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5 Tips To Change Your Mindset About Food

Written by: Amparo Penny, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Are you struggling with yo-yo dieting or losing the “last 10 pounds” over and over again? Or do you find yourself stuck in the “all-or-nothing” mindset about food, labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, and feeling guilt or shame for eating the “bad” foods? If so, you’re not alone. So many people struggle with this, and they search for ways to improve their relationship with food.

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A key to improving your relationship with food is changing your thoughts about food. Here are 5 tips to change your mindset about food:

1. Remember that all food is neutral and has a function – celebratory, sustenance, fuel, comfort, etc. The trick is to identify the times of day when our bodies require more “nutrient-dense” foods as opposed to “fun foods.”

Taking a page from the Intuitive Eating framework (Intuitive Eating text, Tribole, and Resch, 2017), all food is neutral and has a purpose – it can be used for celebrations, fuel, comfort, or sustenance. Our job is to figure out when we need to eat certain foods – does our body require more protein or carbs to get through a tough workout or a long day at work? Do we need long-lasting energy to study for a test? Do we want to celebrate a fun event with our friends and eat something that is purely for enjoyment? That's how we can figure out what to eat and when depending on the function of the food.

2. Food is not “good” or “bad”, although we can pay attention to how certain foods make you FEEL during and after you eat them so you can determine the most effective times of the day to eat them.

Again, foods are neutral at their core, although our bodies can respond differently to foods depending on several factors, including the time of day, the quantity we eat, how processed the food is, our levels of hunger or fullness before eating, etc. It’s a good idea to pay attention to how the foods make you FEEL when you eat them to help you determine how often and when you might include these foods in your eating habits (or not include them)e. Do certain foods make you feel sleepy, sluggish, gassy, hyper, or hungry shortly after you eat them?

For example, I might choose to pass on the carrot cake at 8:00 am, not because the food is bad, although, this type of processed and sugary food will likely cause a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash about 45 minutes later. The alternative is to have something that will give me long-lasting energy at that time of the day (like fruit) and save the carrot cake for the end of the day when I don’t care if I have a sugar crash!

3. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat ALL foods, even your “forbidden foods.” Ask yourself: "If I can have it at any time, do I even want it? Will it taste as good?" (Answer: probably not)

This is a tough hurdle, I know! And yet, this is so important to grasp. Once we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat all of the things and ask ourselves: “If I can have it at any time, do I really want it?", it takes the power away from the food and gives us the power to choose to eat it or not. If we know that we don’t have to deprive ourselves of our “forbidden foods”, and we can choose to have them whenever we want, we might realize that we aren’t as interested in them as we thought.

This is especially true after we have permitted ourselves to eat our “forbidden food” multiple times – it loses its “new car smell” and is no longer enticing – that’s called “habituation” – we’ll eventually get tired of anything after eating it for a while, so don't worry about "going off the rails" and "losing control" when you permit yourself to eat. You'll be surprised at how you’ll soon get tired of that “forbidden food” and it will no longer be so scandalous!

4. Remember that all eating is emotional, so it’s not the end of the world to engage in “emotional eating”; eating is just ONE way of coping, and we want to make sure that we don't rely on it as our ONLY coping skill.

Once we realize that ALL eating is emotional, we are halfway there. Think about it this way: we have a trigger (a situation), which leads to an emotion, which leads to the behavior (such as eating). Boom: eating is emotional. Now that we have normalized “emotional eating” as a coping skill, we only need to add in other coping skills so that eating isn’t your “go-to” coping skill. The goal is to have multiple coping strategies that you can use in various settings and at various times, and eating can be one of many ways of coping.

5. Give yourself grace and compassion during this process ‒ this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are not creating a diet; we are creating habits for the rest of our lives so it's important to understand that you will have trials and successes on this path. Instead of beating ourselves up and "starting over on Monday", we can merely keep going on this plan because we have the rest of our lives to work on these habits.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we’re playing the long game here. This is not a 30-day plan we’re crafting, we’re talking about the rest of your life, so it’s only natural that you’re going to have ups and downs on this journey. So be sure to give yourself plenty of grace and compassion if you hit a roadblock – you didn’t fail, all is not lost, and you don't have to "start over on Monday"… we merely keep going. Slow and steady wins the race! This list is not comprehensive, it’s just scratching the surface – this journey is a process of unlearning limiting dieting beliefs that no longer serve you and replacing them with new mindset shifts and sustainable healthy habits that you can live with – and that takes time!

I offer health and mindset coaching that teaches the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating and how to stop sabotaging your health goals by creating new healthy habits for life. My program offers a 12-week individual or group coaching course, as well as a 12-week self-study course on my website or you can reach out to me here for more information.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and visit my website for more info!


Amparo Penny, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Amparo Penny is a licensed clinician and health and mindset coach, who helps people stop obsessing about food and their bodies and get their sanity back. She helps people end black or white thinking around food and exercise and change their mindset to developing healthy habits FOR LIFE. This was what helped to end her 20+ year battle with her body, yo-yo dieting, and using exercise as punishment. And now it's her mission to help others end this battle and find food freedom!



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