods and meal experiences; hot and cold patterns, like eating healthy for a period of time and then dropping the ball midway through; and a dependence issue, using good food or sweets as rewards and to procrastinate rather than using food for fuel.
“I find that most of the obstacles are either emotionally, environmentally or personality driven,” says Lenchewski.
And eating habits we develop as children carry into adulthood. “At a young age, most of us were socialized to use food as reward, but also as a way to self soothe. For example, most of us got pizza and ice cream to celebrate a job well done. We really take this into adulthood. As adults, food is a way that a lot of us reward ourselves,” says Lenchewski.
“Anytime you’re feeling stressed or out of sorts you turn to food to feel better, because sugar triggers the same pleasure center in the brain as drugs and alcohol. If you use sugary foods to self soothe, it often backfires because you feel like you overdid it with sweets.” Once you figure out what kind of eating habits you have, Lenchewski helps you tame your habits and tendencies.
Here are some tips to maintain a better relationship with food:
Stop food shaming yourself
In relationships we tend to give people second chances, even when they mess up. So apply this mindset to your relationship with food — don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge.
“We fear that if we’re too kind to ourselves we’ll go off the deep end [and overeat], but it’s really the opposite. Feelings of shame and inadequacy really drive us to eat and self soothe. It totally backfires,” says Lenchewski.
It’s perfectly okay to indulge for a meal or two a week, depending on your weight loss goal as long as you’re not doing it every day,” she adds.
And try to avoid planning a full cheat day, because then it feels like you’re depriving yourself for the rest of the week, Lenchewski says.
“Instead of viewing that indulgence as ‘I’m going to enjoy it,’ we obsess about it and we feel like it’s all ruined,” says Lenchewski. “Yes, of course you can’t eat a giant plate of pasta all the time, it’s not going to work. It’s the indulgences followed by shame and guilt and the feeling that it’s all ruined that we often throw in the towel [and continue eating badly]. Instead, view the indulgence as ‘this is really worth it to me.’ You’re not depriving yourself and nothing is off limits. When people feel so locked in, they want to revolt.”
Practice mindful eating
You may roll your eyes at this one, but taking time to actually chew your food, taste the flavors and think about what you’re eating can make you slow down and actually feel full during meals.
“We’re busy, so a lot of us will eat in a rush over the sink standing up. It’s really hard for that eating experience to feel real. When we’re distracted and we eat, we’re not encoding those meal memories and we’re hungrier faster later on because it didn’t totally register,” notes Lenchewski.
Another silly trick is to practice holding a fork in the hand you don’t use to write with so you become more aware that you’re eating, instead of simply standing over the kitchen counter and scarfing down meals.
Don’t eat to please others
It’s easy to overeat or order one of the unhealthier choices on a menu when you’re out with friends, or in social settings, but Lenchewski says it’ll be easier and less awkward to order if you come into the situation knowing what you’re going to get and sticking with it.
“Very infrequently is there only one thing on the menu. Try to pick the best option [on the menu], even when everyone around you is eating chips and guac.”
Curb your impulses
We can’t give in to every craving all the time, and Lenchewski, but if you find yourself going for that last piece of chocolate, savor it, enjoy it and then close the fridge.
“Make sure you’re reading all the flavors and tuning in. Then as you go to reach for another piece, ask yourself, ‘do I really need this, do I really want it?’ It can’t always be worth it to you you’ve got to make some choices that affect the long term,” Lenchewski notes.
And when you feel yourself starting to crash at around 4p.m. at work, be prepared.
“Have something flavorful and healthier than a candy bar on hand so that you’re setting yourself up to make a good decious,” says Lenchewski.
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