Wellbeing & Lifestyle

Mind over munch

By Linda Mrkic - Accredited Exercise Scientist, M.S.C in Exercise & Wellness

Fact: 90% of diets fail; can you hypothesize some reasons as to why? Typically, diets tend to be based around rules and regulations that are likely to subscribe to the notion that particular foods are "bad" or "forbidden". In addition, certain restrictions tend to apply which we may not wholeheartedly resonate with, and as a result this notion can leave us feeling somewhat defeated and uninspired.

Just as choosing a lifelong partner, our eating style is personal. It reflects us, our cultural, our spirituality, & our beliefs/morals. Instead of promoting a diet, I choose to teach and encourage a process which fosters making ones eating style as a "healthy & happy" experience. Education & being a well-informed consumer on extremist type information (for example like cutting certain food groups out or promotion of non-evidence based recommendations), is KEY and can be empowering and help towards successfully creating a lifelong healthy eating style.

Personally, I do not believe that there is only ONE way to eat. Rather, I am one who chooses to embrace everyone's differences, including spiritual and cultural, helping people create a healthier eating style for themselves and stay true to their moral compass. My main message is to encourage:

  • Keep healthy and nutrient dense food at heart, and remember everything in moderation is better than overindulging.
  • Avoiding the concept of yo yo dieting to extremes and instead embrace slow, steady, and therapeutic changes. Balance, with no restrictions. Use food as fuel and nurture positivity. Eat for energy and vibrancy. 
  • Thrive and create a positive relationship with food by working on portions and preparing meals weekly. 
  • Focusing on lifelong habits as opposed to perfectionism or intense dieting. 
  • Allow time for true change. Research shows it typically takes us 21 to 66 days to create a new behaviour, be kind/patient with "self", and allow for time to adjust.

Embracing Relapses – Change Your Tune
Yes WE all will "fall off the bandwagon" however instead of looking at it as the bandwagon, how about changing your mindset on this behaviour and approaching it as a long drive on a beautiful journey that has no end point? There will be traffic, storms, rain, hail, yes we have to stop, change, manipulate and learn things, but we don't stop travelling and we never stop learning and adapting, we want to feel, see, breathe, the journey and then continue to flow with it. Sometimes we have accidents, yes they scare us, but we learn from them.

The reality is, there WILL be many ups and downs, this is perfectly normal! Research in Human Behavioural Change (via the Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model) shows that allowing at least a minimum of 6-12 months towards adopting permanent healthy lifestyle changes is imperative. Accept that during this time mistakes will happen and that it’s perfectly OK to do so. You are NOT bad, or a failure, you are learning and changing. Be willing to commit to this amount of time for serious, maintainable, healthy results. Also be willing to ask for HELP & GUIDANCE from a qualified professional.

Cravings and how to approach them
Food cravings can be defined as a strong desire for a specific type of food and can be a learned behaviour in response to a stimuli (emotion, hormones, blood sugar imbalance, time of day) (Cate, 2008). There are many reasons why we crave foods, especially sweet ones. Research shows that our appetite may in fact be hardwired. "Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth," states MD RD Dietician Christine Gerbstadt. In addition, carbohydrates tend to stimulate the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Similarly, studies have revealed that high-fat, high-sugar foods actually trigger the same neurological brain activity as substances of abuse. Like cocaine or heroin, foods high in sugar and fat can condition the brain to develop increasing levels of tolerance, cravings, and withdrawals.

What are some healthy ways to overcome cravings?

  • LEARN the difference between your cravings & hunger. Hunger is a physiological signal that promotes an organism’s drive to eat when energy supply is low. A craving is simply a desire to eat something, often a food that is sweet or high in calories. When you feel the urge to eat, you may want to ask yourself, “Is this real hunger or a craving?” (Corbin & Welk, 2011). 
  • Give yourself at least 21-66 consistent days of chipping away at a new habit. It will also take at least 1 month for your taste buds to reset. 
  • Minimise processed foods. 
  • For Females: Be alert around your menstrual cycle. In the week before a woman’s period, some may experience overwhelming sweet cravings. Researchers have verified these eating patterns and report that a complex interplay of hormonal changes seems to influence women’s food choices. High levels of estrogen may be linked with premenstrual carbohydrate cravings. Women may crave carbohydrates because they are hungrier. Prior to menstruation, a woman’s metabolic rate may increase by 100 to 500 calories. Give yourself permission to eat 200 – 500 additional wholesome calories, if you need to (Clark, 1997).
  • Determine whether you’ve eaten adequate calories to support your activities. Chances are you’ve let yourself get too hungry. 
  • Prevent sweet cravings by eating more calories at breakfast and lunch (and plan an afternoon snack if you will be eating a late dinner) so that you curb the late afternoon craving. 
  • Sip on herbal teas. Sweeten with Stevia if need be. 
  • Chew slowly to really taste and savour every mouthful of your foods, especially treats. By doing so, you’ll need less quantity to be satisfied.
  • To help stabilize your blood sugar levels & reduce cravings, eat low glycemic index foods, eat 3 meals and 2 small snacks a day, make sure to eat plenty of protein and fibre. Do not go more that 4-5 hours without eating (also for metabolism reasons too). 
  • Once you have a food craving, try to wait at least 5-20 minutes before giving into it. Distract yourself with another activity or go for a short walk, read, watch TV or listen to music. If the craving continues, have a small portion, or find a healthier alternative.
  • Drink plenty of water, which can help to supress your appetite by keeping your stomach full between meals and take the edge off hunger.
  • Work on healthy sleep patterns, stress levels, time-management and anger control.


Wellbeing & Lifestyle