Though it works for Superman, completely avoiding kryptonite foods may not be the best approach for you.
Everyone struggles with something. Even Superman has a weakness: kryptonite. Like Superman, many of us find certain foods are our greatest weakness, causing us to lose control or possibly even lose hope along our weight-loss journey.
However, complete avoidance isn’t in your best interest, as it is for Superman. It may seem like the smart play, but avoidance often causes us to want the food we “can’t” have all the more, eventually causing us to give in, eat more than we should and feel guilty for “losing control.” Identifying your kryptonite foods can be a great first step in figuring out what to do with them. Of course, you have to know what foods qualify.
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A kryptonite food is any food that you feel helpless to resist. Once you see it, smell it or bite into it, you are hooked. You can’t get enough of the savory or sweet treat that leaves you constantly wanting more.
These foods tend to be more on the indulgent side and are often those foods we find ourselves classifying as “bad” or feel guilty about eating. Research indicates that certain foods, typically those high in sugar or fat, activate reward centers in the brain. This may, in part, explain why kryptonite foods are so hard to resist, but in some instances, even mere sight or smell can influence desire.
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In some instances it’s beneficial to stay clear of certain kryptonite foods if you don’t have a good relationship with those foods. However, your long-term strategy should incorporate action steps that allow you to work these foods into your regular routine. Not only will this help ensure you can approach all foods with confidence but will also help you, not the food, remain in control of your eating plan.
Although kryptonite foods may seem scary to incorporate, learning to live with them can help you better understand what it is about them you enjoy. Along the way, you may also discover you can enjoy these foods in ways that don’t derail your eating plans. You may even discover some of these foods aren’t really that important to you anymore. They just seemed special because you didn’t allow yourself to enjoy them before.
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1. Set the stage for eating. When we eat sporadically or impulsively, we can set the stage for chaotic eating. Kryptonite foods may seem appealing no matter your level of hunger or fullness. However, eating balanced meals and snacks can often help us better approach them.
Meals and snacks also set the stage for balanced eating, allowing us to incorporate kryptonite foods into our routine instead of hijacking our plans. If you are ready to incorporate kryptonite foods into your day, consider adding them into regularly scheduled meals and snacks. This can help keep kryptonite foods in their place and reduce their forbidden appeal.
2. Don’t go out of your way for kryptonite foods. Conversely, you may be someone who is super sensitive to being triggered by your kryptonite foods. In this case, you can choose to skip them altogether. Kryptonite foods may show up unexpectedly at a party, work event or family function. In those instances, it is acceptable to give yourself permission to enjoy a small portion of those foods. However, don’t go out of your way to incorporate these foods into your day. These foods tend to find you, and you don’t need to spend your hard-earned money on foods that offer little to no nutritional value. Instead, look for reasons to incorporate foods that will nourish your body and focus your resource there.
3. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t. Changing the way you eat is never easy, but your mindset can make an impact. A meta-analysis of 23 studies showed that when it came to helping people achieve their healthy eating goals, focusing on the foods you can add versus foods you have to give up could lead to better outcomes.
Unfortunately, when it comes to achieving a healthy weight, we often get stuck on the foods we can’t have. Instead, focus on the new foods you get to add to your meal plan. Perhaps there is a new-to-you fruit at your local farmer’s market or a healthy snack combination you look forward to trying. By focusing on the positives, you may find that the kryptonite foods in your life automatically become less appealing.
4. Eat slowly and savor. You may not need to eat as much as you think to feel satisfied from a more indulgent treat. In fact, you may find that even as little as three small bites of your favorite kryptonite food will do the trick. When these foods cross your path, choose to take a smaller portion and savor each and every bite. This will allow you to fully enjoy your favorite decadent treat without overdoing it.
5. Interrupt yourself. If you find yourself caught in a kryptonite food spiral, be brave and interrupt the behavior. According to research published in the 2011 journal of Appetite, our daily eating behaviors are impacted by habit. Although additional research is needed, it is possible that applying a jolt to habitual actions can make the difference! For example, if you’re in the middle of munching through a bag of chips, calmly pause and switch to a non food related activity or to a less-enticing, possibly more nutritious food. Interrupting the cycle can allow you to change your habit over time.
6. Keep guilt out of the picture. Treating yourself kindly is important, and no food should ever make you feel bad about yourself. Keep in mind that no food (no matter how bad you think it might be) can completely trash your diet. Guilt on the other hand can set you up for failure before you even truly begin. Let go of the guilt, and leave your food and food decisions at the table. A fresh start is only one meal or one snack away.
7. Know your limits. If you find that it is too difficult to incorporate these foods in a balanced way, it may be time to seek some help. A registered dietitian, therapist and your primary-care provider can work together to help you achieve not only a healthy weight but a healthy relationship with food.
Do you have a kryptonite food? Share your experiences in the comments below.