GET READY TO change
‘That need for food isn’t a fact, it’s just a thought and a thought can’t make you do anything’
If you want to shift your mindset and those pounds long term, then the first step is to accept that there is no quick fix. “Going on a short-term diet will never be a long-term solution,” says Dr Jafari. “The only lasting solution is to have a healthy pattern of eating that you can live by.”Take the time to unpick your emotional eating habits and you’ll find losing weight much easier.
Step 1 Be aware of your pleasure seeker
“There’s a part of your brain I like to call the ‘pleasure seeker’,” says Dr Jafari. “It’s the bit of your brain that tells you that you need a bar of chocolate at 10pm, it wants a short-term happiness hit and it wants it now. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to shut that little voice off, but there are ways to make it quieter.”When you hear that little voice telling you to grab that second helping, listen to it and then pause for a moment. Recognise that it is just a thought. That need for food isn’t a fact, it’s just a thought and a thought can’t make you do anything.
Step 2 Make a conscious decision
Once you’re aware that the pleasure-seeking part of your brain exists, you can start to question it. “When it starts to make a noise ask yourself what your current goal is and whether eating something now is actually worth it,” says Dr Jafari. “Sometimes the answer will be yes, and at other times the answer will be no. The key is to take responsibility, make a conscious choice and then accept that decision.” If you decide to eat the biscuit, then give yourself permission to fully savour it. There’s no point in eating something and feeling bad about it. Enjoy the food, but don’t expect the pleasure seeker to be quiet as a result – he’ll likely be nagging you to eat another before you’ve finished swallowing, so at some point you will need to say no.
Step 3 Be aware of true hunger
It can take a while to learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. When you feel the need to eat something outside your normal meal times, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. If you don’t have any physical symptoms (see previous page) wait 10 to 15 minutes to see if the craving goes away. If you’re hungry you’ll feel hungrier, if you’re eating emotionally try to distract yourself by going for a walk, for example.
Step 4 Keep going
“One of the biggest mistakes when trying to lose weight and keep it off is making radical changes to eating and exercise routines that are unsustainable,” says Dr Jafari. “They change too much and then give up. You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but it actually takes about 66 days.” Make small, sustainable changes that you can stick with – a brisk five-minute walk every day, or taking the long route home from the shops.
Step 5 Tell yourself you’re worth it
“Making healthy eating and regular exercise a priority often involves giving yourself permission to prioritise your health and look after yourself too,” says Dr Jafari. “Women often put everyone else’s needs first, tending to put their children, husbands, friends and even work above themselves.” Set aside some time each week just for you, it will give you time to tackle your mindset so you can look after your future health.