I’ve come to realize that maintaining a healthy weight can be just as hard as losing weight. Many people are controlled by ‘skinny’ or ‘fat thoughts’ towards food; avoiding those which they believe cause weight gain and eating lots of skinny foods, which they believe will keep the weight off. But these beliefs are all in your head and can easily be changed.
Losing weight is very much a mental game, but keeping the weight off can be just as challenging. Most people go two ways: either they become so afraid of gaining the weight back to eat next to nothing, or they’re so happy to finally be “off the diet” they binge on everything. Both ways are not healthy and don’t result in a healthy relationship with food. Food is an important part of life and should be enjoyed and your mind plays a crucial role in that.
We all have certain thoughts about food – what foods are tasty, healthy, fattening or encourage weight loss. If you have, for instance, successfully lost weight by cutting all carbs from your diet, you may become afraid of eating carbs. Every time you eat pasta or bread you may ‘feel’ really fat, because you believe carbs cause weight gain. For me, it’s dairy. I eat pasta and bread all the time and I never feel fat after eating those foods (also because I lost weight by eating lots of carbs!). But if I eat a piece of cheese or pizza, I feel huge. I can torture myself with thoughts like “I’m getting fat, I can feel it!”. It’s silly of course, because just like eating 1 apple won’t make you lose weight; 1 pizza or piece of cheese won’t make you gain weight. It’s all in your head.
Control your thoughts about food
The key to maintaining a healthy weight and relationship with food is to control your thoughts and beliefs. What you think of yourself and the way you see yourself is much more important than the actual foods you put in your mouth. It’s fine to eat fried food once in a while, or some other unhealthy food. As long as you eat healthily most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with it and you won’t gain weight. Right after I lost weight I had a difficult relationship with food. I ate very little and always went all out when I was on holiday. That meant that I felt really, really fat while on vacation (even though I wasn’t) and that took a lot of the fun away. I felt I deserved to eat whatever I wanted, but it made me feel awful.
It has taken me years to adopt a healthy ‘lifestyle’ without dieting or binging. Whenever I go on vacation now I don’t eat all that different compared to when I am at home. That’s because I don’t deprive myself of what I believe are ‘good foods’ and wait until I’m on vacation to finally eat what I want. I make healthy choices, the same ones I make at home. Of course, I drink a little more alcohol and eat a little more ice-cream but I know that my body will still look the same. And that part’s crucial.
If you believe that one bite of a burger or one sugary dessert will make you gain weight, you will spend your life fighting with food (and your weight). The only way to let that go is to reprogram the way you think about food. Eat healthy most of the time and don’t feel bad when you eat something unhealthy every once in a while. Don’t ‘feel’ the fat on your thighs when you eat ice-cream or a little fried food. It’s all in your head. You also don’t feel 5 kilos lighter after eating a fruit salad, for instance. And if you do, it’s an illusion! One meal won’t cause weight gain or weight loss. So enjoy it!
The most important rule I have is to eat what I like. I like pasta, so I eat a lot of pasta. I don’t eat pasta with a fatty cheese sauce though, but with grilled veggies or a lovely tomato sauce. Entirely guilt-free! I also love fries, so I try and make them myself as healthy as possibly. I love using my airfryer to make fries, with one tablespoon of olive oil. But if you prefer the real fatty kind you get at a fast food restaurant, just eat those. Just don’t eat them every day. And try and eat a large salad on the side, to add some nutritional value to your meal. It makes you feel better (and less fat!) and it’s better for your health.
Let go of fat and skinny thoughts
Letting go of fat thoughts like “I’m so fat”, “I’m getting fat”, or “I feel so fat” can be difficult, but it’s key to living a happy, healthy, carefree life where food is enjoyed. For me, half the joy of going on vacation is food. I look forward to it and I want to keep enjoying it. Eating plant-based makes it both easy and difficult: the choices are easy (no animal foods) but in some countries vegan options are limited. Nevertheless, whenever I do eat a little bit of fish or dairy, I don’t immediately feel fat afterwards. Just like I don’t feel super skinny after eating just fruit all day. It’s exhausting to keep focusing so much on what food does to your body. Letting go of fat and skinny thoughts is liberating and makes life so much more fun!