7 Damaging Beliefs You Have Around Food

7 Damaging Beliefs You Have Around Food June 18, 2024Leave a comment

Do you know what your biggest struggle with food is?

It’s not ‘carbs’, ‘sugar’, or ‘a lack of willpower’.

It’s your beliefs.

These unconscious ideals have developed from inferences and ideas you accrued directly or indirectly – intentionally or unintentionally – from family, friends, the media, and others when you were growing up.

Sometimes these are cultural norms, so you never question their efficacy or truth, whereas other beliefs are based on lessons we habituated from old experiences that may not actually apply anymore. 

Either way, they can be seriously damaging. 

Here are some harmful beliefs you may have around food and how to fix them:

Belief #1 – ‘When I’m Really Hungry, I Need More Food Than Normal’

Experiencing greater hunger levels doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat more food; it means you need to eat food soon.

You assume you can eradicate those feelings by stuffing yourself with everything in sight. In reality, this is doing you no favours.

If you keep eating, you’ll go from being too hungry to too full — from one extreme of discomfort to the other — which is just as detrimental. 

That extra food isn’t curbing that hunger any more than if you were to stop at the point of true satisfaction.

Instead, focus on the quality of the food you consume, how slowly you eat, and how you’re feeling.

Often, you’ll reach that crucial point of fulfilment quicker than if you keep eating – and eating as fast as possible. 

Learning how to reach – and stay – at that peak of enjoyment is a skill that must be practiced. You always have the power to stop, realise how content you feel, and not go overboard.

Belief #2 – ‘I Must Have Dessert After Dinner’

Dessert typically follows dinner, whether we’re actually hungry or not. It’s the ‘done thing’, whether at home, at a restaurant, or at a big social celebration.

Most people devour anything and everything in sight following a big meal without truly recognising whether this is actually what they want.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that a meal isn’t finished until we have something ‘sweet’, or that it’s rude to say ‘no’ to a post-dinner treat.

Your mother-in-law made that apple crumble for you, so you can’t possibly say ‘no’, right?

When you can slow down, however, and tap into your hunger cues, you’re more likely to make a decision aligned with your long-term values and goals.

If you can ascertain whether you’re falling for societal norms, you’re saying ‘yes’ to avoid appearing rude, or letting your environment dictate your choices, you may well realise that you don’t actually need to have anything extra on top of what you’ve already consumed.

Importantly, you can then get better at following the mantra of:

Sometimes you say yes; sometimes you say no’.

You don’t have to always have dessert, just as you don’t have to always forego something you enjoy having.

When you can decide what moments you truly value and cherish and when it’s appropriate to consume the apple crumble, then you’re less likely to feel guilt, overeat, and damage your relationship with food.

Belief #3 – ‘I Must Clean My Plate Otherwise I’m Wasting Food’

We’re often told from an early age to ‘have one more bite’ or ‘you won’t get dessert if you don’t finish your vegetables’.

All this does is perpetuate the idea that we must keep eating to appease friends and family, subsequently overriding true feelings of hunger in the process. 

We wind up in a confused state, not knowing whether we’re eating because we want to or because we’re being told to.

We fear that we’re doing others in the world a disservice or wasting money if we don’t wipe our plate clean. 

These are, of course, flawed perceptions of what it means to eat mindfully.

You’re not looking after anyone by eating and eating just because it’s on your plate. 

Why should you be dictated by preordained portion or serving sizes? How does your host or the restaurant you’re at know how much you should be consuming?

Start by making less food than you typically would, have leftovers for lunch the following day, or think about doing something else with that food so it doesn’t go to waste.

Donate to charity if you feel you’re wasting food at the expense of others who may need it, and remember that eating extra food for fear of wasting it doesn’t make us morally superior.

It’s fine to possess thoughts that echo attitudes you were primed with as a child, but now you can choose actions based on what matters to you.

You are in control of the decisions you make.

Belief #4 – ‘There Isn’t Enough Food’

People often believe that they might be hungrier later if they don’t eat now

Or they won’t get to have that particular food item later, so it makes sense to eat it as fast as possible at that very moment.

This stems from scarcity beliefs.

If we don’t think something is available now or later, we need to make the most of it – often eating just for the sake of it.

These beliefs may be rooted in inconsistent feeding throughout childhood, a lack of money or food at points in your life, a challenging schedule, a lack of preparation, or past dieting strategies that left you with cravings or feeling hungry when you weren’t supposed to eat.

From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense: If we believe there’s no food to go around, we’ll keep eating to ensure we’re OK for later, when famine or starvation may be a genuine possibility.

In today’s world, however, where, fortunately, famine and starvation are extremely unlikely, we can see how this is going to be an issue.

Ask yourself whether it’s really true that you can’t eat later or whether you will actually run out of food. 

Most of the time, ‘eating for later’ is unnecessary and uncomfortable. 

Can you take food with you? Will you come back to this restaurant or have similar items elsewhere? Can you ask for the recipe? Can you make this food again? 

When you can stop, pause, and realise that you don’t need to keep eating right now, you’re more likely to feel content with your choices and stopping where necessary.

Belief #5 – ‘I’ve Paid For It, So I Must Eat It All’

When we’re out at restaurants, on day trips, or out of the house, we often assume that we must finish every last ounce served to us, otherwise it’s a waste of money.

Why would I waste what I’ve paid for!?’

This falls into the trap of ignoring how we’re truly feeling and eating just for the sake of it.

After all, restaurants don’t take into account your gender, your age, your muscle mass, your metabolism, or your body composition goals; they provide one portion size, no matter who you are. 

Should you be eating the same as the person sat next to you?!

The amount you eat isn’t correlated with how much you pay. Whatever you eat, you’re still getting charged the same.

Instead, think about stopping eating as an investment in yourself, not just your bank account. 

Instead of spending money on the latest supplement, fat loss burners, or exercise equipment, you’re spending – and saving – money on listening to what you and your body truly needs.

This is only going to help you in the long run.

Always consider whether you’re gaining anything from eating that extra food. Is there really not another opportunity you’ll get to eat that same item again?

Belief #6 – ‘If I Eat This, Then I’ll Feel Better About That’

It’s no secret that many humans struggle to regulate their emotions. In doing so, many have learnt to use food as their primary coping mechanism when faced with uncomfortable feelings.

We believe that food is the answer to our problems.

Negative emotions induce eating – often compulsive eating – because eating has the capacity to reduce their intensity. 

During consumption, food can elicit strong hedonic responses that improve those emotions.

This form of escapism is biologically driven in humans and animals. The consumption of palatable, nutrient-dense foods (think crisps, cookies, burgers, etc.) dampens the stress response and results in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward.

If you don’t want to feel sad, overwhelmed, or rejected anymore, then it’s no wonder the ice cream, takeaways, and snacking are going to be used – and continually repeated – as a coping mechanism.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with the act of emotional eating until it becomes a primary coping mechanism, overshadowing other healthier ways of dealing with emotions. 

Sometimes, we need a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine because we’re human, and that’s OK.

When we eat and succumb to feelings of guilt and shame – or it has a detrimental impact on our physical health – then it can lead to problems.

When you can learn how to deal with your emotions without turning to food, then you’ll no longer believe that eating ‘this’ will help you ‘feel better about that’.

Belief #7 – ‘Eating Less Is Always Healthier’

We’ve been conditioned to believe from an early age – through society, the media, and generational beliefs around dieting – that thinner is better.

This encourages the idea that we must always moderate how much we consume and that eating more is often frowned upon. 

People become stuck in a vicious cycle of constant, restrictive dieting, which then leads to more problems later on.

They become consumed with guilt and shame around their food choices and believe that restricting intake is the only way to eat.

It’s important to remember that not only is eating less and being ‘thinner’ not synonymous with healthier, but reducing enjoyment and fulfilment from food isn’t doing you any favours.

When you can incorporate the food and drink you want to have into your lifestyle – whilst honouring hunger and fullness cues – then you’re no longer shackled to rigid dieting rules or the archaic belief that restrictive is better.

Always consider why you’re eating and how you’re feeling. 

When you can tune into the value of each moment, whether you’re restricting unnecessarily or eating just for the sake of it, and remove those feelings of guilt from your choices, you’re more likely to adopt a consistent, long-term outlook on your relationship with food.

Need Help?

What other beliefs do you hold about food – or your body – that are driving your eating habits?

Do you need help figuring out what these are and how you can reshape your ideals about meals, hunger, fullness, etc., to ensure you’re always eating in alignment with the life you want to live?

Do you want to ditch the exasperating dieting attempts and finally follow a blueprint that brings long-term success?

You can join my online coaching programme today, where I’ll guide you through the necessary steps to rewiring these archaic beliefs around food and onto a new path to food freedom.

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