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The Psychology of Eating.

A very important aspect of weight control is the emotional or psychological links we have to food. Numerous studies show that appetite can be stimulated by feelings of worry, frustration, anger, hostility, guilt, poor self-esteem etc. Binge eating is often a way of trying to suppress these negative emotions.

Learning when to be hungry.

It is interesting to note that hunger has only a small role to play in when and how much we eat. As children, our parents conditioned us to "eat everything on our plates", "If you don't eat it all you won't grow up to be big and strong". The problem with this is two-fold:

* As children, we learnt that we had to eat when everyone around us was eating, regardless of whether we were hungry at the time. We learnt that we had to eat everything put in front of us even if we didn't really need to eat that much.

* As adults, we rely on these formative lessons and fill our plates when serving a meal. Once full, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we need to finish everything on the plate. Even if we are feeling full before the meal is finished, we tend to finish it even though we are no-longer hungry.

It is time to break some of the subconscious habits we have all formed around eating.

Try having smaller servings at each meal. If you are still feeling hungry 5 minutes after you finish your first serve, have a little more. (Remember, it takes the stomach around 20 minutes to signal the brain that it is full - we can all overeat a lot in 20 minutes).

Make sure that you only eat because you are physically hungry - not because you feel some sort of social (external) or emotional (internal) pressure to do so. For the next couple of weeks, try to think about why you are eating everything you do.

Are you actually feeling hungry, or are you simply eating out of habit?

Rewards.

Another eating habit that often results from early conditioning by our parents is food rewards. Many people will remember being given sweets, ice-cream or lollies as a reward for good behaviour.

The concept of rewarding oneself with food then carries over to adult life. If we are feeling down, or think we have achieved something worthwhile we often seek the positive recognition we were given as children. As this often came in the form of food, that is the first place we turn.

Learn to reward yourself with positive items. Reflect on why you want to lose the weight. If it is to improve your appearance, go and buy a magazine about health and fitness. The positive stories, and pictures of other people achieving the same things will spur you on to achieve your goals (don't get a glossy fashion magazine - they often lack the positive testimonials that will keep you motivated).

If you have had a bad day at the office - reward yourself for surviving with a walk along the beach with your partner or a friend...

Remember, the last thing that a person trying to lose weight should do is reward or console themselves with food. It defeats the purpose and can lead to feelings of guilt or depression. These feelings can cause you to eat again, starting a self-destructive downwards spiral.

We know that many lo-carb dieters like to reward themselves with a little treat occasionally (like a bowl of pasta on the weekend). Although it may sound appealing - after all "I've been really good this week" - remember that a food reward is only making it harder to reach your end goal!