Nutrition & Recipes

Exploring the Mindset and Psychology Behind Your Food Choices

Exploring the Mindset and Psychology Behind Your Food Choices
As you look into the future of nutrition and weight loss, it is evident that dieters are in need of a new approach. There were an estimated 108 million Americans on a diet in 2012. Surprisingly, there is no single scientific study that proves that dieting even works for long-term weight loss. Even though consumers are spending $66.3 billion on weight loss per year, nearly 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese.

If you look at the approaches used by the weight-loss industry, most diets are restrictive in nature. They primarily focus on cutting out certain food groups or reducing the amount of food that one can eat. The biggest missing factor that the current diet and nutrition plans neglect to focus on is the mindset/psychology behind your food choices. If you follow nutrition guidelines without addressing the psychology behind making healthy food choices, dieters are going to continue on a yo-yo dieting cycle.

So where do you go from here? How do you get out of the dieting cycle and get to the root of what causes inconsistency when it comes to healthy eating?

Getting Unstuck from Lack of Success

For individuals who have tried many diets yet still seem stuck with their weight loss and health goals, there are three different programs and philosophies to explore.

  1. Mindful eating: The mindful eating approach emphasizes the ancient practice of mindfulness to bring more awareness and presence to everyday eating habits. Bringing more awareness to the present moment helps to break old eating habits and stop self-sabotaging behaviors.
  2. Intuitive eating: Intuitive eating is a program that was developed by two dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche, to help dieters rebuild a healthy body image and make peace with food. The primary intuitive eating philosophy is that ‟humans come into the world intuitively knowing what to eat, and how much to eat, yet we have forgotten how to listen to this intuitive guidance because of all the dieting rules.” Intuitive eating teaches how to reconnect with your innate knowing of how to nourish your body so that you can get out of the dieting cycle.
  3. Eating psychology: Marc David from the Institute for Eating Psychology teaches eating psychology, which means that “nutrition alone is no longer adequate enough in addressing the compelling challenges we face with food, weight, body image, overeating, and all of our metabolic concerns. Instead we must fully embrace the psychology of the eater—the heart, mind and soul dimensions of what it means to truly nourish one’s body and being.”
The two primary philosophies that are taught in eating psychology are dynamic eating psychology and mind-body nutrition. Dynamic eating psychology takes into account who you are as eaters and how your life experiences influence the way that you eat. Mind-body nutrition has similar roots to mindful eating in that they both focus on stress-reduction tools to help enhance weight loss and digestion.

Creating a Healthy Mindset

There are some common philosophies from these three schools of thought that address the mindset element for healthy eating choices.

  1. Slow down when eating: When you eat too quickly it affects the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Slowing down with food helps to prevent overeating and helps you be more satisfied from the flavors of the food. Eating slowly also provides an opportunity to bring more awareness to daily food choices.
  2. Pay attention to how hungry/full you are: You may be familiar with the philosophy that says “eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.” If you remove distractions while eating, such as watching TV or eating while working, it is easier to pay attention to your hunger and fullness levels. Instead of focusing on eating five small meals per day or eating at specific times during the day, start to pay attention to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. You’ll most likely find that you are eating when you are not hungry or maybe even waiting until you are overly hungry to eat. Both of these scenarios lead to overeating.
  3. Notice your emotions: Your food and mood are strongly interconnected. Start keeping a log of what you eat and how you feel. This will help you to identify if you are making emotionally based food choices. If this is true for you, start to find other outlets to address the emotions that are coming up for you.
These mindset approaches address the truth that there is no one diet that works for everyone. By learning more about your relationship with food you will be able to overcome the confusion around all the dieting guidelines and learn how to listen to what your body needs. It’s time to turn within to find the answers instead of searching for the next quick fix.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.