If you are like many dieters, you sometimes experience that inevitable feeling of disappointment with yourself after eating a food or meal you know isn’t good for your diet. Do you ever stop to wonder what drives you to make bad food choices when you know better? Here are six possible reasons and solutions to go along with them.
1. Tired of So Many Decisions
A top reason for making bad food choices is being tired of having to make so many decisions when it comes to food. Throughout the course of your dieting day you may have to decide:
- What to have for dinner, snacks, lunch, and breakfast for yourself and maybe even your family.
- Where to take the kids for a quick meal and whether you will eat whatever fast food they do.
- Whether you have exercised enough.
- Do you weigh your food or not?
- Did you remember to record your snack from this morning?
- Should you eat just one of the doughnuts your coworker brought?
That’s a lot of decisions just for food alone. Sometimes you may just give up thinking about making good choices and eat whatever you want—even if it is bad for you.
To avoid falling into this trap, try sticking to a similar diet each day and plan your meals ahead of time. Having fewer food decisions to make each day can make it easier to say “no” to bad foods that tempt you.
Stress is a known trigger for bad food decisions. One client of mine said that eating candy was like a sedative when she was under stress. In some ways I think she’s right. Eating candy or whatever bad food appeals to you can make you feel better—temporarily.
To combat stress eating, you need to do two things:
First, identify stressful situations while they are occurring.
Second, wait 30 minutes before eating anything.
Once you have trained yourself to wait until eating after a stress-filled situation, you will be able to remove some of the emotional eating and make reasonable food choices.
3. Food Cravings
Food cravings come on strong and fast. And that can make you eat whatever you want right then, whether it is cupcakes, chips, or a large coffee dessert from Starbucks.
The good news is that the strategy for fighting food cravings is similar to handling stress. Train yourself to identify situations that trigger cravings and wait awhile until you eat. Often the cravings will pass and you will feel successful and in control.
4. Burning the Candle at Both Ends
If you are the type of person who stays up late and gets up early without much sleep in between, you may find it very difficult to resist junk foods. Sleep deprivation increases your appetite and lowers your ability to make good food choices.
Fix this problem by establishing a regular bedtime, not trying to catch up on sleep on the weekend, and managing your workload. I know it’s easier said than done, but it will help your weight loss once you figure out a healthier sleep–wake cycle.
5. Social Pressure
Friends are terrific but they can pressure you into making bad food choices. When I was losing weight I had situations where friends came out and told me to “loosen up and enjoy the moment.” And in case you were wondering, they didn’t want me to go zip lining or participate in a crazy game but instead eat the same bad foods they were eating when we were out together.
I came to realize that my weight loss and health were more important than my friends' desire to have company when they made poor food choices. It took some time but eventually my friends realized I was serious about my health and they respected my decisions.
6. Living in the Moment
It’s easy to get carried away and eat more than you intend when you are celebrating holidays, toasting a retiring coworker, or on vacation. It’s okay to indulge now and then, but regularly doing so will always backfire when it comes to weight loss.
Before you head to the party or take off for vacation, decide how strict you will be with your food choices. Allow yourself an indulgence or two but place limits on yourself. You will be glad you did when the event has passed and you are still on track with your diet.