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Do you feel out of control around certain foods? Try this.
So how can you work smarter to develop a balanced, mentally healthy relationship with a particular food youve struggled with in the past? Its all about creating new experiences and associations with those foods. - photo by Paige Smathers
I dont trust myself around that food.

If this is something you find yourself saying regularly or if youve ever even had that thought, read on.

I cant tell you how many times Ive heard this sentiment or something similar in my office sitting across from someone feeling deep shame and guilt about admitting to their struggles with food.

My message is that there is hope! To people who feel their struggles with food are so deep and ingrained that theres no chance for food peace there are things you can do to feel less chaotic and out of control around food.

Many people decide to try to completely avoid the food that they feel out of control with. It makes sense at first glance, but if were being honest about what restriction ends up looking like, its usually the opposite of what youre going for. Complete restriction usually leads to feeling out of control and deprived maybe even bingeing.

So how can you work smarter to develop a balanced, mentally healthy relationship with a particular food youve struggled with in the past?

Its all about creating new experiences and associations with those foods. Here are three simple steps to try out to generate positive encounters with foods or treats you have struggles with in the past.

Step 1: Identify a food you view as problematic that youd like to be able to enjoy periodically without guilt. This is probably something thats easy to do and you likely already have the food(s) in mind after reading the first part of this article.

For example, you may have had the experience of eating way too many chocolate chip cookies when theyre in the house. Each time youve baked cookies, youve found yourself completely sick from eating too much dough and then on top of that, too many warm, fresh cookies. Every time youve baked cookies, youve ended up with a stomach ache, youve regretted making them in the first place and youve likely committed to yourself youre never going to do that again.

Step 2: Sit down and visualize a positive experience with this food. It might sound a bit New Age or out there, but this really works. Take a moment to visualize yourself in a vulnerable position around food and imagine yourself pushing aside the thoughts and urges to binge or get out of control with a food, and see yourself with your minds eye making a different choice.

Using the example above, imagine yourself on a rainy day where you decide youd like to make cookies. Imagine yourself combining the ingredients to make dough. See yourself enjoying the process and taking in the experience. Think about how you will experience urges to sneak, binge or overeat the dough, but imagine yourself just taking a little bit. Contemplate about how you will make a different choice and listen to your bodys cues of when to stop. Then, imagine those warm, freshly baked cookies and think about how you will eat just one and truly enjoy the experience.

Step 3: Act out what youve visualized. Now is the time to create a positive experience to associate with a food that youve struggled with before. As much as possible, clear your life of potential triggers, even if its for the half hour youre doing this exercise. Put aside the fears, worries, past experiences, emotions of the day and just make a positive experience happen.

Once youve successfully eaten a small amount of cookie dough and just one warm baked cookie, the next time youre in that same situation of baking cookies, you will have real experience to draw from that will remind you that you are capable of making different choices. There is so much power in building new connections in your brain by having positive experiences, especially when it comes to food.

Its easy to believe theres no chance of being able to practice portion control around your favorite treats especially when every time youve been around that food youve ended up feeling sick, guilty and completely out of control. But theres hope. Its all about creating new experiences and associations with that food. Try it. Youll love being able to truly enjoy an indulgence, and stopping at just one will feel so much more achievable.
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