Americans spend a booming $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products for one reason: we are constantly looking for the next best solution for long-term weight loss or overall wellness. Deep within we know that there is no silver bullet or magic pill. But if you need proof, just look at the 2006 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that reported people who participate in weight-loss programs “regain about one-third of the weight lost during the next year and are typically back to baseline in three to five years.” The only path to sustained weight loss and overall health and wellness is lifestyle and behavioral change. Change can be overwhelming if not approached in small increments. The first step on the path to sustained weight loss and overall health and wellness is to acknowledge your food.
Yoffie Life Expert Courtney Bauer defines acknowledging as the means to practice noticing. Acknowledging your food is noticing your food choices. It may sound simple, but think about how many times you’ve placed a bowl of nuts, popcorn, or carrots by your side as you type an e-mail, check Facebook, or read an article or a book, mindlessly reaching for your next bite? And then, within what seems to be minutes, you reach down into an empty bowl. It is as if that bowl of food did not exist and, unsatisfied, you go back to the kitchen for another bowl or handful of something salty, sweet, or gooey to complement the last bowl. We are all guilty of what I like to call unconscious eating. Whether done in front of a computer, at the kitchen counter while watching the news, or while overseeing your children, unconscious eating is not only a primary cause of overeating but also gives little insight into the foods that potentially best serve your body.
Every body responds differently to food on both an emotional and physical level, making developing an eating plan for weight loss and nutritional wellness highly personalized. Through acknowledgment you come to understand how your body responds to food and can therefore create an eating plan specific to your individual needs. To practice acknowledging your food is to ask yourself questions and check in with your physical and emotional body before, during, and after you eat. The answers to the questions guide your understanding of how your body responds to food, and ultimately guide how to reach food-related wellness goals. The more questions you ask, the more information you glean, and ultimately the better your food choices. To practice acknowledging your food takes time, energy, and effort, but the information gathered is the first step toward making food choices according to a true understanding of your body.
- Keep a journal. I understand the aversion to food journals, but they are necessary tools for food assessment. Try to think of this journal as a way to reflect rather than a way to judge. Create a grid with six columns. Label each column with the following titles: time (date and time), food (type and quantity), hunger (on a scale of 0 to 5), situation (place, activity), mood (sad, tired, happy, energetic, etc.), energy (on a scale of 0 to 5), and hunger analysis (on a scale of 0 to 5 one hour later). Keep your journal with you at all times to report your food intake and your corresponding feelings and physical reaction to the food for a total of two weeks.
- Analyze the data. Investigate the data you collected on the foods you eat and how your body responded both physically and emotionally. Notice the positive (for example, which foods keep you satiated for the longest periods of time, and which foods you enjoy the most) and the negative (for example, which foods spike and then drop your energy level, and which foods you love in the moment but make you reach for more food an hour later). Now, make a list of the foods that worked best and worst for your body.
- Eat the best food for you. Adjust your diet to reflect what you learned—add in more of the good foods to crowd out the foods that do not best serve your body.